When Chris Cornell tragically passed away in May 2017 at the age of fifty-two, it was not just music fans around the globe who mourned. In the days following his death, dozens of the biggest names in music—from rock legends to pop stars—were shocked and saddened, and they all paid tribute to Cornell in unique ways. Cornell was known as the lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave, acclaimed for his instantly recognizable vocals and credited as being one of the pioneering forces in the grunge craze of the 1990s. From live performances of classic hits to even the most simple of tributes on Twitter, this is how nineteen of the most recognizable names in the music industry paid tribute to Cornell.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
On tour when news broke of his passing, Red Hot Chili Peppers performed a moving cover of Chris Cornell’s solo song Seasons for a raucous crowd in Indianapolis just days after his death. Guitarist Josh Klinghoffer took on the lead vocals for the touching tribute, with the audience often joining in to sing along. The group also includes members Anthony Kiedis on lead vocals, Flea on bass guitar and piano, and Chad Smith on drums and percussion, all of whom were also present on stage. The song Seasons features touching lyrics, such as “And I’m lost behind the words I’ll never find, and I’m left behind, as seasons roll on by.”
Legendary musician Elton John, known for his stadium-ready piano ballads (such as Tiny Dancer and Bennie and The Jets), flamboyant costumes, music videos, and stage shows, might not be someone most music fans would immediately associate with a grunge rocker like Chris Cornell. Musically and aesthetically, the two artists do not seem like they would have a lot in common. However, it appears that Elton was a fan of Cornell. The pop-rock legend shared his condolences for the late singer soon after his passing with a message posted online through his official Twitter page. On his account, Elton took the time to write the following message: “Shocked and saddened by the sudden death of [Cornell]. A great singer, songwriter and the loveliest man.” Like millions of others, Elton clearly had a great respect for Cornell’s incredible contributions to the music industry.
It really does not get much bigger than a tribute from one of the most well-known rock acts in the world. After giving a shout-out to Chris Cornell’s widow, ‘his lioness’ Vicky Karayiannis, and his three children, lead singer of U2 Bono dedicated The Joshua Tree track Running To Stand Still to Cornell at a concert on their most recent tour. In light of his suicide, certain lyrics seemed to take on a deeply relevant meaning. “Sweet the sin, bitter the taste in my mouth. I see seven towers, but I only see one way out,” Bono crooned. “You know I took the poison from the poison stream, then I floated out of here.” Veteran group members The Edge, Larry Mullen JR, and Adam Clayton were also present on stage at the concert for the tribute.
Also on tour at the time of Chris Cornell’s passing, rocker Ryan Adams decided to pay tribute to the performer by reimagining one of his most recognizable tracks. Adams performed a touching cover of Black Hole Sun, one of Soundgarden’s biggest worldwide hits, for an excited audience at a stop on the United States leg of his tour. Adams was said to have been a huge fan of the group, and his audience responded enthusiastically to the cover by singing along to nearly every word. The song had been a massive success for Cornell, breaking Soundgarden into mainstream consciousness and making it into the top ten on the Mainstream Top 40 chart in the US. Today, it has nearly 100 million plays on the streaming platform Spotify, a rarity for a rock track from the 1990s.
At a recent gig, singer and guitarist Eddie Vedder shed a few tears after a touching tribute to his good friend Chris Cornell. The Pearl Jam frontman performed a stripped-down acoustic version of one the group’s most notable hits, Black, from their acclaimed debut album Ten, at a solo tour stop in Italy. Vedder dedicated the emotional performance to Cornell, adding additional lyrics to the song. At the end of the performance, he sang, “We belong together… come back, come back, come back….” before breaking into tears. This followed a long list of performances that Vedder dedicated to his friend while on tour, including covers of Fugazi’s I’m So Tired and Brandi Carlile’s Again Today. During his rendition of the latter, Vedder made a subtle change to some of the lyrics. Rather than singing “I’m sad to say I miss my friends,” Vedder sang “I know that I’m gonna miss my friend.”
In a tragic turn that no one could have predicted, Chris Cornell’s long-time friend Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park, died just a month after Cornell in an eerily similar way. Before his death, Bennington paid tribute to Cornell in several ways. He even delivered the eulogy at his friend’s funeral, where he performed an emotional rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. When news of Cornell’s death broke, Bennington shared a personal message on social media, writing, “I dreamt about The Beatles last night. I woke up with Rocky Racoon playing in my head and a concerned look on my wife’s face. She told me my friend has just passed away. Thoughts of you flooded my mind and I wept. I’m still weeping, with sadness, as well as gratitude for having shared some very special moments with you and your beautiful family. You have inspired me in many ways you could never have known. Your talent was pure and unrivalled. Your voice was joy and pain, anger and forgiveness, love and heartache all wrapped into one. I suppose that’s what we all are. You helped me understand that.”
