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Chris Cornell

Posted by purplemary54 on May 18, 2017


This is not what I expected to be doing this morning.

I’m going in for my annual mammogram this afternoon.  I’ve got to run a couple errands today.  Maybe a load of laundry.  I checked the news on my phone to see if there were any interesting developments in the Russia investigation.  I did not expect to see that Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell had passed into the next plane last night in what Rolling Stone’s website is reporting as a “possible suicide.”  Fuck.

Cornell’s voice was a force of nature, which was exactly what a band like Soundgarden needed to become a Rock powerhouse.  He could wail and groan like a hurricane, then drift down to a whisper of a breeze.  He was as relentless and undeniable as the wind.  And I cannot believe he is silenced.  He was only four years older than me.

I was never a Soundgarden superfan, although I always enjoyed listening to them.  My favorite Cornell song is actually “Hunger Strike” from the Temple of the Dog one-off, which was itself a tribute to late Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood.  Cornell teamed with the surviving members of that band and some new kid named Eddie to play and sing for a life cut short.  Cornell’s voice meshes perfectly with Eddie Vedder’s.  And the chorus seems like an aptly fitting description of the musical landscape the last couple of years: “I’m going hungry.”


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Got Live if You Want It: “Hunger Strike”

Posted by purplemary54 on November 6, 2014

Every year, Neil Young holds a benefit concert for the Bridge School.  It’s a mostly acoustic show where many of Neil’s friends and colleagues show up to raise funds for this wonderful school for disabled children.  This year’s concert featured a sort of reunion between Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell (of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden fame, just in case you were unaware).

These guys recorded as a one-shot group called Temple of the Dog, which was a tribute band Cornell formed in honor of his friend, the late singer Andrew Wood.  The band consisted of Cornell, the surviving members of Wood’s group Mother Love Bone, and a then-unknown Eddie Vedder; he would join with the rest of Mother Love Bone and form Pearl Jam.

“Hunger Strike” is probably the best song from their single album.  It’s certainly the one I love the most.  It is such a compelling, emotional song.  Although it is not about grieving per se, the grief is obvious.  This is a song of mourning, epic and anthemic.  But it’s been twenty-five years since it was originally written and recorded (okay, twenty-four. . . near enough).  The palpable grief in the recorded version has turned into wistful melancholia.  This performance is a memory and a celebration.  Just wonderful work.

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“Hunger Strike”

Posted by purplemary54 on July 30, 2013

A significant number of inmates in California prisons have recently begun hunger strikes to protest being kept in solitary confinement.  From what I understand, this is not just a few guys who’ve proven that they are Hannibal Lecter-level psychopaths locked up for the safety of staff and other inmates.  Solitary confinement is being used by many prisons as a way to “control” gang violence among the inmates.  I will admit to being a little ambivalent about this issue.  I’m of the opinion that if you do something really bad, you deserve your punishment (I’ve got very strong, but somewhat complicated views on punishment and incarceration, but it would take too long to fully explain).  And I think a judicious use of solitary confinement as a way to curb immediate threats is acceptable; it’s not ideal, but short periods of isolation might be the lesser of evils here.  But if there are hundreds of men claiming that they’re being indefinitely confined to solitary units without just cause, then I think there might be a bit of a problem.

Being in prison doesn’t mean you aren’t a person.  Yeah, maybe you did something stupid or bad, or even evil.  But you still have the right to humane treatment.  The inmates and the activists supporting them believe that this situation amounts to torture, and I’m not so sure they’re wrong.  I’m not so sure they’re right, either.  I still need to learn more about what’s happening.  It’s an emotional issue that plays into a lot of irrational fears and prejudices.  I’d like a clear point of view.

This song isn’t about a prisoner’s hunger strike.  It’s about the grief Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell and the other members of Mother Love Bone felt when their lead singer and friend Andrew Wood died of a heroin overdose.  They got together, along with a then-unknown Eddie Vedder, and recorded an album as Temple of the Dog.  It was a tribute that became something more, as the band evolved into Pearl Jam.  “Hunger Strike” is a visceral experience, a gaping, open wound of a song.  Cornell’s primal scream, “I’m going hungry,” says more about his pain than anything else.  It’s impossible to hear this and not be moved.

And that’s where I’ll leave it.  There’s no easy way to connect the issue with the song, no simple declaration of right or wrong.  I know I’ve already sided with the prisoners.  I can’t stand cruelty.  There might be some valid reasons for solitary confinement.  And some of these guys probably deserve to be isolated.  But I think our system of so-called rehabilitation in this country is profoundly flawed.  It’s time to make some changes.


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