“Times are gone for honest men.”
The man who wrote and sang that lyric has died.
Chris Cornell is probably most famous for fronting the Seattle grunge band Soundgarden. He also had success as a solo artist and leading Audioslave (with the remaining members of Rage Against the Machine). Cornell had incredible vocal range and had one of the most recognizable yowls in rock music.
The song that made him and Soundgarden famous was “Black Hole Sun.” It’s a trippy, moody 5+ minutes. A song you can listen to over and over. Indeed, in one night alone, I estimate I heard it 30 times.
In the summer of 1994, I shared an apartment with my cousin in Richmond, KY. He and I worked different shifts and rarely saw one another. He also had a job that required travel, so I was often home alone.
One Friday morning, I awoke very ill. Vomiting. Terrible pain in my side. Any movement I made caused me to dry heave. But remaining still was agony. Few people had cellphones in 1994, including me. And my cousin and I had thought we would save money by foregoing a landline.
Being 20 years old, I thought I would tough out whatever illness had befallen me (kidney stones, as I discovered later). I lay on the floor in front of my bed, in the dark, crying in agony for 12 hours. The only thing keeping me company was my little 13-inch television playing MTV. “Black Hole Sun” was in heavy rotation. It’s the only song I remember during my night of suffering.
At one point, I decided I must be dying, and therefore, had to summon the strength to find a phone. I recall walking to a nearby gas station to use the payphone to call my parents (who lived 2 hours away). Thinking back, I’m shocked nobody called the police. I probably looked like a strung-out druggie, unstable, puking every minute or two.
For reasons I don’t remember, it took my folks six hours to arrive. They took me to the University of Kentucky hospital emergency room where I was given two ibuprofen and told to tough it out because I didn’t have insurance. I eventually started showing a fever after another 12 hours where I was in so much pain I was babbling nonsense and apologizing to my brother for imaginary things I had done. My brother had stayed home… My parents took me to a different hospital.
I remember three things from those hellish hours. 1) “Black Hole Sun.” 2) Apologizing to my brother for being a shitty big bro. 3) Dropping my pants and pleading with the nurse to give me a shot for the pain.
RIP Chris Cornell. Your song helped me through one of the toughest days of my life, man.