"It was one of those moments when you know you are in the presence of something truly special."
I was in the kitchen washing the dishes when I heard the news.
My wife was sitting in her La-Z-Boy chair in the lounge, her laptop perched on her knee. Without any warning, she blurted out "Chris Cornell is dead!"
It was one of those surreal moments when you think you heard something, but it obviously can't be true. I needed to hear it again.
"Chris Cornell is dead!" Yep, heard it right the first time.
Having a hard time believing it, I needed confirmation. I walked over to her not wanting to read what she had read, but needing to make sure this wasn't a nasty prank. My brain was in denial and my heart was sinking fast.
My wife became a fan of Cornell's after his first "Acoustic Songbook" gig at the Michael Fowler Centre in 2012, I think it was.
I had bought six tickets and convinced her to come, along with a group of our close friends. I converted five people into Cornell fans that night. Well, Chris did, but I was instrumental in setting up that little rendezvous.
My association with Cornell and Soundgarden started around 1993, when a close friend of mine played "Badmotorfinger" for me on a dark winter night in front of an open fire, while sipping on Jim Beam.
The intensity of the music, the power of Cornell's voice and the musicianship of the tracks had me in awe. I was hooked.
Since then, I have tried to attend every tour he has done in New Zealand, starting with Soundgarden at the Big Day Out in Auckland in 1997.
Westfest in 2015 was a dream come true for me, with my two favourite bands Faith No More and Soundgarden headlining. I drove all the way from Wellington with a good mate for that one.
All through the years I would regularly listen to Soundgarden and Audioslave, playing them to people who happened to be stuck in a car with me and hadn't heard of them before.
Hell, just last Monday I was telling a couple of guys about the "Songbook" tour Cornell did at the MFC as we drove past it. Just the wife and I went to that one. It was only a couple of years after the 2012 gig, and when I told her he was coming back I was expecting her to say, "But we saw him not so long ago." She surprised me. "We should go!" was her reply.
The gig was amazing - Cornell's voice was perfect, and his rendition of "When I'm Down" brought a tear to my eye. It was one of those moments when you know you are in the presence of something truly special. Even Simon Sweetman said nice things about him.
Cornell has always been there, a reliable guy who came up with new stuff occasionally, who was happily married with beautiful children and had been the soundtrack to my youth and early adulthood, alongside Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Tool and Faith No More.
The death of Layne Staley (the lead singer of Alice in Chains) was tragic, but I wasn't surprised, sadly. Chris Cornell's passing caught me completely off guard.
I thought he had set a course for his career. He seemed focused and was working hard with tours all over the place. Temple of the Dog reunion gigs. Audioslave reunion gigs. Solo gigs. I thought he was in it for the long haul.
Apparently I was wrong.
I spent the day with YouTube playing random Soundgarden and Audioslave songs all day, reflecting on the effect his art has had on my life over the years.
Remembering how proud I was figuring out how to play "The Day I Tried To Live" on the guitar by ear. Playing "Superunknown" on rotation to get me through my first divorce. Watching Cornell play "Black Hole Sun" by himself acoustically at the Big Day Out and being in awe of his tenacity to stand alone in front of a crowd that huge, to play a guitar and sing a song for them.
The memories are many. With his passing I will cherish them even more, albeit with a twinge of sadness that he is gone.
Thank you Chris, for helping me get through some tough times, for giving me some awesome memories and for sharing your art with the world. I will miss you.
Author: Chris Colman