Hi folks. It’s nearly the end of 2017 and what a year it was. Actually, what a year it was for deaths in music and particularly, the two passings I’m focusing on today. We have had many deaths in the past couple of years of notible people in music but the ones which really made me stand up and say “what the fuck” were singers Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington. Both of these deaths are linked together because of the methods of ending their lives, meaning suicide by hanging as well as their close friendship. Both these guys sang in more than one band and in fact, they sang in three bands each, during their careers as recording artists. Chester was lead vocalist for the bands: Linken Park, Stone Temple pilots and Dead By Sunrise. Chris was the singer for: Soundgarden, Temple Of The Dog and Audioslave and they both were working at the time of their demises.
The first to join the choir invisible was Chris on May 18th and he had just finished playing a show with Soundgarden in Detroit and was staying at the MGM Grand Hotel. He was found by his bodyguard in the bathroom with an exercise band around his neck, hanging, suspended . I had been a fan and a follower of his work since the Badmotorfinger album and the song Rusty Cage, especially. My first Soundgarden album I had bought was Superunknown and my favourite songs were Black Whole Sun and Like Suicide. I liked the vocals and how his voice sounded different with each octive of his range and in the case of Black Whole Sun, I liked the panning voices from left to right, when he sings the title of the song. That album made me want to get more Soundgarden songs and I continued buying CD’s until they broke up and the best of album A -Sides came out in 1997.
As for Audioslave, I had the first album and I liked a lot of it too but he sounded different in that he sounded like he had, or was getting over a cold. If you have the first Audioslave album, listen to his lower range especially and you can hear what I heard and still hear in his voice. The next two albums went bak to his normal voice but it also retained the nasally sound in the higher range. The sound would stay with him until his death.
As for his solo albums, I wasn’t interested in them at first and I don’t know why. I think it was because I didn’t have a place in my Collection for them. I was always organizing my music by genre and I couldn’t figure out where to put Chris Cornell and his solo stuff, alongside his work in Soundgarden and Temple Of The Dog. Even after Audioslave had been and gone, I had stayed away from buying his solo albums but I have always kept up with what he was doing.
When I had bought them (after he died) I began to gravitate towards Scream because of one song. I thought that Long Gone was cool because it reminded me of gnarls Barkley and what he was doing at the time with that song suited his voice, regardless of what he was supposed to be known for as a singer. I also began to listen to some of the Higher Truth album and the songs: Dead Wishes, Bend In The Road, Worried Moon and the single Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart are my current favourites from that album.
As for the last Soundgarden album, (King Animal)I think it is fine for what it is. It isn’t the same as the older stuff but everyone had changed in their playing style and Chris had that different sound to his voice. However, it worked with songs like: Bones Of Birds and Eyelids Mouth, as my current favourites.
When Chris died I was shocked and all the memories of my favourite songs came flooding back and even his influence on me as a musician. I had recorded a song in 1997 called No I Can Not Stay, which had a similar sound to what Chris did with his solo albums. It isn’t available anywhere as a Digital download and appears on a compilation put together bye Hamilton CNIB. For the record, I sing and play all the instruments on the song! Anyway, I went out and bought everything again, as well as albums I hadn’t previously bought by Chris and the bands he played in. Yes, it is the classic case of when someone dies, you go out and buy everything they put out or as much as you can find.
In the case of Lincoln Park and Chester Bennington, my love for his music took a lot longer to grow then with Chris Cornell. I couldn’t stand his voice at first and I didn’t much care for the songs either, at the time. However, they eventually grew on me but I decided not to buy an album and just follow on the sidelines. I grew to respect Chester and the rest of the band and continue to follow them and keep an ear on what they were doing.
When the album One More Light was to come out in 2017 I had a feeling that it was going to be a turning point for the band. Sometimes I can sense these things but I can’t really explain why, until it’s too late and whatever happens, happens. For example: when Korn released the album Take A Look In The mirror in 2003, I sensed something was about to change in the band but I couldn’t fathom what it was. It was because of the sound of the album and because of how poorly it did, compared to their past albums. Then in 2005, Brian Head Welsh left the band and didn’t return until 2013.
Another example of this is when Queen were not touring to support The Miracle and innuendo albums and obviously, singer Freddie Mercury had been sick throughout the making of both albums and he died in November 1991, of bronchial pneumonia. This was more sudden, much like The suicides of both Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington but, there were indications that something was about to change. For example: listen to Freddys voice and it is thinner on the more recent material but, he could still hit the notes. Also, lyrically on the song The Show Must Go On, it was about Freddys bravery despite what he was dealing with and again, he nailed that vocal and there is no indication that he was sick other then, his ailing voice. There was also the lack of touring which really got people going, with roomers about Freddie’s health and well… we know now why.
