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Music

How The Beatles helped Chris Cornell find his voice

The Beatles are the most significant musical outfit ever. What the Fab Four did for the world, in terms of music and culture, was transformative, to say the least. When they broke onto the scene in the early 1960s, they took the world by surprise, with John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s songwriting partnership providing hit after hit, establishing the group as the definitive act of their generation. 

As the ’60s wore on, and drugs and fame started to have an influence, The Beatles became increasingly experimental, and their pioneering artistic choices would effectively write the handbook of modern music. 

Be it in terms of songwriting, musicianship, studio techniques or off-stage hijinks, The Beatles scouted areas that were hitherto unknown. They were cultural explorers, jumping headfirst into the reads of the future. What they did was so significant that they remain one of the biggest bands on the planet, even though two members are long dead and that they’ve been inactive since 1970. 

The Jeff Buckley album Chris Cornell helped to release

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The way that The Beatles have managed to endure in the collective memory is as phenomenal as the band themselves, and I have no doubt that when we’re old, when McCartney and Starr are long gone, we’ll still be recounting tales of Hamburg and how the band were almost certainly “more popular than Jesus”.

Due to their work retaining relevance for all these years, they’ve inspired legions of musicians who have also gone on to become cultural juggernauts, ranging from Black Sabbath to Nirvana and Death. It’s also a given that The Beatles will continue to inspire future stars that may have not even been born yet, a truly mind-blowing thought. 

One iconic artist they had a transformative effect on was the late Chris Cornell, the captivating frontman of Soundgarden and Audioslave. Known for his incredible vocal range and almost primal howl, Cornell was one of the most unique and consequential vocalists of all time.

Added to his vocal ability was his skill on the guitar, and he was the man who wrote the majority of Soundgarden’s pummeling riffs. A true genius, his suicide in 2017 left a void that will never be filled.

Although Cornell cited Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees and XTC as influences, The Beatles had the most vital impact on him. During a 2006 interview with SPIN, he reflected on how the Liverpool group allowed him to develop his iconic voice. 

Cornell said: “When I was a little kid, I would sing harmonies to Beatles records. When I was 17, I started to play drums, and that held my attention. I started singing backup from behind the drums. I just imagined, ‘If I work at it, I’ll be so good that some great band will want me.’ And it didn’t happen.” 

He continued: “From 17 to 21, I was in a bunch of different bands, and I realized that if I was going to play music I liked, I was going to have to create that music. That’s when Soundgarden started. We thought, ‘Well, we’ll look for either a drummer or a singer and see who arrives first.’ That’s how I ended up being a singer.”

Another legend inspired by The Beatles, if we were to erase them from the sprawling history of music, we’d see all of our favourites also wiped from existence, a testament to their work.

Listen to Soundgarden’s ‘Jesus Christ Pose’ below.