Ann Wilson and Jerry Cantrell Pay Tribute to Chris Cornell at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Two generations of Seattle musicians came together to pay tribute to a departed friend. Heart's Ann Wilson joined forces with Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell to sing "Black Hole Sun" in memory of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell, who took his own life in May 2017.
The performance was reverent and intense, with Cantrell giving a sparse, mournful approach to the song and adding occasional gruff vocal accompaniment. Wilson matched his intensity, starting off subdued and bluesy before reaching into her upper register as the song progressed. The result was something cathartic and bluesy: She sang the lines "Black hole sun, black hole sun" with a clipped, forceful tone, which embodied the song's strong rock 'n' roll underbelly.
After his death, Ann's sister and bandmate Nancy told Ultimate Classic Rock that Cornell was "always an oddball, a brilliant, incredibly talented, tortured kind of artist. His relationship with the musicians of the Seattle explosion was so deep, and those guys had such a beautiful brotherhood with each other."
Cornell inducted Heart into the Rock Hall in 2013, telling the audience that, in his early days, he had considered giving up music. But then he saw one of the Wilson sisters coming out of a local recording studio, and decided to keep going. Later in the ceremony, Cantrell played with Heart.
Calling Cornell's speech "incredible," Nancy recalled doing press with him in the run-up to the ceremony. "I was like, 'Wow, you never told me! I just thought you were just a little too cool!' But he’s like, 'No, I was just trying not to gush!' It was such a cool thing that he ended up doing that, and we ended up being tighter as friends, because he sort of admitted that he was just nervous to be around [us]."
Wilson, who also performed "Black Hole Sun" on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in 2017 as well, is putting the finishing touches on a covers album called Immortal. "It's a project very dear to me -- a collection of songs by artists who have departed in the last several years," she said, mentioning Cornell, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Tom Petty and Amy Winehouse as those whose songs she's recorded.
The 2018 induction ceremony will be broadcast on May 5 at 8PM ET on HBO.
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