WEIRDLAND: Rock and Grunge Saviours: Chris Cornell, Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, Jim Morrison

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Rock and Grunge Saviours: Chris Cornell, Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, Jim Morrison

Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell's death Wednesday night left rock fans reflecting on the grunge era, and many came to a sorrowful realization: Eddie Vedder, the frontman of Pearl Jam, is one of the movement's only icons who is still alive. Eric Alper tweeted, "The voices I grew up with: Andy Wood Layne Staley Chris Cornell Kurt Cobain… only Eddie Vedder is left."

Eddie Vedder stands alone now. Let that sink in. The story of grunge is also one of death. The genre's songs were gloomy as the gray Seattle sky, and heroin usage was not uncommon among its guitar-wielding practitioners. Still, with breakout hits from Nirvana and Soundgarden leading the way, grunge finally flooded American soundwaves and, with them, the Billboard charts. In 1994, the genre was arguably at its peak. Soundgarden and Nirvana songs continued to blast from speakers in shopping malls and car stereos.

That was also the year that Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, the genre's leader, put a shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger, killing himself. At the time, heroin was pumping through his veins. He was the first major figure to go but far from the last. "If their music failed to make it clear, life was intolerably painful for many of Cornell's peers," wrote The Washington Post's pop music critic Chris Richards. "Singer Layne Staley and bassist Mike Starr of Alice in Chains each died of drug-related causes, in 2002 and 2011, respectively. In 2015, Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland died of an overdose on his tour bus." Cornell hanged himself in a Detroit hotel room after performing what would become his final show with his band, which he closed by playing "In My Time of Dying" by Led Zeppelin.

Vedder's Pearl Jam, however, persists. Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder combined a Jim Morrison-style natural baritone range with other punk and rock influences. It long ago took up the mantle as grunge's longest-lasting band, steadily releasing albums for the past 25 years. At its commercial height, Pearl Jam wrote songs that weren't quite as angry; they were more melodic, more stadium-ready. To some, the band was softer, more easily digestible by the masses. 

Among those was Cobain himself, who once said, "They're a safe rock band. They're a pleasant rock band that everyone likes" and on a separate occasion said, "I find it offensive to be lumped in with bands like Pearl Jam," according to rock critic Steven Hyden's book "Your Favorite Band is Killing Me." Unlike many of his contemporaries, Vedder wasn't known for using heroin. Though the phrase "sell out" often appeared when describing Pearl Jam, Vedder, like Cobain and Cornell before him, didn't enjoy his fame. Rather than turn to substances, though, he merely began writing songs that loyal fans found much more appealing than a mainstream audience. Source:

Jim Morrison seemed not to be all that satisfied by the fame he had gained. Shortly before his death Morrison had confessed, “I’m so sick of everything. People keep thinking of me as a rock and roll star and I don’t want anything to do with it. I can’t stand it anymore… who do they think Jim Morrison is anyway?” Many of his lyrics refer to death and could be described as depressive: “As long as I got breath / The death of rock is the death of me / And rock is dead.” His friend and fellow poet Michael Ford claimed Morrison “contributed to American Indian funds. I think he really wanted to help people.” Morrison made conscious efforts to turn concerts into “a theater of confrontation.” Because “for all his tragic flaws, Morrison was not faking it - his show was theatrical, but his rebellious image and philosophy of life was not.” The “Woman as Muse” theme which frequently appeared in Morrison’s works suggests that women should not be displayed in any other environment except a complex one. In The Real-Life Death of Jim Morrison (an article based on an interview conducted by Bernard Wolfe, printed in Esquire magazine in June, 1972), Morrison is quoted as saying: “If there were real things in the world instead of just a panorama of symbols all the poets would have been accountants and census takers.” His next comment acknowledged the artificiality of much of the discourse of life: “People have the feeling that what’s going on outside isn’t real, just a bunch of staged events, all I did was to record this feeling.” —"A Theatre of Perception: The Doors and The Sixties" (2016) by Mark Vanstone 

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