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10 Chris Cornell songs that define his career


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Chris Cornell is not simply the singer of a great band, but a pillar and icon of the late 80s and early 90s alt-rock flourish known as 'grunge' and one of the defining voices of a generation alongside Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder.

As part of both Soundgarden and supergroups Temple of The Dog (alongside members of Pearl Jam) and Audioslave (with members of Rage Against The Machine), he helped blaze a trail for the sound that would take over the world and change popular music forever.

On the 17th May 2017, Chris Cornell was found dead after taking his own life at the age of just 52. His unforgettable music will continue to shine on even after his passing.

We celebrate his life by looking back at ten songs that helped define his career.

Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden)

Soundgarden's biggest hit and one of their most popular songs, 'Black Hole Sun' shows off Chris Cornell's strange angular melodies in a way that none of their other material does. If you need any proof as to the genius of Cornell's songwriting, he claimed that 'Black Hole Sun' took no longer than 15 minutes to write.

15 minutes to craft an alt-rock classic - not bad. Despite featuring the catchiest chorus they've penned, the lyrics on a whole, Cornell said, are only meant to paint a picture, and were entirely nonsensical. The song went on to win Best Metal Performance at the 1995 Grammy Awards and was also nominated for Best Rock Song.

Like A Stone (Audioslave)

Though definitely not their riffiest song, 'Like A Stone' is by far Audioslave's most recognisable. Cornell tackles mortality in his lyrics, his anguish palpable as he discusses religion, theism and what waits for us on the other side.
The song went on to become Audioslave's biggest hit, topping the Billboard Rock charts and becoming the fifth biggest song on the Alternative Chart of the 2000s!

Heretic (Soundgarden)

It all started here. Seattle, 1986. A young grunge band record a few tracks for a label compilation tape. Their first professional recordings. Of these, the standout, 'Heretic', is a blistering, hard rock statement.

A devilish Cornell shrieks his way through the verses like a banshee, freeing his smooth baritone only for the chorus. The blueprint for one of Seattle's most successful bands were still being laid out, but the bare bones of their sound come through clearly. Less than a year later, they would be scouted by a label scout to record their debut EP, Screaming Life.

Say Hello 2 Heaven (Temple of the Dog)

Written as a tribute to Cornell's former-flatmate, Andrew Wood, who had died of a heroin overdose, 'Say Hello 2 Heaven' is a grief-stricken lament for a fallen friend.

Temple of the Dog was a collaborative project between Chris Cornell and the members of Wood's previous band, Mother Love Bone (later Pearl Jam), as a means to pay homage to their friend, and only released one album. Cornell's sadness is palpable in the lyrics as he deconstructs his feelings towards Woods' death and bids him adieu, telling him to "say hello to heaven".

You Know My Name (Chris Cornell)

In his later career, Cornell wrote a few songs for the soundtracks of cinematic releases. These include films such as 12 Years a Slave and Machine Gun Preacher. But by far his most well known foray into film music was the song he wrote for 2006's Casino Royale.

Writing a Bond theme is a privilege given only to a limited few musicians and Cornell is one of the few. From the opening line, "If you take a life, do you know what you'll give? Odds are you won't like what it is.", Cornell offers a gritty, exhilarating theme to match the grittier tone of the newly-refurbished franchise. The song has since become one of the most recognisable in his solo discography and for good reason.

Beyond The Wheel (Soundgarden)

An underrated track from Soundgarden's first full-length release Ultramega OK, 'Beyond The Wheel' is another testament to Chris Cornell's incredibly unique songwriting style. His unfathomable four-octave range is used to full effect throughout, kicking off the first verse with a haunting bass rattle and concluding in a heaven-piercing shriek. This track stomps and lurches unforgivingly through its four-minute runtime.

Black Rain (Soundgarden)

The first new track they had put out since 1997, 2010's 'Black Rain' saw a newly reformed Soundgarden back to full form. The song was originally written in 1991 at the height of their heaviest musical period and re-recorded for their 2010 compilation Telephantasm.

The track is anchored by a driving, twisting guitar riff played to a mind-bending 9/8 signature and features a belting vocal performance by Chris Cornell. Despite being late into their career, this track rocks harder than many of their younger contemporaries could have. So underrated.

Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart (Chris Cornell)

The most recent song on this list, 2015's 'Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart' takes more an accessible, stripped back approach to songwriting and is a direct contrast to the earthshaking riffs of Cornell's early career but his individuality shines through even here. Even at 50, his voice remains faultless as he belts through his lyrics. The song peaked at number 5 on the Billboard Rock Charts, the first of his to do so since 2007.

Spoonman (Soundgarden)

Arguably the song that launched Soundgarden into mainstream success in 1994, 'Spoonman' was originally written for the cult-classic film Singles. The track pays homage to a street musician called Artis The Spoon Man who frequented the streets of Seattle and Cornell's lyrics tackle the public's judgement of street musicians. Odd indeed.

Odder still is the inclusion of a spoons solo in the middle of the track and drummer Matt Cameron playing pots and pans as percussion instruments. A benchmark of their career, 'Spoonman' lifted Soundgarden from the veil of obscurity.

Cochise (Audioslave)

Ending this list with the send off Cornell deserves, the heaviest of riffs, the monster of all vocal performances, Audioslave's second single 'Cochise everything. The title refers to an Apache Indian chief who 'attacked everything in his path with unbridled fury' which is the perfect way to describe this fist-pumping rock track, and indeed Chris Cornell's entire career.

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