Today, Chris Cornell, one of the last shining beacons from the grunge scene, will be laid to rest by his wife, Vicky, three children, family, bandmates, friends, and a rabid base of adoring fans across the world at the famous Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Cornell was a staple of an era of music that has witnessed so many of its brightest stars succumb to the darkness that is drug abuse, depression, alcoholism, and, well, the “rock n’ roll lifestyle” to put it bluntly. Whether one chooses to believe that his death was an intentional suicide or accidental due to side effects of prescription medication, it’s all sheer conjecture and will be argued by those who didn’t know him ad nauseam. One thing that can never be argued is his unbelievable talent and powerful voice that could make the heaven’s tremble.

When listening and studying Chris Cornell’s greater body of work, whether it be Soundgarden, Audioslave, his solo work, or various interpretive covers of other artist’s songs, it is extremely difficult to simply relegate him to any particular genre. He is truly a musician that transcends definition, though he will forever be linked to Seattle’s grunge scene as one of its founding fathers. With the voice of a rock god, Cornell’s range has always been something that could mesmerize any listener. Give “Spoonman” from 1994’s Superunknown or “Flower” from 1988’s Ultramega a listen, and bear witness to him channeling his inner shaman, taking the listener into a trance-like state on a journey to the ether.

Take a song like “Fell On Black Days,” in which Chris Cornell shares his fears, anxiety, and general unrest with us:

“Whatsoever I’ve feared has come to life
Whatsoever I’ve fought off became my life
Just when every day seemed to greet me with a smile
Sunspots have faded and now I’m doing time
Now I’m doing time
‘Cause I fell on black days
I fell on black days”

His demons are laid right out on the table for us to see. But, while there is pain evident there, the beauty of his voice fights them back and the song becomes an anthem for anybody who has ever fallen on black days in their own life—haven’t we all? Particularly in light of his tragic death, the lyrics, “How would I know, that this could be my fate” take on such a deeper meaning now.

It is no secret that Chris Cornell was taking Ativan, a prescription drug used to combat anxiety. A recovering alcoholic and drug addict, he had been clean for years and by all accounts, the quiet rock star was a loving husband, father, friend, bandmate, and an overall good person that helped those less fortunate than himself. He suffered from anxiety, which is understandable—millions of people suffer from it and take some form of medication to deal with the condition. Unfortunately, if you haven’t witnessed what the long list of various side effects can actually do to a person, it is extremely difficult for you to understand. Just take a look at the laundry list potential side effects from Ativan, which include severe drowsiness; thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself; unusual changes in mood or behavior; confusion, aggression, hallucinations; worsened sleep problems; sudden restless feeling or excitement; muscle weakness, drooping eyelids, trouble swallowing; vision changes; upper stomach pain, dark urine, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes); dizziness; weakness; slurred speech; lack of balance or coordination; memory problems; and feeling unsteady.

Many people may never suffer from the side effects of a prescribed drug. If you haven’t witnessed somebody near to you suffering from said side effects, it just will never hit home nor will you ever understand the true gravity of the situation, particularly in light of the fact that everybody’s body chemistry is different and reacts to medication differently. Personally, I witnessed my own grandmother lose the use of her legs due to a particular medication she was on. After months of being in and out of hospitals, going to various doctors for a wide array of tests, literally carrying her to and from the bathroom, cleaning up after her, making sure she was fed, and so on and so forth, they finally figured out that the muscles in her legs were being broken down by a side effect from one of her medications. It was a bad situation, and it was almost too late.

Luckily, for the person who means the world to my family, this “side effect” was discovered, and she was taken off that particular medication. While my grandmother still can’t walk and can just take a few steps on a good day, being off that medication has made a world of difference. So, Vicky, Chris Cornell’s wife, for those of us that have witnessed what these side effects from various medications can actually do to a person, we feel for you and your children and grieve alongside you. Continue to stand up for your husband and the father of your children, always think of him, and always fight for him, no matter what. Such a tragedy can and does happen, whether or not some people choose to believe that it can.

Whenever a tragedy like this strikes, there are those who ask, “Why do we mourn rock stars, actors, and people that we didn’t know?” The thing is, especially with music—which in my mind is the closest thing to a form of transcendental communication that there is—we are connected to a musician through every note, even the spaces between the notes, and especially their words and lyrics. Music touches each and every one of us differently and provides for us during the best and worst of times of our lives. It acts as a crutch that can hold us up and the glue that keeps us together. It makes us smile a smile that is as wide as the Grand Canyon and gives us chills as big as Mount Everest. Mourning is what makes us a conscious being. Whether or not the person lost is a rock star, actor, or “normal” person, we all suffer the same highs and lows. Money and status doesn’t change that basic fact.

So, when we lose an artist that we have made that connection with, we feel the loss of such a beautiful and tragic soul that came from whatever we believe The Creator to be that much more. They have been taken much too early from their family, friends, bandmates, and the fans that hang on to every note, and every lyric that was channeled through them. It just hurts; there is no good explanation, logic, or reasoning needed.

Chris Cornell now takes his place in the Hall of Legends, surrounded by a long list of those that were also taken from this world way too young. He is reunited with his best friend, Andrew Wood, as well as with Layne, Kurt, and the other stars who are destined to stay Forever Young. We miss you, Chris. Your tragic beauty and artistry will never be Outshined. You are truly your own Highway.

“I Am The Highway”

Pearls and swine bereft of me.
Long and weary my road has been.
I was lost in the cities, alone in the hills.
No sorrow or pity for leaving, I feel, yeah.

I am not your rolling wheels – I am the highway.
I am not your carpet ride – I am the sky.

Friends and liars don’t wait for me,
‘Cause I’ll get on all by myself.
I put millions of miles under my heels;
And still too close to you, I feel, yeah.

I am not your rolling wheels – I am the highway.
I am not your carpet ride – I am the sky.

I am not your blowing wind – I am the lightning.
I am not your autumn moon – I am the night… the night.

I am not your rolling wheels – I am the highway.
I am not your carpet ride – I am the sky.

I am not your blowing wind – I am the lightning.
I am not your autumn moon – I am the night… the night.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

[courtesy of krijnoor]