The singer died on this day in 2017.
On May 18, 2017, Chris Cornell suddenly passed away after a Soundgarden show at the Fox Theater in Detroit.
One of grunge's forefathers, the rocker was blessed with a towering four-octave range that perfectly encapsulated the dueling sounds of the 1980s grunge movement: screeching veracity mixed with moments of tenderness.
Cornell led a successful career outside of his time with Soundgarden, as well. He established multiple side projects and released four solo records and numerous other compilations that continued to demonstrate his beefy vocal talents as a one-of-a-kind musician. While Cornell had plenty of memorable moments, there are a few vocal performances that stand above the rest.
As we remember Chris on the anniversary of his death, here are some of his greatest vocal performances.
Soundgarden – "Slaves & Bulldozers (1991)"
The last song Chris would ever sing, the rocker performed 1991's "Slaves & Bulldozers" as the final encore at Detroit's Fox Theater. An hour later, the rocker would be dead.
"Slaves & Bulldozers" is undeniably raw and a strangely fitting final performance, with Chris tearing apart the seedy inner workings of the music industry. The track also encapsulated what was so gorgeous about his voice, as he launches into a screeching F5 – or sometimes G5 in live performances – by the track's chorus, calling out in a harrowing plea, "What's in it for me? What's in it for me?"
Soundgarden – "Fell on Black Days (1994)"
Off Soundgarden's Grammy-nominated fourth record Superunkown, "Fell on Black Days" revisits the crippling depression that consumed Chris as a kid and is raw with sinister emotion as a result.
"Fell on Black Days was like this ongoing fear I've had for years," Chris told Melody Maker at the time of the single's release. "It took me a long time to write that song...It's a feeling that everyone gets. You're happy with your life, everything's going well, things are exciting – when all of a sudden you realize you're unhappy in the extreme, to the point of being really, really scared." "Fell on Black Days" is one of those haunting songs that sticks with you like a sickness.
Chris Cornell – "Flutter Girl (1994)"
When Chris Cornell abandoned the heavier roots of Soundgarden in favor of an optimistic journey into psychedelic pop, longtime fans were initially skeptical of the transition. But both his debut Euphoria Mourning and its lead single "Flutter Girl" were so much fun. The song radiates with a welcomed opulence.
Chris Cornell's voice is more soothing than gravelly and was picked to help soundtrack the movie Singles. "Flutter Girl" was unlike any Chris Cornell song that came before.
Audioslave – "Like a Stone (2002)"
Off of Audioslave's self-titled debut, "Like a Stone" quickly became one of those songs you heard everywhere on rock radio after it's released in 2002. The track's ruminations on death hit home thanks to the passionate yearning heard in Cornell's voice.
His voice slinks along with the lumbering despair of someone who knows he's in his final moments and who tries to remain optimistic in the face of death. "In your house I long to be," he calls out desperately to his friends and family who have passed on, "room by room patiently, I'll wait for your there." "Like a Stone" was a dark and bruising song that connected with millions and eventually became one of the highest performing rock songs of the decade.
Chris Cornell – "You Know My Name (2007"
Let's get one thing clear: Every 007 theme that has come after the release of 2007's "You Know My Name" just hasn't quite cut it – though Adele's "Skyfall" comes close. But it's because a voice as harsh as Cornell's was perfect to soundtrack a gritty reboot of the 007 franchise. It was also the first 007 theme to be sung by a male.
"Lyrically, it was really easy," Cornell said in 2009. "It was the only book where Ian Fleming wrote this vulnerability into the character." The song basks in that vulnerability and at times is quite introspective. "You can't deny the prize, it may never fulfill you," Chris sings as if to himself. "It longs to kill you, are you willing to die?"
Chris Cornell – "Nothing Compares 2 U"
As Chris got more confident as a solo performer, he began creating amazing covers by iconic mainstream acts like Michael Jackson and U2, but his cover of the Prince/Sinead O' Connor hit "Nothing Compares 2 U" was truly something special. It was one of the last songs Chris would record before his death and as a result is just haunting.
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