Say Hello to Heaven

I'm absolutely gutted this morning. I'm at the airport, heading up to Portland to hang out with one of my favorite bands of the nineties—The Dandy Warhols—but I'm struggling to comprehend what happened to my ultimate grunge hero Chris Cornell last night. 

On my short list of rock idols, you'd find a number of icons who died way too young: Jim Morrison, Syd Barrett, Nick Drake, etc. But Chris Cornell did not burn out in his youth—he survived the nineties! Everyone else went down around him—Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley—and others succumbed later like Mike Starr and Scott Weiland. Yet, not only did Chris Cornell continue to make music long after the heyday of Soundgarden, like a fine wine he only got better with age. His voice, while not as powerful, became more haunting. His incredible looks, while not as rugged, were only more refined. My wife would tell me all the time how she hoped to look as good as Cornell did when she turned fifty (he often talked about doing pilates and how being sober kept him healthy and focused). Chris was one of the few rock stars who would make both of us swoon with equal intensity when we saw him.

Last November, we went to go see Temple of the Dog play its first ever live shows, twenty five years after the supergroup released its tribute to the tragic loss of Andrew Wood. Cornell walked out on stage and I heard my wife mumble, "Oh my God." She had never seen him live in person. He was long, lean, in great shape, and more electric than ever. He launched right into "Say Hello to Heaven" and I flashed back to my bedroom, listening to that song on cassette tape on late summer Modesto evenings. It was a magical moment.

That song was never supposed to apply to him, however. As he sings to Andrew in the final verse: "I never wanted to write these words down for you."

Neither did I, Chris. But, nevertheless, say hello to heaven. You were the best of the best.

-David Driscoll