Mark Ronson on His Teenage Worship of 'God-Like' Chris Cornell

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Mark Ronson at Marquee Nightclub on Feb. 2, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. 

A few years ago, I was on vacation with my family somewhere in Greece and on the first day I noticed that Chris Cornell was there with his family too. Having been such a massive fan of him and his music since Louder Than Love, I had an unusually hard time summoning the nerve to go up to him. Each day, I’d walk towards where he was sitting on the beach, get within five feet, lose my nerve and hang an abrupt U-turn. On my last day there, I was taking off from the beach in a little motorboat and, as we were pulling away, I spied him walking towards the dock. I took a running jump off the boat (which was in motion) and landed awkwardly right in front of him, immediately launching a steady stream of super-fandom while he looked on slightly startled but mostly amused. I also mentioned I had been at a double header of Soundgarden and Danzig at the Beacon Theatre in 1990, to which he responded something like, “Really? How old are you, kid?” (I was 14 then). He gave me a cool but genuine, “Thanks, man.” Then I shook his hand, turned around and took a running jump back onto the boat.

Chris Cornell was a god-like figure to me at the age when I was starting to forge my musical identity; that’s probably why I felt absolutely compelled to tell him how much his music meant to me even if embarrassed myself in the process. Louder Than Love was one of the key records of my teenage years. I had never heard anything like it. It was so aggressive yet melodic, somehow muscular and wiry at the same time. Everyone in the band made an indelible contribution, but it was the guitars of Kim Thayil and vocals of Cornell that really fucked up my world. There were shades of Robert Plant and other things I already knew of, but way more angst in both the lyrics and the performance. The lyrics of “Hands All Over” were about us fucking up the earth and it made me care about that shit. The melody gives me chills every time.

As told to Rebecca Milzoff.