We’re more than a week on since the tragic loss of Chris Cornell, and not more can be said that hasn’t already been written. A lot of musicians were crushed and many expressed their sadness on social media and in song (though it must be said, it didn’t always feel genuine as a few tried to capitalize on his popularity by name-checking him). While the media focuses on the how and why of Cornell’s passing, the fans mourn in the mosh pit and the mezzanines.
When I pitched writing this roundup, I also knew that regardless of how heartfelt these tributes would be, it would be incredibly difficult for many singers to hit Cornell’s singing range. This is not to pick on anyone in particular, nor to throw shade on their own expressions of grief and the want to express it. But even as someone who often has to defend cover songs versus the originals, I really think Chris Cornell was truly irreplaceable.
Here are my favorites of the many Soundgarden, Audioslave, and Temple of the Dog covers that have been recorded since Cornell’s passing.
Gov’t Mule — Fell On Black Days (Soundgarden cover)
I’m not a Gov’t Mule fan by any means, but Warren Haynes can play this song in his sleep. Extra points for having the extra lung power to belt out the words when other singers just awkwardly smile during the hard parts and let the audience sing.
Norah Jones — Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden cover)
There doesn’t seem to be a complete clip of this performance, so it’s obvious this was a surprise to the audience (who then of course grabbed their cell phones to document it). [UPDATE: There is now!] “Black Hole Sun” was far and the way the most covered song after he died, and in some ways it’s a shame because Cornell’s back catalog is pretty rich. Jones’s croon is simply the best.
The Head and the Heart — Hunger Strike (Temple of the Dog cover)
Head and the Heart’s Austin City Limits performance takes it down a notch, which is the smart thing to do when you are singing Cornell’s part. Josiah Johnson’s story of meeting Chris Cornell when Johnson was 12 makes this performance the sentimental favorite.
Queensrÿche — Say Hello 2 Heaven (Temple of the Dog cover)
We’ve gone this far without a vertical Youtube video, but unfortunately, all good things have to end. Anyway, it takes a metal singer to hit Cornell’s range and Todd La Torre manages to do it almost all the way until the very end. I’m cutting him some slack, though. It’s Chris Cornell.
DSTN + OOTB – Doesn’t Remind Me (Audioslave cover)
Who ARE these guys? He sings way better than 95% of the tributes out there. And judging by the view count, nobody has even seen this video. Fix that by giving it a watch.
Cody Jinks — I Am The Highway (Audioslave cover)
Jinks puts a country spin on the Audioslave tune and knocks it out of the park.
Umphrey’s McGee — Hunger Strike (Temple of the Dog cover)
Another version, closer to the original. Vertical video changes to horizontal a few seconds in, the sky turns purple and all is right with the world.