[Photo Credit: Mark Brown]
The recent death of Soundgarden
singer Chris Cornell
has inspired tributes by rock artists from U2
within the past week. Cornell was best known as the lead vocalist of popular 90s grunge band, Soundgarden, a group that reunited in 2010 to produce the 2012 album, King Animal
. In addition to his work with Soundgarden, Cornell released four solo albums, collaborated with the majority of Rage Against the Machine to form Audioslave, and founded Temple of the Dog
, a collaboration with the members of Pearl Jam
dedicated to the memory of Cornell's close friend, rock singer Andrew Wood.
Cornell's uniquely dark vocals have inspired numerous artists to cover songs by all three of his projects, most notably Soundgarden, so we've compiled a list of our top ten covers of Chris Cornell's work. If all you currently know is "Black Hole Sun," get ready to take some notes!
1. Gov't Mule - "Fell on Black Days" (2017)
Warren Haynes of Gov't Mule does justice to Cornell's, deep, coarse voice with this cover performed at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. just days after Cornell's death. Haynes tones down the vocal twang that characterizes Gov't Mule's original work and is accompanied by driving power chords to achieve a sound that is remarkably similar to the Soundgarden original. When it comes to covers, artists are often praised for blending their unique sound with existing work. This commemoration by Gov't Mule, however, proves that sticking close to the blueprint is often the way to go.
2. Steve Aoki (Remix) - "Spoonman" (2016)
This remix by electronic artist and producer Steve Aoki gets nothing but hate... I'll admit that the raging emotion in Soundgarden's "Spoonman" does not mix particularly well with the characteristic bubbliness of electro-pop, but Aoki's remix is noteworthy because it shows the breadth and versatility of Cornell's musical influence. Of course Soundgarden inspired bands like Pearl Jam, but the fact that musicians from such dramatically differing genres are influenced by their work is truly impressive.
3. The Zac Brown Band - "Hunger Strike" (2015)
A cover of Temple of the Dog's signature track by a country group initially seems like a travesty, but The Zac Brown Band has a history of covering hard rock and metal anthems (I specifically remember having my teenage angst stirred up by their cover of "Killing in the Name" at a show in Pittsburgh several years ago). While there is a definite country flavor to this cover, it somehow works and Zac Brown Band delivers a heartfelt performance.
4. Sofia Karlberg - "Black Hole Sun" (2016)
Speaking of putting a different spin on a cover, nothing could be less similar to the grungy feel of "Black Hole Sun" than an acoustic version. Swedish/Moroccan singer Sofia Karlberg's clear, smooth voice sands the rough edges off of Soundgarden's most popular single while accompanying strings and piano drape it in velvet. While my first thought was that an acoustic cover would take the edge out of "Black Hole Sun," it actually allowed me to focus on the lyrics, which can be obscured by the harder sound of the original.
5. The Dillinger Escape Plan - "Jesus Christ Pose" (2011)
This Soundgarden track sounds like driving at full speed over off-road terrain, deadlifting massive amounts of weight, or hopping in a boxing ring, fists flying. The Dillinger Escape Plan not only captures and replicates that level of conspicuous bad-assery, but somehow manages to turn it up a few notches.
6. Ryan Adams - "Black Hole Sun" (2017)
Ok, so "Black Hole Sun" is already on this list, but Ryan Adams played a rendition of the hit single in Auckland, New Zealand complete with gut-wrenching guitar solo. Adams' voice, while lacking Chris Cornell's hint of alluring anger, is well suited for a cover of this classic song.
7. Halestorm - "Fell on Black Days" (2017)
Yes! A female vocalist bringing the same hard rock flavor and aggressive vocals to this track that can be found in the original! Front woman Elizabeth Hale puts her heart and soul into belting this track, which can be found on Halestorm's recently released EP, Reanimate 3.0: The Covers.
8. Johnny Cash - "Rusty Cage" (1996)
Even if I weren't biased with a strong love for Johnny Cash, I would still say this track is one of the best Soundgarden covers in existence. The lyrics mesh perfectly with Cash's outlaw stage persona, and his effortlessly flawless bass tones would do any song justice. While Johnny Cash mellows out the original "Rusty Cage," he stays true to Soundgarden's angrily determined vibe on this track by shifting into uncharacteristically heavy chords in the second half of his rendition.
9. Ann Wilson of Heart - "Black Hole Sun" (2017)
Ann Wilson, lead vocalist of American rock classic Heart, performed "Black Hole Sun" on the set of Jimmy Kimmel Live
on the day of Chris Cornell's death. This cover has personal significance for Wilson as Cornell inducted Heart into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. Wilson's impressive vocal agility throughout the performance, as well as her famous gravelly tone, captures the song's dark mood well.
10. The Pretty Reckless - "Like a Stone" (2017)
The Pretty Reckless has covered Audioslave's "Like a Stone" in the past, but their recent performance of the hit in Camden, New Jersey is a tragically beautiful offering to the memory of Chris Cornell. The Pretty Reckless opened what was to be Soundgarden's final show. Just days later, lead vocalist Taylor Momsen fights through tears to deliver an intense and authentic version of this already deeply emotional song.