Rock stars do not need to die to find immortality: Matt's Memo
Chris Cornell made it to the age of 52. He was still performing at a high level. He was still interesting. He had navigated a musical path that went from Seattle grunge to hard driving solo acoustic. He played Detroit this week. Went back to the hotel. Talked to his wife. Took a couple pills. Then, police say, took his life. They found him with a band around his neck. But, he made it to 52. That's better than contemporaries Kurt Cobain, suicide by gun at 27, and Layne Staley, overdose at 34.
Soundgarden, Nirvana and Alice in Chains all lost their front men at too young of an age. By dying early they all added to the legend of pop stars, rock stars and even movie stars who discover immortality by dying young. James Dean. Buddy Holly. Jimi Hendrix. Jim Morrison. Janis Joplin. Whitney Houston. Michael Jackson. Prince. There are so many others. Many of the deaths are accidental from living a fast and famous life in cars and planes. Some are accidental overdoses of alcohol and pills. Some are suicide by weapon.
We don't really know whether the rate of accidental death or suicides is higher among artists and performers, but it does feel that way. Is there something in the personal makeup of creatives that pushes them to great highs and lows? Is the success in the modern pop culture world too much to bear? The money and rewards to great to resist all the temptation that accompanies the elevation in status and access?
Chris Cornell carried a certain darkness on the stage. The lyrics of his compositions like Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" were void of joy and filled with melancholy. "Black Hole sun won't you come. Wash away the rain."
In news reports today Cornell's wife said he was a recovering addict who had a prescription for Ativan. When she talked with him shortly before he was found on the floor, she said he sounded funny like he may have accidentally taken too much.
There is more investigation to do and then decades more of debate over how his life ended. One hopes other stars of a magnitude that cuts through do not feel they need to die young to become immortal. Family, friends and fans left behind would rather treasure their evolving talent as they grow older and wiser.