Liner Notes

Say Hello To Heaven

by Pete Crigler

When Chris Cornell, legendary singer of Soundgarden, took his own life after a sold-out show in Detroit, MI in May, the music world was stunned. Nobody saw this coming. Some of the signs were there—a shambling performance and slurred speech—but no one expected anything like this. Then, nine weeks later, a week before the start of a North American tour, Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington hung himself in a home he had just purchased a month or so prior. Friends say he’d been drinking again, something he’d struggled with for years, and he was said to have been deeply upset about Cornell’s death. But again, no one saw it coming. The music world was taken aback by this tragedy as well, yet it seems there were more fans upset, as Linkin Park’s album sales shot through the roof. Fans of Soundgarden/Audioslave were upset as well, but it seems the only song anyone wanted to hear was “Black Hole Sun,” done in tributes from everyone from The Avett Brothers and Norah Jones to Guns ‘N’ Roses and Pierce The Veil.

cornell_225           bennington_225

I was deeply upset, too, in ways that I hadn’t felt before. I was but eight years old when Cobain died, a wee lad. I didn’t really get into Nirvana until I was 13. I was about 16 when Layne Staley died and that hit me, but it was kinda of expected after all the years of heroin abuse. With Cornell’s passing, that leaves Mark Arm, Mark Lanegan, and Eddie Vedder as the only leaders of the grunge movement that haven’t offed themselves. They’ve all had issues, dealing with alcohol and heroin, but they beat their demons and moved on with their lives. Cornell and Bennington had their issues with substances as well and most people thought they’d moved on as well—alas, not so.

I found myself deeply upset after Cornell died. Listening to songs I like such as “Full On Kevin’s Mom,” “HIV Baby,” and “Birth Ritual,” not to mention “Hunger Strike,” I was struck by the fact that no one will ever hear these songs done properly again. That really hit me, harder than I was expecting. I was devastated, but this was a never-before-felt type of devastation. The closest I was felt this was when my great Aunt Belle died of cancer in 2011. That was hard, but I moved on. With Cornell’s death, I found myself in some kind of funky rut that I couldn’t get out of. It was hard to explain and I couldn’t really talk to anybody about it. But I just felt really moody and quiet, even more than usual. I was listening to a lot of Soundgarden and remembering how great their music really is. If someone doesn’t think of them as one of the top five grunge bands of all time, then they’re just lying to themselves.

My mind didn’t feel like it was in the right place. I went along continuing my routine of work, reviews, and working on an upcoming book, but I felt stuck and I didn’t like it. I’d go out of town, get away from things, and I would feel better, but then I would come back to my routine and I’d feel like mild shit again. I never thought of ending it all; that hasn’t ever really crossed my mind. I’d feel like I was giving up and leaving too many loving people behind who would miss the hell out of me and that wasn’t something I could ever fathom. Some people criticized Head of Korn for calling out Cornell and Bennington for what they’d done, calling them cowards and just generally speaking their truth. I know that one might be going through a lot of inner pain, but there’s always someone there to listen and to help, no matter what you think if you’re on the verge. That’s a belief I’ve always held and will especially continue to heed in these days.

Cornell is gone, taken from us in a fit of blind, possibly pill-driven depressed frenzy. Bennington decided the same fate for himself, hanging himself while he was home alone in a state of blackness he felt no escape from. We’ll never get anything else from these talents. Maybe Linkin Park will put out unreleased tracks to give fans some closure. It’s been said that Soundgarden was going to conclude work on a new album in the summertime after their tour was completed and Cornell had been working on a fifth solo album, this one of cover songs. Maybe something will come out of it and we’ll be able to hear his amazing voice just one last time. These two were too young for this shit to happen, period.

What we can do is enjoy the music—although it’s hard to listen to a song like Linkin Park’s “Given Up,” where the refrain is “put me out of my fucking misery!!” and not feel like you’re listening to a suicide note. Same thing goes for “Black Hole Sun,” “Pretty Noose,” and “The Day I Tried To Live.” Some songs are just going to sound creepy, no matter the circumstances. But I found that after about two weeks, I started coming around and feeling more like myself again. I can’t help but feel upset when a Soundgarden track comes on the radio, as Cornell’s voice was so legendary and awe-inspiring. To think we’ll never hear it again is the biggest crime of them all.

All I’m trying to say here is that we can’t let negativity win. No matter how black and dark things get, there’s always someone there to talk to, to share, to cry, whatever it is. I’m reminded of something journalist Mark Prindle wrote in a foreword to an interview he did with Dead Milkmen bassist Dave Blood just before he hung himself. Prindle wrote, “And if you're absolutely miserable, CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Save up to move somewhere else. See a psychiatrist. Get a divorce. Adopt a puppy. Make friends in chat rooms… Whatever – it's your only life. If you feel trapped, escape into another aspect of life. The world is enormous, and there are lots of places to go, people to meet and things to do. Just DON'T GIVE UP. Because believe it or not, people will miss you. Try to squeeze every possible morsel of happiness out of life that you can in this limited time you have, because you WILL be dead some day, but you will NEVER be alive again (most likely).” In the end, the best thing we can do is kick back, listen to some music and realize, “Hey, life’s not that bad after all. Might as well enjoy it!”

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