The subject for Day 25 of my 30-day Song Challenge is “A song by an artist who is no longer living“. I’ve already featured several artists no longer with us on this song challenge, including Ray Charles, Karen Carpenter, former Beatles John Lennon & George Harrison, George Gershwin, former Bee Gees Robin & Maurice Gibb, Jimi Hendrix, Kyu Sakamoto and Judy Garland. For this particular challenge, I’ve chosen the late, great Chris Cornell, and his stunning 2015 single “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart“.
I trust Cornell needs no introduction, but to briefly summarize, he was born in Seattle, and was involved in numerous music projects both as a solo artist and a member of three notable bands over his prolific 30-year career. Widely considered one of the key figures of the 1990s grunge movement, he was lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for rock bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, as well as the founder and frontman of Temple of the Dog, a one-off tribute band dedicated to his late friend Andrew Wood. As a solo artist, Cornell released four solo studio albums, Euphoria Morning (1999), Carry On (2007), Scream (2009), and Higher Truth (2015). “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart”, released in August 2015, was the lead single from Higher Truth.
An impossibly beautiful man with an arresting powerhouse voice to match, Cornell was truly one of a kind. With his raw, nearly four-octave vocal range, he belted out his song lyrics with a passionate intensity that never failed to send chills up and down our spines. As Luke O’Neil so beautifully articulated in his tribute to Cornell for Esquire, “... there was perhaps no one who had such a mastery of his instrument as Cornell. When you can sing like that, it would be criminal not to. It sounds like the casual murmurings of a stoned guy in the crowd to say it in writing, but man, Cornell could shred. A voice like his doesn’t let you tune it out. It is a force that grabs you. It gets inside of you.”
“Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart” has a bit of a Western vibe, thanks to some wonderful twangy notes coming from either a ukelele or mandolin – or both, but there’s so much more going on musically. Throughout the song, our ears are treated to gorgeous plucked strings, vibrant piano and strident percussion, all creating a marvelous cinematic soundscape for Cornell’s glorious vocals. Then there are those grungy distorted riffs that enter halfway into the track, lending a dramatic and edgy aura of tension to the proceedings. It’s a magnificent song.
The lyrics speak of a troubled on-and-off relationship with a woman who rescued him from a broken heart, but ever since then has only caused him even more grief. In an interview with Yahoo! in 2015, Cornell elaborated on his inspiration behind “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart”: “I was on tour with Soundgarden, and I remember writing down the title. The title immediately brought up the idea of the song, which is that someone is so distracted by a new person or a new thing in their life that they kind of forgot that they had given up on life. Sometimes it just happens without us even noticing.”
Every time I stare into the sun Trying to find a reason to go on All I ever get is burned and blind Until the sky bleeds the pouring rain When you came along the time was right Pulled me like an apple red and ripe Wasn't very long you took a bite And did me wrong, and it serves me right And I nearly forgot my broken heart It's taking me miles away From the memory of how we broke apart Here we go round again, again Every little key unlocks the door Every little secret has a lie Tryna take a picture of the sun And it won't help you to see the light Every little word upon your lips Makes a little cut where blood pours out Every little drop of blood a kiss that I won't miss Not for anything And I nearly forgot my broken heart It's taking me miles away From the memory of how we broke apart Here we go round again Every single feeling tells me this is leading to a heart In broken little pieces and you know I need this Like a hole in the head Every single feeling tells me this is leading to a heart In broken little pieces and you know I need this Like a hole in the head And I nearly forgot my broken heart It's taking me miles away From the memory of how we broke apart Here we go round again And I nearly forgot my broken heart It's taking me miles away From the memory of how we broke apart Here we go round again
The song reached #5 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, #7 on the Rock Airplay chart, and #1 on the Canadian Rock chart. I ranked it #30 on my Top 100 Songs of 2015 list.
The dark music video produced for the song was directed by Jessie Hill, and featured Cornell and actor Eric Roberts as prisoners about to be hanged in an old Western town. (Cornell’s 10-year-old son Christopher also appeared in the video.) Cornell insisted on doing his own stunts and had an accident on set. The filming of the mock hanging ended up requiring several takes, and a liquid chemical used to singe the noose tied around Cornell’s neck rubbed off, causing second degree burns on his shoulder. Three weeks after his tragic suicide by hanging on May 18, 2017, the music video was pulled from YouTube. (Wikipedia) Consequently, I’ve embedded the lyric video.