There’s less music in the world

Derrick Knutson

I didn’t really get why so many people were expressing profound sadness when Prince died of a drug overdose last year, because I’m not much of a fan of his music.
I mean, I understand what an icon he was in his genre and that he was one of the best guitar players in the world, but when I saw people on TV news stations, who had never met him, crying outside of Paisley Park, I thought to myself, “They didn’t know him; why are they grieving like that?”
But I understand it now.
My favorite musician — from the time I was a teenager — has been Chris Cornell, best known as the front man of the rock bands Soundgarden and Audioslave. He took his own life in his hotel room after performing a show with Soundgarden in Detroit on May 18. He had a mix of prescription medications in his body at the time of his death, which his family believes may have clouded his judgment and led to his death, even though the official toxicology report states the drugs “did not contribute to the cause of death.”
When I first heard about his death, I felt a palpable sense of loss, which I initially found to be strange. I thought something similar to what I did when Prince died: “Why is this making me sad? I didn’t personally know the guy.”
But then I reflected for a little while on how I felt. I was sad because his music, in many ways, is tied to my memories. Ever since his death, I’ve listened to much of his music on a loop. A lot of it, oddly enough, reminds me of mowing lawns.
I first got into his music around the time I landed my first high school job at a private lawn care company owned by a guy my dad worked with. After a few months, he trusted me enough to take his truck, trailer and lawn mowing equipment out on my own to manicure the customers’ lawns. I drove a lot, and I listened to Cornell’s music pretty much every week in that truck throughout the summers.
I was enamored with his talent. The guy was an introspective lyricist with a gritty sounding, four-octave vocal range that could shake the doors of the truck, if I turned the volume up loud enough.
I exercised to his music. It reminds me of being in my parents’ basement, having the family dog and cat watch me lift weights.
His music reminds me of lightheartedly arguing with my best friend. He thought Rage Against the Machine (Audioslave sans Cornell) was a better band. I very much disagreed.
His music reminds me of being in college, shooting pool in the basement of a dorm hall with my college roommate. He asked, “You have anything good to listen to?” I replied, “I sure do,” and put in an Audioslave CD.
I was fortunate enough to see him in concert about two years ago. I’d always wanted to see him perform live, but concerts typically aren’t my thing — I’m generally not a large crowd type of person, especially when the people around me might be screaming so loudly that I can’t enjoy the music.
When he came to the O’Shaughnessy in St. Paul, it was perfect. Cornell performed an acoustic set, and I got to just sit there with my wife and be immersed in his talent; he was excellent. People sang along to some songs, but it was an intimate show that didn’t encourage screaming and jumping around.
Recently, I looked back through my phone to see if I had taken any photos of the concert; I had not. I realized I just wanted to listen to my favorite musician and let memory be my only recollection of the performance.
I don’t know why he took his own life or if there was something that could have been done to prevent that decision. People will postulate about that and probably never determine an exact answer. Sometimes people with immense talent check out of this world early, and it’s just something we have to accept.
I’m just glad Cornell shared his talent for about 30 years and that I got to be one of his fans.

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