I’ve already published a long reaction/opinion piece on the Chris Cornell tribute event – ‘I Am the Highway’, which focused mostly on the musical performances and the final Soundgarden performance.
Here, I wanted to create an additional space to talk about a different side of things: and specifically the speech Pearl Jam and Temple of the Dogs‘ Stone Gossard made and the position he seemed to take on Wednesday night. The role Gossard was playing, beyond his musical presence, may have escaped some people.
A lot of people have been critical of the event, based largely on a dislike of Vicky Karyanis, who was the event’s primary organiser.
I think most criticism of the tribute event is unfair – as I think a lot of what happened on Wednesday night was very special and, in some places, even perfect. However, I can understand the lingering uneasiness: I also, like a lot of people, have uneasy feelings about Vicky Karyanis. I have uneasy feelings about some people’s motives, regarding both this and various other things in the wake of Cornell’s death.
I don’t really want to get drawn here into the divisive element that has sprung up in the fan-base since Cornell’s passing: centering on the conspiracy theories and suspicions. I’ve said elsewhere here before that I’m entirely 50/50 undecided about what I really think about all that stuff (although I acknowledge that the suspicions and questions about how Cornell really died are entirely valid).
However, there was one moment on Wednesday evening that seemed to me to play into that very briefly: which centered on Stone Gossard.
There are, as mentioned earlier, perceptions that Vicky and her clique had been isolating Cornell from his older friends (and family – his first wife Susan Silver and their daugther Lily) and that this might’ve also extended to people like Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready. That could explain Vedder’s absence. I also, for that reason, didn’t expect to see Lily show up – and was even surprised that Gossard and Ament came to perform too.
That being said, you couldn’t have done the Temple of the Dog material without Gossard and Ament – so maybe they felt duty-bound to take part so that the show could happen at all (and in a way that perhaps Vedder didn’t).
The fact is you could watch Gossard’s heartfelt speech and perhaps think that he seemed a little uncomfortable. The fact that it was he who brought on Lily Cornell suggests to me that her presence was his doing: and that perhaps Gossard actually had to fight for Lily to be allowed on stage.
If so – and again, I’m only speculating – then Stone Gossard as a human being would go even higher up in my estimation than he already was.
In a way, that’s also what felt especially poignant about Gossard’s on-stage statements. It really looked to me like Lily was uncomfortable about being present – and her words were very brief. But the way she hugged Stone really suggested to me that he was the one looking out for her in this situation. And it felt like Gossard was – in a subtle, tasteful way – making some kind of gesture against Karyanis and the Hollywood crowd and some kind of defense of Cornell’s earlier family.
The fact that he mentioned Susan Silver by name, as well as Eddie and Mike, seems like a very deliberate gesture: to my mind (and again, it could just be my misreading), he seemed to be trying to shift some of the focus away from L.A, Hollywood, the celebrity element, Karyanis and co, and remind everyone of the people who might’ve otherwise been written out of the occassion.
It’s been suggested elsewhere that Lily wanted to perform one of her father’s songs, but that she was denied the opportunity: potentially because Karyanis wanted her daughter Toni to be the only one of Cornell’s offspring to perform on stage (which she did, with Ziggy Marley).
I don’t know if that’s true or not. I also don’t know if it’s true or not that Karyanis and her crowd barred Lily Cornell, Susan Silver and others from Cornell’s funeral. Some of that could be true, or it could just be speculation.
Either way, it seemed conspicuous, to say the least, that Eddie Vedder was not part of a Chris Cornell tribute event that went on for five hours (and the fact that someone else had to sing ‘Hunger Strike’): something was wrong there, and I’m not entirely convinced it was just a case of Eddie finding it too emotional, even though that’s also possible.
It’s unlikely that any of this will ever be discussed publicly: and Vedder and Gossard are probably both too dignified to ever bring it up in public. So we’ll never really know.
But it’s not any kind of coincidence that Stone Gossad was the one to bring Lily Cornell on stage or that he seemed to be the one looking out for her.
Again, my estimation of Gossard as a person has raised even higher than it already was: and it was already high anyway.
Read more: ‘The CHRIS CORNELL Tribute Event: Thoughts, Reaction & the Most Beautiful End‘, ‘Chris Cornell: An Ode to His Gifts & Our Good Fortune‘, ‘MAD SEASON: ABOVE – A Reflection on a Stunning Moment in Time‘, ‘10 Pearl Jam Songs That Should’ve Been Singles‘, ‘Alice in Chains’ Dog Album: A Retrospective Review‘…