Chris Cornell and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder duet on ‘Hunger Strike’ for the final time
Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell shared a brotherly friendship for the majority of their careers. It was a bond that was formed back in 1990 when tragic events led to the formation of a band by the name of Temple of the Dog. The band was a mechanism for Cornell to pay tribute to his late friend Andrew Wood and blessings would come out of that project, however, with not only a great record being produced but a friendship which would last for decades as well as the formation of Pearl Jam.
The Temple of the Dog project is one that happened naturally as Chris Cornell found himself drowning in grief with music providing the only way out for Cornell, it was the only way he knew how to get out of his rut — by channelling his emotions through music. The idea for the band began when Cornell wrote two songs in honour of his close friend Wood who died of a heroin overdose in March 1990. Wood was kept on life support for three days after he overdosed, during which time Cornell visited him frequently. Wood was in a promising Seattle band called Mother Love Bone with Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament when he passed. The two members were forming their new band, which would become Pearl Jam when they were asked to take part in the Temple of the Dog project.
Vedder was in town from San Diego to audition for what would later become Pearl Jam as the former members of Mother Love Bone looked to move on to pastures new in the wake of the loss of Wood. He visited the Temple of the Dog rehearsals and told Cornell that he was a fan of ‘Hunger Strike’. Cornell’s voice wasn’t entirely suited to the deep parts of the track and, instead, he asked if Vedder was happy to lend his voice to the track to duet with him. This would be one of Cornell’s greatest decisions, not only did their voices compliment the hell out of each other but, more importantly, the two would go on to share an unbreakable friendship.
‘Hunger Strike’ would be the final song that was recorded for the album and was only pulled together at the last minute because the group only had only nine songs and Cornell has a compulsive distaste for odd numbers. Describing the song in the Pearl Jam Twenty collection, he said, “I was wanting to express the gratitude for my life but also disdain for people where that’s not enough, where they want more. There’s no way to really have a whole lot more than you need usually without taking from somebody else that can’t really afford to give it to you. It’s sort of about taking advantage of a person or people who really don’t have anything.
“I’ve had to be somewhat in denial,” Vedder said during a recent appearance on Howard Stern’s radio show concerning Cornell’s own tragic passing. “I don’t even feel like I had a choice. I was just terrified where I would go if I allowed myself to feel what I needed to feel or what I was instinctively wanting to feel or how dark I felt like I was gonna go. And because I didn’t see him that often in the last 10 years – probably only, like, four or five times, and usually at a gig or something – I still haven’t quite dealt with it. I’ll get stronger as time goes.”
Vedder then went on to say that they were “close” friends, “and it wasn’t just because we were playing music.” He continued: “I would hang out with him outside of the band more than even the other band guys, and I didn’t know that many people in Seattle. So we would go on crazy hiking adventures, or we would go mountain biking, or we would chase the dog in the rain while drinking shitty beer— and it was cool.
“And it had nothing to do with anything like being around other music people or being around some kind of LA life. It was just cool. Like, wow, this is what a quote-unquote legit rock star, this is what he’s doing – he’s chasing a dog in the rain with his buddy on a Saturday night with a 12-pack of Schmidt?”
The last time that the two brothers in arms would perform ‘Hunger Strike’ from the grief-stricken Temple of the Dog project would come less than three years before Cornell would tragically die by suicide. Little did they know in 2014 when they shared the stage on both October 25th and 26th when Cornell joined Pearl Jam onstage to perform a heartfelt version ‘Hunger Strike’ at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California — that this would be the very final time they would play together.