As a boy, my big brother and I seldom found ourselves on the same side of anything really. We fought over video games, the front seat, and who sat where at dinner. He tortured me for having a night light and sucking my thumb. I told on him for just about everything in return.
Back and forth we fought, as brothers do, until one fateful day I heard a subtle, wasteland-heart, crooning notes over a rock guitar. The voice sounded both lost and fearsome at the same time, and the melody droned on, melancholic and penetrating. I crept down the hall to hear more and found myself in my brother’s room while my big brother V and his best friend Mike nodded in unison to Sound Garden’s “The Day I Tried to Live.”
I knew I’d catch a beating for even thinking about being in V’s room without a good reason, but the voice called me from the hallway and pulled me in. I was powerless. The voice soared over the dissonant guitar riffs, wrenching away from the melody with crystal clear rebellion. I was changed. I closed my eyes and imagined what the singer looked like. He must be tall. Defiant. A hero, fighting against something bigger than himself, but fighting bravely anyway. Saturday cartoons had taken hold and I was very into super heroes back then and imagined him like that. “V, what the hell?” I opened my eyes to see my brother and his six-foot behemoth friend gawking at my bravado.
V sat up and stood but instead of throwing me out, he said one of the first non- threatening things to me in our short history at the time. “Hey, come over here. What do you think of this, huh? You don’t like it do you?” Mike laughed his dopey laugh and shook his head.
I piped up, “It’s...amazing.” I’ll never forget how my brother grinned. Like I’d passed some test. Mike laughed and said, “Start it over bro! See what his favorite is!” We spent the next hour listening to Superunkown, ironically enough, it's how my brother and I got to know each other.
To this day the album takes me back to a place of discovery and understanding like nothing else, and though I’ve grown up some, now I don't think, but know, the singer who cranked out those noble notes was a hero. He was fighting against something larger than himself, and he held fast decades passed when a kid heard those cries in the hall and heard sounds of a battle.
Not all wars can be won and, "The lives we make never seem to ever get us anywhere but dead," but Chris gave us the soundtrack to the fight and showed us the meaning of perseverance. For that and so much more, we will miss you Mr. Cornell. Your voice will never die.
Rest in Power,