One of the great voices of grunge has left us all too soon. Chris Cornell died on May 17th of what the Detroit medical examiner’s office says was suicide by hanging. The amazing vocalist and songwriter for the band Soundgarden had just performed hours earlier that evening in the Motor City. Cornell was 52 and leaves behind a wife and three children.
One of Soundgarden’s famous hits and Grammy-winning songs “Black Hole Sun” remains a worldwide favorite for its haunting lyrics and surreal-sounding essence. Cornell once told an interviewer that he penned the famous lyrics in about 15 minutes. The song has a very Beatles-esque quality to it, thanks to the Leslie speaker he used to create the song. The Beatles, by the way, figured significantly in Cornell’s life while growing up. He says he was influenced by the iconic Liverpool band and their beautiful harmonies.
“Black Hole Sun” was released in 1994 from their album “Superunkown” and has always posed a mystery and secrecy about its true meaning. People have pondered for years what the psychedelic song has meant and what Cornell was saying or trying to reveal to listeners.
The grunge frontman has admitted he was having fun toying with the lyrics because the words “black hole sun” were something he had misinterpreted from a TV news anchor. Then the light went off, and he figured the words would make for an incredible song title. Cornell realizes some folks think the song was all about an upbeat message, but the singer says it was the opposite, that it’s actually a sad song. It’s merely a happy veneer over something dark, Cornell has said about the lyrical content.
Looking at the lyrics, one can see the dark place Cornell is painting here, with images of snakes, a dead sky and the summer stench.
The award-winning MTV music video of “Black Hole Sun” was also a major hit around the globe for all its bizarre and cool effects. The band performs the song in an open field, while the video also shines the spotlight on a suburban neighborhood and some of the weird people living there with exaggerated grins and eyes. The residents are swallowed up one by one when the sun suddenly turns into a black hole.
Cornell was found dead in the bathroom of the hotel room the band was staying in at the MGM Grand, and a full autopsy has yet to be completed. The singer has admitted in interviews before that he had battled drug use, loneliness and depression for a number of years.
Eric Esrailian and his family are close friends of the Cornells and regularly took vacations with them. Esrailian and Cornell were talking about vacationing in Greece this summer. Esrailian told reporters that he didn’t see the suicide coming, saying that Chris Cornell did not exhibit any mood changes in the recent days or months.
It’s a sad loss, and the music lives on.