Splitting Hairs

going deeper

Chris Cornell: Retreads (Part 3)

This is the last in a three-part series of posts about Chris Cornell. The first post discusses the anomaly of Cornell’s suicide last week. The second addresses Cornell’s growth as a human being. This final one argues that his recent rock band touring served as “poor soil” for his growth, leading to his suicide.

Old rock bands going on tour is not a new thing, nor a thing dominated by Cornell’s band Soundgarden. In fact, his band were latecomers on the scene. Check out this incredible GQ slide show of very old rock bands still on tour. The deck shows most of the bands I have listened to since the early 1970s.

50-something Chris Cornell rejoining his 50-something Soundgarden band-mates and going back on tour was not a strange choice by any means. It was the norm for rock bands of its degree of success.

But just because it was the norm, was it healthy for Chris? I strongly doubt it.

First, the health dynamics of touring seem counter to personal growth. Sound sleep is critical to mental and physical health, particularly as we age. So is the quality of our diet. I would think touring puts tremendous stress on sound sleep and a healthy diet.

Second, touring involves public display of yourself. For someone as slim and beautiful as Chris was in his youth, I’d imagine that showing up on stage as a bloated 50-something rocker wouldn’t do. Would you be surprised to learn that one of the side effects of Ativan is weight loss? Could Chris have been taking Ativan not just to alleviate his anxiety, but also to maintain his slim, beautiful figure?

The final, and greatest problem — for Chris that is — about touring as an old man is: hypocrisy. As I spent last week watching old Soundgarden videos, I saw a young man screaming out his rage against his derelict, false mother (and father too). Black Hole Sun. Fell on Black Days. Blow Up the Outside World.

I believe the transaction for these tremendously successful artists is the following:

  • step 1: suffer through a traumatic childhood (see Adverse Childhood Experiences “ACEs”)
  • step 2: engage in auto-therapy by creating music that tells the story of these traumas
  • step 3: attract the passion and following of fans, especially those who experienced similar ACEs
  • step 4: improve your craft, and become world-famous

To me this describes Chris Cornell. It also describes Bruce Springsteen (I recently read his autobiography) and probably almost every successful old rocker from the GQ link above.

Here’s where the hypocrisy comes in. If the artist, like Chris, has grown as a human, this means that he has overcome the effects of the ACEs he experienced. But if he then goes on tour, singing his old popular ACE-driven songs, can he sing them with truth, and honesty?

But what if he sings only his newer songs, less driven by the need to tell a story about ACEs? Then the audience won’t like the show, and won’t fill the stadium.

So there the old rocker is stuck. He sings the songs he wrote in his youth in response to being f**ked up by his parents. And the boomer generation, beset by arrested development, keeps buying tickets to the show.

If he’s still that messed up, well then bully for him. But if so, he’s probably not alive anymore (see Andrew, Kurt, and Layne).

But what if you’re Chris Cornell? I suspect that the root of the anxiety he felt that caused him to turn to Ativan was about this hypocrisy. Cornell was an especially truthful musician. His lyrics, though metaphorical, speak to a rage borne of suffering ACEs caused by his parents. But by 52, he appears to have grown largely past these ACEs, emotionally.

Given this is what I believe, I’m interested to find out who was behind the idea of Soundgarden reforming and going back on tour. Was it Chris? Was it his wife? How did he feel about going back on tour?

Maybe we’ll never find out. Cornell was a private man, and might not have disclosed his thoughts or feelings on these questions to a friend who will later tell us.

But in spending the week listening to Cornell’s music and reading about the man, I’m sniffing the following true cause of his demise: Death by Retread Rocker.

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This entry was posted on May 25, 2017 by in health.

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