Cuba Remembers Chris Cornell as a 'Rock Hero' After Historic 2005 Audioslave Concert in Havana
Cubans Remember Audioslave Concert as “Once in a lifetime experience”
“None of the followers of the grunge movement who grew up in the Cuba of the 1990s could have imagined that they could see this rock hero live,” Michel Hernandez wrote in Spanish on the website of Havana music magazine Vistar, one of the Cuban media outlets that published obituaries for Cornell as the sad news of his untimely death reached the island. “But against all odds, Chris landed on the island together with three members of Rage Against the Machine to offer a concert in 2005 that many still remember as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The concert, which took place at the Jose Marti Anti-Imperialist Tribune in front of what was then the U.S. Interests Section in Havana (the U.S. Embassy opened in 2015), was the first major outdoor concert by an American rock band in Cuba. An estimated 70,000 people attended the free show. According to Cornell, the band itself spent $1 million to fund the concert, which was arranged in accord with the U.S. State Department and Cuban officials as a cultural exchange.
As The Rolling Stones were preparing to play Havana last year, more than a decade after Audioslave’s show, Cornell talked to The Associated Press about his experience in Cuba. “I really didn’t think the same after I left,” he said. “I really understood what music is and how it’s that language that everybody speaks no matter what other audible language you speak.”
In the interview, he encouraged The Stones to tell other bands to perform on the island. “I also think that upon their exit they need to … tell all their friends in the music business and all their friends who are in bands who can afford to follow suit, and go right in and play music for the Cuban people.”
A live DVD recording of Audioslave’s Havana show, Live in Cuba, was released following the historic May 2005 concert.