2016 was a particularly difficult year in the celebrity death department. 2017 isn’t looking much better. I was bummed when many of these people passed: Prince; David Bowie; Gene Wilder; Leonard Cohen; and Robert Pirsig, whose book, which I read many times when I was young, helped shape who I am. All of these people shaped my life in one way or another.
Death is sad. Untimely death is sadder. Death by suicide or drug overdose is the most tragic of all. But none of these deaths had much of an impact on me. It’s different with the death of Chris Cornell. I’m having a really hard time with it. But why should I be so affected by the death of someone I’d never even met?
It’s because I felt connected to him. His music meant something special to me. I felt it in a deeper way. I suppose it was because Chris and I had similar backgrounds. We were both born around the same time in the Seattle area. We lived in the same culture, experienced many of the same things, and traversed the same landscape. Things that would have affected him, affected me. We probably even shared some of the same demons. I grew and matured as his music did the same. His music was the soundtrack to my life.
We were both loners. Both Cancers. We both suffered from depression. We were both somewhat difficult to know and uncomfortable in social settings. His music expressed the way I often felt. The Temple of the Dog album that he and his friends made as a tribute to his friend, Andrew Wood, who died at 24 of heroin overdose, is probably my favorite album ever.
Temple of the Dog reflected the dark, rainy days of Seattle. It echoed pain, loss, melancholia, isolation, gloom, heartache, and despondency. I lost two childhood friends to suicide at about the same time Andy died. The music validated what I was feeling. It helped me work through it.
I’m sad that there will be no more music. No more opportunities to hear his astonishingly beautiful voice in person. I’m sad that he left a life that would have been enviable by anyone: a gorgeous wife, beautiful children, fortune, fame, sex appeal, a huge body of work that is his legacy, the adoration and respect of millions of friends, family, and fans. But I don’t want to be sad about this. I want to celebrate all of the things that he accomplished—the fact that he spent his life doing what he was meant to do. The thing that brought him joy. The thing that brought all of us joy.
He lived his life. Lived it. He did his thing, even when it wasn’t easy. And in doing it, he gave a gift to all of us. Thank you, Chris.