A Singer’s Search

Musician Chris Cornell at the 36th Toronto International Film Festival in 2011. Mark Blinch/REUTERS

The Rev. Chris Pizzello, S.J., writes for America about the death of Chris Cornell on May 18:

I entered adulthood listening to Soundgarden in the late ’80s and early ’90s. For many people of my generation (that would be “X”) Cornell’s voice represents a passionate rejection of organized religion. It is impossible to listen to Soundgarden songs like “Jesus Christ Pose” and “Holy Water” and ignore the anger of someone who has been subject to aggressive proselytism and even spiritual abuse. “You stare at me in your Jesus Christ Pose,” Cornell sings, “like I need to be saved.” No one can take this voice away from those who have suffered in this way.

But there is another voice of Chris Cornell, a voice that sang a haunting rendition of Schubert’s “Ave Maria” for a Christmas compilation album; a soulful, almost gospel-like voice that commended to heaven his friend Andy Wood, who died from drugs; a voice that sent out prayers for guidance and peace to his Creator (and whomever else would listen) in songs like “Show Me How to Live” and “Like a Stone” with his second band, Audioslave. So many of Cornell’s songs are filled with Christological and sacramental imagery, even as he groped for peace in the darkness of depression and frustration. His voice was that of many seekers. One hopes he will continue to be a consolation to them, even now that he is gone.

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