I was raised a sheltered kid. I listened to a capella jamz (ugh) and showtunes. In high school I "rebelled" against that upbringing by listening to classic rock and only classic rock. If the band had a hit in the past twenty years, I wasn't interested. In college, I became immersed in the local band scene, and naturally grew into an indie rock chick, black-framed glasses and cardigans and all.
Which is all to say—I didn't know the music of my youth. I'm pretty sure grunge was banned in Davis County. Apparently a few counties over accidentally booked Rage Against the Machine once, and that is still the terrifying stuff of local legend.
Chris Cornell first consciously entered my brain when I was 20. I sat on a couch in Provo with two boys that I loved, loved at different times and the same time.* We watched skate videos and "Like a Stone."
I was not a rocker at that time—the hardest music I listened to was The White Stripes—but I was immediately drawn in by Cornell's voice. I'd later learn to appreciate Morello's guitar skills, but the sheer melancholy of Cornell's singing floored me. I watched that video and saw and heard true despair. I didn't know a voice could rock while carrying that level of sincere emotion.
A few months later, I made a new friend. The first time we hung out we had a massive music swap, where I foisted Andrew Bird and Rilo Kiley on his iTunes. In turn, he filled a USB with all the 90s music I missed. He gave me entire catalogs of Audioslave and Temple of the Dog and Soundgarden. He told me to listen to Superunknown, that it was an album everybody should experience.** When I got home that night I turned it on. My bud Ashley came in and said, and I quote, "This is not Cat music."
No. It wasn't. But even I couldn't resist blasting "4th of July" at full capacity, because that song was magic.
That new friend who gave me Soundgarden? His name was Taylor McCarrey. I soon saw the beauty in his childhood music, fully embracing those 90s guitars. When we were still dating, we moved to Seattle. He was depressed. I was frustrated. We both experienced some extreme growing pains that summer. We visited Volunteer Park, and I felt a kinship with the "Black Hole Sun."
I'd never put Chris Cornell or any of his projects in my top lists when it comes to music, but I can't deny that he has had an indelible effect on my life. My sorrow at his passing blindsided me. His voice was there during the most pivotal times. Its raw emotion still haunts me. There's something warm and unnerving about the edge, that soft blanket lined with sandpaper. I can't shake it, and I wouldn't want to.
*It was as dramatic and painful and beautiful as it sounds.
**He also said the same about Stone Temple Pilot's Purple and Songs for the Deaf by Queens of the Stone Age. What can I say, my husband is a wise man.