Earlier today (May 18th) we were hit with the shocking and sudden death of one of rock’s most beloved and unique voices, Chris Cornell.
A true giant of the grunge scene and a key component of its meteoric rise to chart domination, Cornell fronted not one but three of the most revered bands of the past three decades – Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and Audioslave. His incendiary growl was unmistakable; indeed it contained such a rare power (and near four octaves) that it would often overshadow his remarkable work as a guitarist and songwriter.
Still, despite all its heft it was still capable of incredible moments of tenderness, most clearly seen on his recent acoustically led solo work.
As tribute to this truly one-of-a-kind talent we’re taking a look back at seven of his most knockout vocal performances…
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'4th of July'
A dark and sludgy number coming in at over five minutes, ‘4th of July’ contains some of Cornell’s most vivid and apocalyptic lyrics, as well as backing vocals which almost sees him dueting with himself.
Approached in the wrong manner this track could have become real slog for the listener. However, thanks to the bearded ones ability to add some sexy to despair, this album cut from fourth full-length ‘Superunknown’ proves a real treat. Not many could deliver the line "Jesus tries to crack a smile", and still get your head nodding.
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The opener to their first major label release ‘Louder Than Love’, ‘Ugly Truth’ is a psyched out stomper that highlights the singers range of influences. Sure the Seattle crowd liked to scream and angst with the best of them, but Soundgarden effortlessly blended more exotic fare into their distorted sound.
The closing minute and half sees the singer belt out the lyric ‘If were you mine to give - I might it throw it away’ the only way he could – with equal parts rebellion and soul. An early gem.
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One of Soundgarden’s most direct songs, ‘Outshined’ is quite simply just a phenomenal tune filled with first rate-hooks, a memorable chorus and Cornell doing what he does best – and there’s nothing wrong with that. His blistering higher register is used when crying out the title while elsewhere some of his greatest mournful growling can be found blowing various hats off.
Forget ‘Black Hole Sun’, with a vocal performance like this ‘Outshined’ deserves to be the group’s most well known number. Simply staggering.
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'Fell On Black Days'
Not only one of his best vocals but one of his greatest tracks. 94’s ‘Superunknown’ became Soungarden’s finest work, a textured beast of a record that went five times platinum in the US alone.
Anything off this album is fit for inclusion, but fifth single ‘Fell On Black Days’ has a special place in fan’s hearts. Melancholic and dreamlike in structure, the manner in which Cornell’s smooth delivery switches to his trademark roar is as close to perfection any rock fan could ask for. A master class in attack and restraint.
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'Show Me How To Live '
Vividly displaying Cornell’s ability to sound like he’s stuck in both heaven and hell, this highlight from Audioslave’s debut initially comes over as you run of the mill bluesy rocker until the front man’s voice is left to soar majestically.
It’s hardly the subtlest release in his back catalogue, but it does what it’s meant to do – rock your socks clean off. In the hands of a lesser talent this single (and supergroup) would have limped into people’s lives. Instead they smashed the door down.
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Vedder and Cornell battling it out on tape. Could we ask for more? The stand out moment from Temple Of The Dog’s only album, this alternative classic sees a relatively unknown Eddie given time to shine alongside the more veteran Cornell. While the former delivers his usual blend of mumbled crooning, Cornell shrieks and wails over the top creating great counter balance.
One of the era's more subdued hits, ‘Hunger Strike’ still stands as one the chief examples of what made the scene so very special to so many.
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'Nothing Compares 2 U'
They often say a true test of an artist is how they choose to approach another’s work. Here Cornell tackles a track written by one of the best (Prince), and most famously performed by Sinead O’ Connor, yet still holds his own.
Like a whiskey-soaked angel he wrings every drop of angst and longing from this emotive classic. Considering this is known as one the biggest tearjerker numbers of the 90s he still manages to hit you where it hurts.
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Words: Sam Walker-Smart