One rainy afternoon in high school, I rode the bus home and a guy in my year handed me a cassette. It was Soundgarden's Superunknown; "you wanna buy that from me?" he asked, but I wasn't sure so borrowed it to have a listen. Of course I knew who Soundgarden were, but this was the first I'd seen of their new album and I was a kid in school with no money.
That night I devoured Superunknown, which soon became my favourite Soundgarden release. The range on that album is astounding and sounded unlike anything I'd heard before. Soundgarden had always been a rockin' grunge band, but Superunknown is arguably when they came into their own musically speaking. It's akin to a Mellon Collie, or Aenima, as it marked a turning point from greatness to brilliance. As a kid in school searching for an identity, Superunknown connected with me in a way that has lasted to this day.
The unexpected news of Chris Cornell's death hit me hard this week and has unsurprisingly been on my mind. It's not a morbid fascination with death, but a surprising recognition of the impact his voice has had as a standout through the soundtrack of my life.
I suspect this is why we mourn people we have never met, because aside from the sadness of a human life ending tragically, there is a part of us that dies along the way. We must say goodbye to a part of our lives that will no longer be the same and will forever be relegated to memory. I don't have many heroes when it comes to celebrity, but Chris Cornell was definitely one.
Rarely am I interested in the personal lives of celebrities, as I'm much more interested in what they are producing. There are few bands I hold in such high esteem, so I rarely have a personal reaction to the loss of such an icon. I still don't have much interest in anyone's personal life; frankly, it's none of our business really. However, the connections we make with their art can be deeply personal and profound, which is what I'd rather focus on.
Even writing about it here seems a bit pointless in my opinion, as my own connection with Soundgarden will have little comparison to anyone else's. We can share in that feeling of loss, but their music hit me in ways that are important and powerful in a way that is unique to my own experience, just as everyone else's is unique to them.
We can talk about what songs mean or if they helped or inspired us, but the "why" of it all is a niche prospect that we will can never convey. Regardless, it's reassuring to know that there are many out there who feel this loss as heavily. We lost an incredible artist who played a part in our lives and had a tiny role in making us who we are today. I am thankful for having him in my life, so I'm sad to know he's gone.
At least I can always turn to albums like Superunknown to fill this new void; my sympathies go to those who knew the man behind the art who are left with their memories and experience. They have lost far more than we ever will.
Incidentally, I made a copy of Superunknown on my tape deck that evening and returned the original the next morning.