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The death of Soundgarden's Chris Cornell is a terrible loss for music — and Seattle

Ryan Blethen, The Seattle Times on

Published in Entertainment News

SEATTLE -- One of the most recognizable and important voices in music fell silent Wednesday night with the death of Chris Cornell. This hits hard.

Cornell's distinct and amazing voice is etched into the teenage memories of a generation who grew up in Seattle during the late 1980s, when the music scene was spawning bands like Cornell's Soundgarden, Nirvana, Mother Love Bone and Mudhoney.

Soundgarden's breakout album, "Badmotorfinger," came out in the fall of 1991 around the time Pearl Jam released "Ten" and Nirvana released "Nevermind." The three records made Seattle ground zero for music in the early 1990s and helped crush the flimsy hair metal that flavored airwaves through the 1980s.

While it was great seeing some of my favorite local bands make it big, it also felt like the rest of the world was stealing something close to me. Soundgarden was the band my friends and I listened to on KJET and KCMU (now KEXP). They were the band we sought out at any all-ages venue. Now they were touring the world and packing arenas and being played on mainstream radio stations.

I first saw Soundgarden in 1987 at the Moore Theatre, opening for a band I can't remember. The most memorable show though was at Bumbershoot in 1990. I wrote about that show before last year's music festival:

"Soundgarden's performance at Bumbershoot 26 years ago was one of the best shows the festival has seen. The furious guitar work of Kim Thayil, the otherworldly screaming of Chris Cornell and the driving rhythm from Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd forever changed how I viewed live shows. For 17-year-old me it became the baseline, an unfair marker, by which all shows are measured...Cornell, Thayil, Shepherd and Cameron so thoroughly owned the stage you would have believed they had been playing arenas for years. There were no theatrics, no flames. Just blistering rock from beginning to end.

 

"The show kicked off with Thayil's droning guitar on "Beyond The Wheel." My friends and I were speechless when Cornell came out shirtless, wearing cutoff jeans and black boots, hair flying, as the song kicked into high gear. His screams hit unthinkable heights while band chugged away through an amazing setlist, whipping the crowd into a massive mosh pit -- likely Bumbershoot's biggest knot of sweaty humans."

(c)2017 The Seattle Times

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