In the case of Chester, I think it was his reaction to the critical reception to One More Light which should have tipped people off because he never seemed like someone who wanted to cause harm to anyone else, even if they spoke ill about the latest album. Yes, the death of Chris was on his mind and it changed him but I think that the negative reception to One More Light may have also pushed him over the edge. This is despite that Corey Taylor said that he should just give it time and let time change the minds of those who hated the album. Chester admitted that Corey was right and that he is a good dude. I agree that he is and having met him, I trust what he said to Chester, through the press.
fast forward, to July 20th, Chester was dead and I heard about it on Facebook first, before the radio. Obviously, I was shocked and sad to hear of this tragedy and it’s been on my mind, ever since then. I had bought all of Linken Park’s albums and I still have more to get if I wish to complete my collection. I grew to like most of One More Light and in particular, the song Sorry For Now, because of the sounds in the track. They remind ed me of today’s contemporary pop music and all of its quirks. I also became fond of the title track and even the first single Heavy. I also grew to like even more, songs such as: Lying From You, Waiting For The End and Burn It Down. All of these songs have great vocals and other sonic intricacies throughout them which also made me listen to them closer. For example: the samples in Lying From You and Waiting For The End. In the case of the latter, it was the remixed vocals from Chester that I thought was cool. Another song which is worth listening to is Robot Boy, from A Thousand Suns because it is mainly comprised of 3 part harmony, between Chester and Mike Shinoda. This song is (in a sense) completely different from anything in their discography or any band out of the alternative metal stew. It also reminds me of classic Genesis, from the progressive part of their career. For example: listen to most songs from the album Wind & Wuthering and pay attention to the keyboards. I hear some of that influence on the song too. Anyway, I digress.
In the case of tributes to him, my favourite one was from David Drayman from Disturbed, who wrote about going on tour with Linken Park and meeting him and his family. He made me laugh with all of his stories and you can probably still find his tribute somewhere on Google, if you want to look for it and read it.
Something else which made Chester’s death even more alarming was that when he spoke while being interviewed, he sounded like someone I had heard or known somewhere. It really hit me when he was doing an interview during the world premier for the album Minutes To Midnight in 2007. I can’t remember what he said exactly to trigger it but that voice always stuck in my head. Also, the day before Chris died, a panhandler came up to me while I was eating lunch at a donut shop. He asked me for money and said he was very hungry and when I heard him talk, he sounded similar to Chris Cornell. Of course, I didn’t think it was him but his death made me think of that guy.
Unfortunately, both these guys are gone and thanks to their deaths, the topic of depression was brought up in the media. Obviously, it’s very important to be there for somebody who is in the midst of depression and has suicidal thoughts. I’ve been there and thankfully, I am Lucky that mine was so mild that it didn’t require any drugs to alleviate it. Unfortunately, there are some people who are trapped in a more severe form of depression, it has become a source of conversation. It is so insidious that it takes iconic figures to die, in order for us to talk about it? There are warning signs for sure but they may not be obvious and if there is something going on with somebody we care about, we should just check in with them and see how they’re doing. Most importantly, listen to them and let them know that we’re there for them. It sounds so simple to do but it isn’t because of how fast paced our society is these days, with the immediacy of information at our fingertips and the addiction of social media and smart phones. Admittedly, I’m using mine right now to compose this blog post but, I am also aware of the human aspect of my being and that life is very fragile. After the deaths of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, I value my own life even more and especially now that I am passed 40. Especially because of their ages being 52 for Chris and 41 for Chester, at the time they shuffled off this mortal coil. I hope that I can live at least to 62 or 80 because 8 seems to be a number which comes up in my own life. My birthday is June 2nd (6th month and 2nd day of the month) and I moved into my own apartment at the age of 26. I bring it up because of both Chester and Chris being born on the 20th days of the month they were born on, as Chris Cornell’s birthday was July 20th and Chester Bennington’s birthday was March 20th. I don’t know how much numerology goes into this but because I’m 44 now, I’m in a year of my lucky number so… I wonder what they’re lucky numbers were!
Anyway, I’m glad they were here to give us all music to listen to and unfortunately because they’re gone, we have something to talk about and I’m sure there are others out there, who have depression and may or may not die because of it. Hopefully, we can save lives of others by just being there for them and let them tell us what’s going on and not force them to talk about it if they don’t want to, at the time. I can say for myself that I want to live as long as I can and be happy, for as long as I can be and hopefully, we can help to save more people from this insidious mental illness. Unfortunately, we’re going to see more people dying who are celebrities by various forms of suicide because of depression and it’s going to be repeated again and again, that we should be there for each other. Hopefully I’m wrong and there will be less suicidal deaths in the future. As for Chris and Chester, they are gone but not forgotten and the music will live on for as long as we live and as long as the fans want to hear their songs either on the radio, via streaming services or to purchase them on iTunes or on cd or vinyl.