This is a stream of conscious so please forgive me for misspells or typos. I have remained pretty much silent until now about the death of one of my clients, Chris Cornell. I was introduced to Soundgarden when I worked at Rockpool in 1991 when I dropped out of college. I interned there, and one week I would be on the phones chasing down retailers for their top selling records and hustling commercial radio and college radio music directors for their airplay charts. The following week would be spent stuffing the magazine and retail posters into envelopes which I walked to the post office at the World Trade Center to ship to everyone.
Megan Frampton loved Chris Cornell. At the time, I had recently come out of the closet and could see how a woman could love someone so beautiful, but it wasn’t until I met Chris and worked for Chris where I could actually say I loved him. I didn’t love Chris like a potential boyfriend. I loved him like a brother. I had met him a few times, and I had seen him in various musical incarnations be it Soundgarden or Audioslave or solo, but when I started working with him on Higher Truth it was like our lives were meant to cross and meant to be together.
I was enraptured by him. His story. His family. His selflessness. His magic. When I told him my boyfriend and I were having a baby via surrogate he told me he had to meet the baby when he was here. He was one of the first people to congratulate me on the birth of my son and to ask me when we were having family dinner. Mind you he was always between Seattle, New York, Miami and Los Angeles, and when my son was five months old, Chris, Vicky, Toni and Christopher were in LA and he insisted that we have family dinner. I was nervous to bring the baby because I know how babies respond to energy and thought he would freak out, BUT when we got to dinner Chris picked up baby Hardy and they just stared into each other’s eyes…and they stared…and they stared. It was magical. It was like souls reunited. I was in awe of the whole thing.
Days and months would go by and Chris would text me and email and ask about Hardy. How is he doing? What is he doing? He would tell me all about Lily and Toni and Christopher when they were infants and toddlers and the things they would do and what I could expect. And you know what? He was right. Every time.
I shared family dinners with the Cornells. It was wonderful. They were a family I never had. So much so that when they were touring Europe in March for The Promise, Chris sent me an email of a baby tuxedo that he wanted to buy for Hardy. I have that email. I have the photo of his hand holding it up to get a clear shot and show me the size to make sure it was right.
Two weeks later we were in New York shooting CBS Saturday Morning. It was a three song performance and an extended interview. I asked him if he wanted to be alone so he could do vocal warmups, and he said no. It was better for him to go into with raw because it would be more real. He nailed it. He sat with Anthony Mason and did his interview. It was incredible. Anthony told him that his son was in an a capella group and they were singing Black Hole Sun, and I totally queened out saying “Chris you must record a video saying don’t kill my song.” He had Anthony record him and he Congratulated them and said “don’t murder my song.” They went on to sing it and dedicated it to him after his passing.
That same week we went to the United Nations and spent the day meeting with various depts about the refugee crisis. He was engaged and engaging. It was exquisite. We had another family dinner. We went to the premiere of The Promise followed by another dinner with the family. He performed on the Tonight Show and met Anthony Bourdain (I have the photo of the two of them). He thanked me for everything which is a joke because I always thanked him for everything. He gave so much more than I could ever.
Three weeks later I got a phone call in the middle of the night. There is nothing that can prepare you for that, and nothing that ever will. I didn’t sleep for three days. I re-read ALL of the emails he ever sent me. I thought about all of the phone calls and the press days. The music that inspired me from my teens. It was as if I lost a member of my family. I was numb. I’m still numb, but my emotions don’t mean anything compared to Vicky, Lily, Toni and Christopher’s. They are who he has left behind. Sure he has left all of us behind in some way shape or form BUT it is them who I will always be there for. I can never not be.
Addiction is a cruel and punishing disease. No matter how many autopsies or toxicology reports we can do on a person, we will never know her/his state of mind when they take drugs. An addict’s mind doesn’t function the way most people’s minds do, and if you think otherwise, maybe it’s time to think again. The guilt, the shame, the solitude. I’ve attended many an AA meeting with friends for their anniversaries or even just to help them on their roads to recovery, and I’ve listened to many stories of relapsing and wishing to be dead and trying to kill oneself. It’s a reality. So before you pass judgement, you need to put yourself in their shoes. You need to feel their pain. I promise you. It’s heartbreaking.
– Brian Bumbery