Chris Cornell showcased his four-octave pipes since the mid ‘80s as frontman for Seattle grunge bands Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and supergroup Audioslave (with members of Rage Against the Machine). Cornell would have turned 53 today (July 20), and we’re celebrating his legacy with a rundown of 10 times his voice blew us away.
“Hunger Strike” (1991)
Temple of the Dog’s sole album is part tribute to late Mother Love Bone frontman Andrew Wood, and part intro to Eddie Vedder. The first single is an epic duet between Cornell and Vedder, exactly what Cornell was looking for when recording the track. “Suddenly the light bulb came on in my head, this guy’s voice (Vedder) is amazing for these low parts.” It peaked at No. 4 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart.
Peak Cornell vocals: 3:21
“Say Hello 2 Heaven” (1991)
“I never wanted to write these words down for you”
Cornell wrote Temple of the Dog’s second single to deal with the passing of Mother Love Bone frontman Andrew Wood. It peaked at No. 5 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart.
Peak Cornell vocals: 5:28
“The Day I Tried To Live” (1994)
Cornell wails, “I should have stayed in bed” in the song about “trying to step out of being closed off and attempting to be normal.” The Soundgarden track peaked at No. 13 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart.
Peak Cornell vocals: 2:46
“Fell On Black Days” (1995)
“Whatsoever I’ve feared has come to life”
Cornell is looking for light at the end of the tunnel in a song about “waking up and realizing you’re in a dark period of your life.” The Soundgarden track peaked at No. 4 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart. Listen to two takes of the song — the album version and the music video version — below.
Peak Cornell vocals: 3:17
“Burden In My Hand” (1996)
“I lost my head again, would you cry for me”
?Soundgarden takes a trip to the scene of the crime in the visual for the second single off Down on the Upside. It hit No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart, and not long after its release, the band took a lengthy break, during which Cornell pursued his solo career and worked with Audioslave.
Peak Cornell vocals: 4:15
“Can’t Change Me” (1999)
“I’m the only thing I really have at all”
Cornell is on fire in the visual for his Grammy Award-nominated single off his debut solo album, Euphoria Morning. It peaked at No. 5 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart. In 2015, he re-released the album to reflect the spelling he originally wanted for the title, Euphoria Mourning. In an interview with Rolling Stone he revealed, “the title was so beautifully poetic to begin with; it was a moment I felt inspired, and I let all the air out of it.”
Peak Cornell vocals: 3:09
Cornell gives a moving rendition of the single on his acoustic live album, Songbook (2011).
“Like A Stone” (2003)
Cornell noted that the Grammy-nominated song is “about concentrating on the afterlife you would hope for, rather than the normal monotheistic approach.” It peaked at No. 31 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and hit No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart.
Peak Cornell vocals: 4:07
For a change of pace, listen to the stripped down (sans Audioslave) version on Songbook (2011).
“Be Yourself” (2005)
“Someone finds salvation in everyone, another only pain”
Peak Cornell vocals: 3:48
“You Know My Name” (2006)
“Arm yourself because no one else here will save you”
The James Bond film Casino Royale received grunge rock treatment after Cornell drew inspiration from Daniel Craig’s portrayal of 007. As to why Cornell does not mention the name of the film in the song: “As soon as I heard Casino Royale was the title, I knew I wasn’t going to have those two words in the song. And no one told me that I should.”
The Grammy-nominated single peaked at No. 79 on the Hot 100 chart.
Peak Cornell vocals: 2:20
“Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart” (2015)
“Here we go round again”
The lead single from Cornell’s fourth studio album Higher Truth hit No. 2 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart.
Peak Cornell vocals: 2:50