While Chris Cornell came to prominence in the early '90s as one of the “big three” vocalists of the grunge era, alongside Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain, the wide ranging effects of his career were best evidenced when he died in 2017. Artists from rock and metal lined up to honor him, but so did hip hop, country, jazz, and even classical musicians. These seven Chris Cornell covers, pulled from his three main bands; Soundgarden, Audioslave, and Temple of the Dog, and one solo effort, are a testament to how much the vocalist was loved.
7. Prophets of Rage feat. Serj Tankian- Like a Stone
Cornell died in May of 2017, so the summer festivals were full of artists working up tributes to his memory. One of the most unique came from the metal/hip hop supergroup Prophets of Rage, who brought out System of a Down vocalist Serj Tankian at their Rock am Ring appearance for a rousing version of Audioslave's “Like a Stone.” Considering Prophets of Rage contains members of Audioslave, it was a fitting tribute.
6. The Head and the Heart- Hunger Strike
Sure, it makes sense that hard rockers and post-grunge acts would be influenced by Chris Cornell, but indie folksters The Head and the Heart were as well. Growing up in Seattle in the '90s as the members did, Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog were everywhere. During their appearance on Austin City Limits in 2017, they told a story of seeing Chris Cornell on their street one day during rehearsals and cranking up “Fell on Black Days” in their garage, leading to Cornell dropping by to give pointers. They then launched into a subtle but effective cover of Temple of the Dog's “Hunger Strike.”
5. Larkin Poe- I Am the Highway
Americana sister act Larkin Poe have shown off their wide ranging influences through their “Tip 'O the Hat” series recorded in their home, ranging from Black Sabbath to Tom Petty. So it's no surprise that Chris Cornell made the list. This stripped down version of Audioslave's “I Am the Highway” loses none of its intensity in translation.
4. Halestorm- Fell on Black Days
Halestorm is a young enough act that Soundgarden was part of the soundtrack to their childhood, and their love for Chris Cornell has been no secret. Of the three covers EP they have released, two contained Cornell songs. The third, titled Reanimate 3.0, featured a cover of Soundgarden's “Fell on Black Days.” After Cornell's death, the band payed tribute to him at the Loudwire Music Awards with a live rendition of it.
3. Alice Cooper- Stolen Prayer
When you're recording a concept album, covers usually don't filter in. After all, how do you fit someone else's song into your story? But when Alice Cooper was recording The Last Temptation, his friend Chris Cornell thought a song he had recorded as a demo but never released commercially would work. With a few tweaks by Cooper, “Stolen Prayer” became not only part of The Last Temptation, but the lead in to the story's climax. Cornell contributed backing vocals.
2. Ann Wilson- Black Hole Sun
When Heart finally got their long overdue induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it was fellow Seattle resident and longtime Heart fan Chris Cornell who gave the induction speech. Over the years, Cornell and both Wilson sisters remained friends and mutual fans. Soon after Cornell died, Ann Wilson, appearing on the Jimmy Kimmel to promote a solo tour, instead paid heartfelt tribute to her friend with a cover of Soundgarden's “Black Hole Sun” that left the audience in tears.
1. Johnny Cash- Rusty Cage
Johnny Cash covered a lot of artists during his American Recordings series, but few as successfully as when he and producer Rick Rubin retooled Soundgarden's “Rusty Cage” for his Unchained album. Cash was reportedly reluctant to do the cover after hearing the hard rocking original, but when Rubin brought back a new arrangement featuring a driving acoustic guitar riff, Cash saw “Rusty Cage” for what it was; a song of rebellion worthy of its place in the outlaw country pantheon.