Chris Cornell’s own bandmates paid tribute to their close friend and former colleague when they hit the stage in Berlin, Germany shortly after the singer’s tragic passing. At a Prophet’s of Rage show, the band (which includes former members of Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave), performed one of his signature hits with a spotlight on the empty microphone—an incredibly powerful visual acknowledgement that left several audience members in tears. While the band played an instrumental version of Audioslave’s 2003 smash Like a Stone, the enthusiastic crowd provided the vocals for the moving moment. This was not the first time the group performed a tribute to Cornell. Earlier in the week, Prophet’s of Rage performed the same song with System of a Down’s Serj Tankian, who took the microphone to sing the lead vocals.
A number of celebrities paid tribute to Cornell on Twitter. For example, Nathan Followill, a drummer for the acclaimed American rock group Kings of Leon, posted this message on Twitter when he heard the tragic news: “So sad to wake to the news of Chris Cornell’s passing. He truly was one of my favorite singers and an amazing guy. He will be missed dearly.” Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin also took to his social media after hearing of Cornell’s untimely passing. On Twitter, Page wrote “RIP Chris Cornell. Incredibly Talented. Incredibly Young. Incredibly Missed.” Meanwhile, Jane’s Addiction frontman Dave Navaro wrote “SO SO stunned to hear about Chris Cornell! Such a terrible and sad loss! Thinking of his family tonight! RIP” Former KISS member Paul Stanley was also shocked to hear of Cornell’s untimely passing. Like several others, he showed support for Cornell’s fans and family with this note: “STUNNED to hear the death of Chris Cornell. Music’s loss. Greater still, his family has lost a father & husband. RIP.”
Other celebrities also shared their condolences online. Specifically, Aerosmith musician Joe Perry offered his thoughts and condolences, writing, “Very sad news about Chris Cornell today. A sad loss of a great talent to the world, his friends and family. Rest In Peace.” Sebastian Bach, a Canadian heavy metal singer, wrote the following in response to a tweet from Cornell’s timeline: “Tears in my eyes that this is your last ever tweet. We played here with u guys in 1992. Thanks for your pipes [Chris Cornell], you will be missed.” Later, he continued by writing “I remember [Cornell] on tour with us so long ago. Remember drinking beer after the Melvins. Always thought we’d meet again. RIP.”
At Gillette Stadium, hard rock kings Metallica dedicated a cover of Black Hole Sun to Cornell, a close friend of the band. Their social media team later posted a video clip of the moment on their official Instagram page. An enthusiastic yet sombre crowd made the performance a particularly memorable one by singing along to every word of the 1994 hit. However, it was not just the rock community who paid their respects to Chris Cornell after his untimely passing. At a concert in Washington, D.C. soon after news broke of Cornell’s death, country crooner Eric Church dedicated a cover of Rusty Cage, a popular Soundgarden track, to the band’s former lead singer. Even in a crowd full of country fans, the reaction was massive.
Chris got a live shout-out at the MTV Video Music Awards, which aired in August, when 30 Seconds To Mars frontman Jared Leto paid tribute to both Cornell and Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington. Leto shared the following: “MTV asked me to come here to say a few words about Chester and the late great, Chris Cornell, two artists I had the absolute pleasure of touring with. They were close friends with one another. Chester even sang the cover of the classic Hallelujah at Chris’ funeral. Chester said of Chris, ‘Your voice was joy and pain and anger and forgiveness, love and heartache, all wrapped up into one.’ Just weeks later, Chester himself was gone. Chester was my friend. As he was to so many. Witnessing his life taught me important things. Especially about working relentlessly, pursuing dreams, and being kind and caring while doing it.”
More Online Reactions
A testament to Cornell’s impact on the music world, tributes to the late singer continued to pour in online. Stereophonics member Kelly Jones got personal in a post he shared with fans, writing, “He is the reason I first let go & found my voice at 18. He paid me a compliment on my voice on a stage we shared years later, [very] sad.” A veteran of both Creed and Alter Bridge, Mark Tremonti also reflected on the artist’s incredible legacy, sharing, “RIP Chris Cornell. Chris was the most influential singer to me as a writer. I just saw him perform days ago. Completely devastated.” In addition, known for writing and starring in the smash Broadway hit Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda published a simple yet effective post on his social media account. The star shared a fan-favourite Cornell track, Hunger Strike, in which he sings alongside Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder in a group known as Temple of The Dog.