The last great rock star

When grunge broke big in the early 1990s, it spelled the immediate end of hair metal anthems like Warrant’s ”Cherry Pie” and Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me.” Those songs were replaced with the flannel-clad acts who took to staring at their shoes and whining about how band life was. The music was intense, dark and captured an entire generation. What it didn’t do was produce rockstars.

Every shift in music usually delivers a memorable frontman; see Robert Plant in the 1970s and David Lee Roth in the 1980s. The ‘90s had no one…until Chris Cornell. The Soundgarden singer was unabashed about being the shirtless, lion maned, well-tanned and, honestly, rocking the hell out unlike his brethren.

Think about it. The ‘90s produced zero memorable legends behind the mic stand. Axl Rose was the closest, but we all know what happened there. Everyone else couldn’t be bothered to do more than tune their guitar and mope about the place.

Hearing that Cornell died by suicide last week was a blow. This wasn’t Layne Staley from Alice in Chains addled with drug addiction or Kurt Cobain taking a shotgun to the head. The Soundgarden, Audioslave and Temple of the Dog singer won. He reached the finish line his peers never got close to. Fronting so many bands, spreading his talent all over…


Then he didn’t.

Chris Cornell was a long running victim of something plaguing millions of Americans and more; his depression culminated in a decision to grab a rope and hang himself. A wife and three children are left behind. Those bandmates he shared the studio and stage with? They are a wreck right now.

Depression is a horrible aspect of life which we all deal with at some point. And as much as Rock Music Menu would like to say Cornell’s death is an anomaly, it’s not. Mental illness is a ridiculously under the rug disease that few in positions of influence promote as being a problem.

How about we change that? Well, the National Suicide Prevention Line is 1-800-273-8255. Will that slow someone’s roll determined to OD or slit their wrists? Maybe not. But we can put it out there, offer support and let those in trauma know that it does change, and that it really does get better.

To contact music columnist Michael Christopher, send an email to Also, check out his blog at

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