Saturday, May 20, 2017

Falling stars

I've reached a time of life when people have started to die. I remember seeing Facebook posts last December to the tune of, "Will this year please end before we lose someone else?" We lost so many iconic figures. (It was also the year I lost my mom, though this post isn't about that.)

Personally, I was gutted by the loss of actor Alan Rickman and, of course, our beloved Leia, always and forever my princess before princesses became cupcake girls (my label, because their dresses look like confections and they tend to make regular appearances at little girls' birthday parties). How could she leave me? I bought a t-shirt. Read her memoire. Flogged myself for failing to appreciate her more when she was still around, just as we do when friends or family members pass.
Sharon Fisher with Carrie Fisher

And dear Alan! A brilliant actor, and by all accounts a lovely man. A supremely gifted villain (spot-on casting of Professor Snape), and yet one of my favorite roles of his was Colonel Brandon in the 1995 film adaptation of Sense & Sensibility. And let us not forget ... 
"By Grabthar's hammer, we live to tell the tale." Dr. Lazarus, Galaxy Quest

This past Thursday my husband woke me with the news, "Chris Cornell died." If you weren't a teenager or young adult in the US in the '90s, this name may not be familiar to you. He was frontman for the Seattle grunge band Soundgarden. Though I live in the Seattle area now, I lived in Memphis, TN, at the time. It was a very creative time of my life, during which I wrote my first complete novel. I also wrote a "partial"—the first few chapters—of another novel that made it to a "second reader" at Ace Fantasy & Science Fiction. I consider that my first professional writing success, though a few years later I was to give up writing for nearly two decades. 

The news of Cornell's death shook me. I loved the music, and it was a huge inspiration for me during that time. I also had a major crush on the man himself. When he wasn't screaming into a mic, he had a sexy, smokey voice that reached right down into you and...is it hot in here? 

There was a lot of drug use and depression among the grunge-rock set. NIRVANA's Kurt Cobain famously killed himself, and ALICE IN CHAINS frontman Layne Staley overdosed in 2002, followed by the band's bassist Mike Starr who did the same in 2011. In 2015, STONE TEMPLE PILOTS' Scott Weiland overdosed. And long before all that came the heroin overdose of Andrew Wood, frontman of MOTHER LOVE BONE, a grunge pioneer and forerunner of the band PEARL JAM. On Thursday, Tweeters were expressing concern about Eddie Vedder, as grunge's last surviving icon


Cornell's death shook me not just because I was such a huge fan, but because like Vedder, the guy seemed somehow to have avoided all that. 

Apparently not. According to the New York Times, he had used drugs for periods both before and after his years in the band. According to Wikipedia he also struggled with depression, a common affliction among both artists and Pacific Northwesterners. Wednesday he was on a tour stop in Detroit with Soundgarden, which reunited in 2010. (Unlike many rock band reboots, this one was proving successful.) Fans at the concert report they saw no hint in his behavior about what was to come, and they said he even talked about future shows. But after the concert his wife apparently called and asked for someone to check on him at his hotel. His death has been ruled a suicide by hanging. He was 52 and left behind three children. 

By christopher simon (originally posted to Flickr as IMG_0126) [CC BY 2.0
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

From BLACK HOLE SUN, lyrics by Chris Cornell 

Stuttering, cold and damp
Steal the warm wind tired friend
Times are gone for honest men
And sometimes far too long for snakes
In my shoes, a walking sleep
And my youth I pray to keep
Heaven sent hell away
No one sings like you anymore
Black hole sun
Won't you come
And wash away the rain
Black hole sun*
Won't you come
Won't you come

* Soundgarden trivia: Lyrics inspired by Black Sun, a sculpture (black, with a hole in it) in Seattle's Volunteer Park. The name "Soundgarden" itself comes from a Seattle sculpture park, where fans assembled Thursday

Below is a video of "Fell on Black Days" (lyrics also by Cornell) that really showcases his soulful voice. 



Wherever you are, Chris, I hope there's light. Or dark. Whatever brings you peace.  

4 comments:

  1. We weren't familiar with Chris Cornell, but I can imagine that the impact of his death was as great for you as the death of Prince or Michael Jackson for us. These artist are so much a part of our lives, crafting lyrics that express our feelings and providing the background music for our day, that their loss is very deeply heartfelt for millions. RIP, Chris Cornell.

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    1. Thank you, Laurie. Prince and Michael Jackson were definitely part of my experience growing up, and so shocking to lose them. I think with the grunge folks, it had to do with those dark edges I was into back then. Those feelings of futility they expressed -- and more to the point, their tendency to call themselves out about those feelings -- resonated for me. Perhaps a generational thing. So I think it hurt me on some fundamental level that he gave up. But I like to believe he's found peace.

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  2. Don't know much about the group, but I've always loved that particular song. I know my oldest daughter (and her Grunge-loving son) are also feeling this pain. So sorry.

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    1. Thank you, Donna. He made such a good life for himself, it's so sad to think he couldn't see that. But I know from my own postpartum that it doesn't matter how good your overall life is - when you're prone to depression, some days wishing your life away somehow seems to make sense.

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