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From the High Chief: Looking California but Feeling Minnesota

I remember it like yesterday, summer of 1991 and my guitar teacher Alex, was telling me about a new band. This wasn’t a name normally thrown around during lessons like Slayer, Metallica and Guns & Roses. He was talking about Soundgarden and kept saying that nobody could touch the singer. My curiosity was piqued to say the least. I remember hearing the song “Beyond the Wheel” the most from that day. It starts slowly with just guitar and very deep vocals and then after about a minute the song broke into this ridiculously heavy, slow riff that banged my head for me and Cornell, hitting notes so high I thought the windows were going to break. By the end of the song I was completely sold on that band. I remember thinking that Cornell, sounded like Rob Halford of Judas Priest, hitting all those impossible highs. What a set of pipes! This was music written for smoking weed and stoners that were stuck listening to the same Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin albums for over a decade could rejoice with new tunes that were worthy of any rock and rollers time. At it’s core it was superior stoner metal that had fuzzed out guitars that were tuned down low, heavy drums that were played perfectly and Cornell’s voice cutting over all of it.

When I heard of Cornell’s suicide last week I was obviously taken back. How does this happen? How does one play a show and head back to their hotel to off themselves. He was a grown man in his early 50’s not some 20 year old experimenting. I am not trying to play doctor or psychiatrist that is far too disrespectful towards his family and friends. But from what I am seeing and hearing he was depressed. His wife revealed he was being prescribed “Ativan” for who knows what. He admitted to being a “pioneer” of the oxycontin epidemic. I never thought of calling myself that until last week. I had a big problem with those and moved to Colorado from Florida to distance myself from it. I know that they cloud your judgement unlike anything else, I also know how quickly they will end a life as I have lost countless friends from overdoses on them. There are numerous points that can be debated over and over but I’m not trying to play detective. I am just trying to make sure he is still treated with respect after his passing. I know whatever he was prescribed should be taken off the shelves immediately and banned from being given to anyone.

One thing that will always be clear about Chris Cornell, was that he was as accomplished as any musician over the past three decades. He wrote so much of Soundgarden’s music and played guitar on many songs live. He formed Audioslave, and killed it with them. a totally different sound but the same pipes. His gift was given to us in large doses and for that I know we are all thankful. That voice outshined everyone else’s. Rest in peace, Chris!


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