Today is my brother’s forty-third birthday. Happy birthday Stacy. In two weeks I will turn forty-seven. The bigger that number gets the weirder I feel about birthdays. I guess that comes with the territory. However, that is not why this week has been weird. I, along with everyone else, woke up Thursday morning to discover that Chris Cornell had died. It was a bit jarring and as more information trickled out it became even more unnerving.
I assumed that he had passed away from natural causes. He was young (fifty-two) but people that age have heart attacks and strokes every day. My own uncle passed away at that age a few years ago. It happens. It was not until I kept seeing the words “police are investigating” that I suspected something more sinister.
My next thought was drugs. Cornell never denied that he struggled with addiction and his past was out there in the open. It was not out of the realm of possibility that he could have relapsed. What I did not expect was the revelation that he had taken his own life. I watched as news reports updated (all while listening to Soundgarden and Audioslave) during the day until it was confirmed that he had indeed hanged himself.
Many in the media made obvious connections with other singers who were Cornell’s peers. Cornell was the vocalist for one of the “Big Four” of the Seattle “grunge” (I hate that term) scene. He was the third to die from either drugs or suicide. Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) died from a gunshot wound to the head in 1994. He had also taken a nearly lethal dose of heroin. Layne Staley (Alice In Chains) died in 2002 after battling addiction for years. He died of an overdose.
There were others from the same era who died in similar fashion. Andrew Wood (Mother Love Bone) was actually a former room mate of Cornell and was in a band with guys who went on to form Pearl Jam. He overdosed in 1990. Shannon Hoon (Blind Melon) overdosed in 1995. Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots) overdosed in 2015. In several of these cases the outcome really did not surprise people. Some of these guys had very public battles with their demons.
I guess that is why Chris Cornell’s passing jarred me. He seemed to have survived it and moved on to a good place in his life. I read a story in Rolling Stone last night that suggests his suicide may have been a result of a prescription drug overdose. His wife is saying that she believes he killed himself after taking too many anti-anxiety pills. I assume that the pending toxicology report may shine some light on that but to be honest, it really will not make a difference. Chris Cornell is dead. In my opinion he had one of the best rock voices ever and it is now silenced. He left behind family, friends, and fans who will truly miss him.
The other reason I have been a bit shaken by this is the simple fact that he was not much older than me. In fact, all of those guys I listed earlier were right around the same age as me. This is my generation dying off and it is dying off needlessly and senselessly. It breaks my heart because these guys (and anyone who died in such manner) did not have to die. They died because they lost their battles. They lost their direction. They lost their hope. I pray that all those who are struggling with their demons find someone who can point them to that hope. Perhaps it is you.
Grace and peace.