As the music world mourns the tragic loss of vocalist Chris Cornell, we can take solace in the fact his music will live on. While known for his work in Temple of the Dog, Audioslave and his solo career, Cornell will best be remembered as the vocalist for Soundgarden, a band he helped found in Seattle in 1984. To honour his talent, we look back at five of the best Soundgarden songs penned (words and music) solely by Cornell.
Ugly Truth (from Louder than Love)
The opener on their impressive Lounder Than Love album is a classic that speaks to exactly what Soundgarden is all about: heavy, downtuned guitar riffs, screaming vocals and pounding, precise drums. This song features a spectacular vocal performance from Cornell. Soundgarden opened with “Ugly Truth” in Detroit the night Cornell died.
Rusty Cage (from Badmotorfinger)
A popular and well-known song, “Rusty Cage” was penned by Cornell and it speaks to gaining one’s freedom after a period of being restrained by perhaps a bad relationship. The song changes tempo in a very Black Sabbath way, giving it a sludgy, heavy feel midway through. It was famously covered by the late Johnny Cash, and Cornell even included a Cash-like acoustic rendering of it on his 2015 solo tour.
The Day I Tried to Live (from Superunknown)
A lyrically intense song with a soaring, emotional vocal from Cornell. “The Day I Tried to Live” was released as a single in 1994. It’s an existential song about someone deciding to go out and change the world, but soon realizes it doesn’t matter because we all end up dead, regardless of what we do in life.
Pretty Noose (From Down on the Upside)
A grinding, grungy song, “Pretty Noose” opens Soundgarden’s stellar 1996 album Down on the Upside. With plenty of guitar layers and sounds, Cornell’s voice carries the song, soaring above the instruments. He said “Pretty Noose” was about “an attractively packaged bad idea . . .something that seems great at first and then comes back to bite you.” Ironically, Cornell died by hanging.
Burden in my Hand (From Down on the Upside)
The second single off Down on the Upside, “Burden in my Hand” has a happy feel to the music with a nice acoustic opening, that kicks into a classic Soundgarden dark anthem. Years after the album was released, Cornell related to ArtistDirect.com what the song had come to mean for him: “That was a song that really came from the guitar itself. It was mostly like the guitar was dictating what the lyrics should be and creating a mental image. The mental image was this sort of destitute guy. I guess he’d lost his cool if you want to put it that way. He’s sort of coming to grips with what had happened and not necessarily feeling particularly emotional about it either way. He’s trying to figure out how he would stand up and put one foot in front of the other—or not—and the song never really resolves any of that. It’s just that moment of somebody sitting in the dirt. I had more moments like that after that song was written than I ever had before it was, so it means a lot more to me now than it did then.”
Rest in Peace, Chris Cornell.
“Say Hello to Heaven”