Ann Wilson had always lived smack in the middle of the Seattle scene, and her Seattle home became a pit stop for many of the up and coming grunge rockers in the early 1990s. While the Heart frontwoman spent many hours hanging out with the guys from Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains, she had a special connection with Chris Cornell. The Soundgarden lead singer was found dead in a Detroit hotel room at age 52, the result of a suicide.
Wilson recently paid tribute to Chris Cornell by belting out a rendition of the 1994 Soundgarden single “Black Hole Sun” on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show. And in an essay for Rolling Stone, Wilson revealed she first met Cornell, a newcomer to the Seattle music scene, when he showed up at a party at her house. The “Magic Man” singer explained that she cleared a room out in her house where fellow musicians could “come and sit in front of the fireplace and talk,” to “blow off steam” during a time when out-of-town record execs were trying to sign anybody to “be the voice of a revolution.”
“We'd get together and just blow off steam,” Wilson revealed. “Nobody had to be anything.”
The Heart singer recounted a story of a Halloween costume party she hosted which highlighted Cornell’s sense of humor. Guests were told to come dressed as their favorite song, and Cornell showed up as a “Black Hole Sun’’—literally, with a yellow papier-mâché costume and his face completely blacked out.
While Wilson says Cornell never asked for advice early on, in his “shy, quiet, way” he navigated his newfound fame. “There was a look in his eye that was always less-than-impressed with stardom and him being some kind of sage,” she said. “But the pressure was still immense."
Chris Cornell inducted Heart into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. Wilson revealed that the last time she saw her good friend was last November after a Soundgarden show at the Forum in Los Angeles. Backstage, she saw Chris caught in a crowd of journalists and industry bigwigs and she remembers “catching his eye and he was like this trapped dog.”
Ann Wilson told Billboard that on one level she thinks Cornell “relished the fame,” but she doesn’t think he was ever comfortable with all that was expected of him.
“These guys were expected to be voices of a generation,” she said. “I don’t think he was comfortable with that; I don’t think any of them were.”
Grab tickets to Wilson's upcoming show at the City National Grove of Anaheim here.