Originally printed in the Pine County Courier: June 22, 2017.
Musicians ARE Heroes
For people who don’t understand why others mourn the death of artists, you need to understand these people have been a shoulder to cry on. Our rock. They’ve been family, friends, leaders, teachers and role models. Many have taught us what we need to know and what to do when times get rough.
They’ve helped us move on.
They’ve pushed us out of bed.
They’ve helped us live when nobody else had time to.
Artists have inspired us in endless ways and have been with us through stages in our lives.
We’ve made memories with them.
So when they die, a part of us dies.
I do not know the source of the text above, although I wish I had written it down first. When I think of heroes I often think of my favorite musicians, many of whom have unfortunately passed away. Although I have received a lot of support in my life, music has been there for me when others haven’t been or couldn’t be. I believe that in certain situations listening to or playing music has encouraged me to continue to live. Because of this, I believe Musicians are heroes.
I love music, and it is honestly probably my favorite thing in life. I have been playing some sort of instrument since the 4th grade, and haven’t stopped. Although flute was my original instrument, in listening to Rock- N-Roll music, partially thanks to my parents’ influence, I discovered a new instrument that I have fallen in love with, the guitar. I stopped playing flute my freshman year of college and turned all of my focus to the guitar, joining a guitar group at college. Although I am not anywhere near good, I do enjoy playing and music always seems to make me feel better. So if music is my favorite thing about life, it would make sense that I would have musicians that I look up to, or even call heroes right? All too often when I mention that Tom Petty or Dave Grohl among others are a huge inspiration, or a hero of mine, I will get a negative response more often than not. People will be disappointed, or confused. I have been told many times that musicians cannot be heroes, and that they are simply entertainers. I have also been told that they do not care about your lives, and only care about making money. For some artists, yes this may be true. However I do not believe this to be true about my heroes, or the majority of musicians. Sure I do not know the majority of them personally (yet), but their music, social impact, or both has affected me in a very personal way.
Yes, for those wondering, I still think that Firefighters, EMT’s, Police Officers, and our Military, are still heroes. The beauty about musicians is that they can be there for you when nobody else is, without being physically present. All you need is some sort of device, or machine to play music, and you are set. A wonderful thing about music is it is accessible. Music is something that most people can afford, or have some sort of access to whether it is listening to the radio station for free, or purchasing some sort of streaming service, or records.
Musicians spend countless hours crafting lyrics that others can relate to. They sing of their own personal experiences, struggles, joys and triumphs. They also often times sing with empathy for those who don’t have a voice. One of these artists, and one of my heroes was Chris Cornell. My favorite genre of music is 1990s grunge. Cornell was at the heart of this scene pioneering the sound with his bands Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog, and later Audioslave. Cornell had a profound impact on this genre, and the music following it.
Cornell and I had some similarities, which helped me relate to and enjoy his music as much as I did. Both of us have struggled with depression and anxiety throughout most of our lives. My struggles deepened after an assault I faced. Both of us have taken, and I am currently still taking, pills to help deal with this. Cornell, also unlike me, had another demon in the mix he had to deal with, substance abuse. Cornell said this about one of his songs The Day I Tried To Live, “The attitude I was trying to convey was that thing that I think everyone goes through where you wake up in the morning and you just don’t know how you are going to get through the day, and you just kind of talk yourself into it. You may go through different moments of hopelessness and not wanting to give up, or wanting to just get back into bed and say f– it, but you convince yourself you’re going to do it again. “ This song is just one of many about the struggles he had gone through and was going through. It’s lyrics “I woke the same as any other day you know I should have stayed in bed.” is relatable to many people and situations in life, especially those struggling with an illness whether mental or physical.
When not focusing on new music, Cornell had a philanthropic side. In 2012 he and his wife started The Chris and Vicky Cornell foundation to raise funds and partnering with charitable organizations to mobilize support for children facing tough challenges including homelessness, poverty, and neglect. Some of his music also reflected on this side of him, and he often sang for those who did not have a voice. He had recently been involved in a Hollywood movie about Armenian Genocide in which he wrote a song with the same name donating all proceeds to the International Rescue Committee.
He told Rolling Stone Magazine this year,” This movie’s a great opportunity to tell a story that needs to be told, to help engage the healing of something that happened at a specific time and place, but it also reminds us that it’s happening now and reminds us what to look for.”
I was fortunate enough to see Cornell for my first and last time almost two months ago at Northern Invasion, in Wisconsin. Soundgarden was headlining the first night of the festival, and it would be my first time seeing Soundgarden, or Cornell. Before they had finished I was thinking on how I already couldn’t wait to see them again, and why had I waited so long. Others in attendance of this show claimed that this show wasn’t Soundgarden’s best show, however it was still very special to me. I felt every moment to be special from the stage lights, to emotion put into the songs. I was finally able to see one of my heroes that although he had his own struggles, through his music had been there for me, and had helped me with my own. Not even a week after seeing him, Cornell was found deceased in his hotel room. Although there is still much controversy surrounding his death, to me, it really doesn’t matter how he passed, as the world lost another rock legend, grunge god, and friend.
In reading comments after his passing, it was very clear that I wasn’t the only individual that Cornell’s music had helped, and that this was the case for many people including other artists. From getting the encouragement to go to treatment because he did, to a certain song, being their saving grace through a tough time. Many comments were made and Cornell is deeply missed in the music community. Although his passing was tragic, it’s awe-inspiring to see how many people who were influenced by him. These comments throughout his life and after his death have solidified the fact that Cornell was not just an entertainer concerned about money, but a friend and positive influence to so many.
So, Thank you Chris for being one of the artists there for me through thick or thin. Thank you for your beautiful music, and influence you have left on countless others. Thank you for your charitable impact on others while on earth donating thousands to those in need. Thank you for letting me know it’s OK to “Be Yourself,”and that although depression and anxiety are awful things, you can work through it and even thrive at times with them.
Thank you for being one of my biggest heroes.
Say Hello to Heaven…