There is always an iconic voice that defines a generation. Your father’s generation had John Lennon. Your uncle probably remembers rocking out to Robert Plant. Your older sibling’s probably danced to Michael Jackson or Madonna. But for those who grew up with '90s grunge, that (raspy yet angelic) voice belonged to none other than Chris Cornell.
As you may already know, Cornell, front man of grunge rock pioneer Soundgarden and Rage Against The Machine breakaway supergroup Audioslave, has died at age 52 according to reports. As much as news of his death saddens his legions of adoring fans, Cornell will definitely live on, immortalized in a legacy of musical greatness. Here's a tribute in the form of some of his greatest hits, an ode to one of the most iconic voices of rock and roll.
'Black Hole Sun'
Soundgarden, along with Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Nirvana, spearheaded the grunge rock era out of Seattle, USA. "Black Hole Sun" is probably more well-known now as a playable song in 2007’s hit game Rock Band, but this track that solidified Soundgarden and Cornell’s status as one of the top acts of the '90s, being nominated for Best Rock Song and winning Best Hard Rock Performance at the 1995 Grammy Awards. It remains to be the band’s most popular and most recognizable song.
When long-time Rage Against the Machine vocalist Zack de la Rocha left in 2000, the remaining band members decided to soldier on with a different vocalist. They eventually hooked up with Cornell to form Audioslave in 2001. While the Rage sound was still evident in Audioslave’s discography (with Tom Morello’s effects-driven guitars being the most evident spillover), it was without a doubt Cornell’s band. "Cochise," the band’s debut single, is a solid head banger with one of Cornell’s most hard-hitting vocal performances ever.
'Like A Stone'
Audioslave quickly followed up their successful debut with "Like A Stone." Unlike the rumbling track that came before it, this song is anchored heavily on a mellow guitar riff and Cornell’s impeccable voice. He delivers one of his best vocals in this track, pulling off an emotionally charged performance effortlessly as only he can.
'You Know My Name'
You know you’ve made it when you’re asked to sing a song for a Bond movie. Just take a look at the list: Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Madonna, Adele, Sam Smith, and Jack White just to name a few. Cornell was tasked to co-write and perform Casino Royale’s title song, "You Know My Name." This song is definitely one of the best Bond songs of all-time, winning Best Original Song at the World Soundtrack Awards and Satellite Awards.
Once upon a time, there was a band called Temple of the Dog that featured mostly members of Pearl Jam with Cornell and, sometimes, Eddie Vedder on vocals. While not reaching mainstream success like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, the group managed to release a self-titled album that featured "Hunger Strike," a track fueled by two of the most powerful voices to come out of the Seattle grunge scene. Cornell’s range is on full display in this song, blasting out impossibly high notes with perfect control.
Coming from the album Superunknown, the same album that featured "Black Hole Sun," "Spoonman" is one of the songs that helped Soundgarden achieve mainstream success. It’s a thumping track driven by heavy guitar riffs perfectly complemented by Cornell’s unique voice that cuts across the heaviness of the instrumentation. While there’s many things going on in this track musically, you can’t help but take heed of Cornell’s voice, which is a testament to his incredible talent.
'Can’t Change Me'
Cornell has also ventured into solo territory, releasing 5 albums between 1999 and 2015. His first outing was an album called Euphoria Morning that featured the track "Can’t Change Me." This track displays a healthy dose of alternative pop rock sensibilities, at least more than his band’s usual output, but Cornell kills it as usual, showing his versatility and immense talent not only with his voice but in his songwriting as well.
Chris Cornell sings Whitney Houston
It wasn’t too long ago that Cornell was performing tributes of his own to artists who have gone before him. And if there is any proof that Cornell can sing absolutely anything you throw at him, it’s this video of him singing Whitney Houston’s "I Will Always Love You." We’re hoping for a ton of Chris Cornell tribute videos to pop up soon because he sure deserves it.
Chris Cornell sings Bob Marley
If there’s anyone who can cover a song and make it better, it’s Cornell. The fact that he can sing a Bob Marley song and make it sound like his own is an impressive feat to say the least.
'Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart'
Barring any unreleased material hitting the airwaves, Higher Truth will be the final album released by Chris Cornell. "Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart" was probably not supposed to be Cornell’s last hit, but will most likely be given his untimely demise. In it, Cornell remains a force to be reckoned with. His unique voice remains unchanged after years of touring and recording and maintaining its power almost three decades since we heard it first.