You’ll always remember where you were when you heard something happening to a person close to you. When the good and the bad happens to friends and family you’ll always remember where you were and who you were with when you heard the news.
As most of you know, music is a major part of my life. When someone whose art has impacted me passes, I feel sadness. It’s different form of sadness compared to when someone I personally know dies, but it’s still grief. Their music had provided a soundtrack to my life.
I remember the shock of hearing about Dime. I felt sadness when Clarence Clemons passed. I felt it when Lemmy died. But when I got a text message from my wife on Thursday evening that Chris Cornell died, it hit me in a way I’ve never felt for a person who, except for his music, I didn’t know. I spent the evening sitting in the kitchen playing his music. I couldn’t phantom it. At 52?
When I woke up the news next morning of him taking his own life, I almost cried. I probably would have, had I not been sitting on a train about to step into work.
A suicide?!* Not Chris Cornell. What the fuck..?
To the outside, and for someone who knew him only through his music, it looked like he had everything. Talent and pipes comparable only to Plant or Mercury; if you didn’t want to be him you wanted to be with him. Incredible success, the courage to try new things with music. Charity work. Three kids and a wife.
This again shows us that anxiety and depression don’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter who you are or how successful you are. No one is immune to it. Depression doesn’t care about the race, gender, sexual orientation or wealth. When the mind digs itself into a dark hole, you can feel lonely and helpless, even when surrounded by people, love and success.
We, men, need to talk more about how we feel. We should be past the “Whatever happened to Gary Cooper, the strong silent type?” – definition of masculinity.
Why do we still have a stigma about depression, anxiety and mental health? Times change and we need to evolve for the better. We need to change how we portrait manliness in 2017, and beyond.
There is nothing unmanly about talking to someone how you feel vulnerable and weak. You do not have to keep it to yourself and battle through it on your own. You can always reach out to a loved one, a professional help or a hotline.
As I write this listening to Cornell’s music I am grateful that I got to see him play live in so many incarnations. Audioslave in 2005, solo with a backup band in 2007, acoustic solo at the Opera House in 2011. Any of those gigs could go into my all time top 5. And then with Soundgarden in 2015. Very grateful.
In my pantheon of music Chris Cornell is, and always will be, up there. For me he’s up there with Springsteen. Cornell suffered from anxiety. Springsteen, according to his autobiography, has battled with depression throughout his life.
It makes you think.
For us, the fans of Chris Cornell’s voice and lyrics, that’s all we’ve ever had, and we still have his records to go back to. Dark days, but we are on the outside looking in.
But for his friends and family, they lost much more than just the music. For them he is not just another glorified death of a musician. My heart goes out to them.
We don’t need more of these stories. Even one is too many. Let’s look out for each other.
*as of writing this it’s still unclear whether his mental state was affected by overdosing on anxiety medication, which side effects can cause “paranoid or suicidal thoughts”. Or whether he did it intentionally or not. But the reality is that it did happen.
He sang this in Sydney 2011 and it’s still one of my favorite live performances, ever.