Our first video is a live interlude on Good Morning America (GMA) from a GMA-sponsored music event. That has implications. It’s a performance that has been selected for the cut away from the studio. It’s professionally set up for broadcast. There’s a violin section. One Republic, a pop rock band, is on hand to play Hallelujah with the twelve-year-old daughter of the recently deceased Chris Cornell (singer, songwriter, rhythm guitar in Soundgarden and Audioslave). It’s a prime-time TV moment.
Toni Cornell is compelling. She demands that we acknowledge her act of mourning, commemorating, and honouring. Soundgarden were big, with a loyal following. My Macedonian friend insists that Soundgarden is the only grunge band that needs to be acknowledged. “Smells Like ..?” “No, but Soundgarden”. Chris Cornell’s death was ruled suicide. At his funeral, his friend Chester Bennington of Linkin Park sang Hallelujah. Two months later, and two weeks before our video, Bennington took his own life.
At the beginning of the video you hear that One Republic stepped in for Linkin Park. Linkin Park was scheduled to perform on the “GMA” Summer Concert series at Central Park. When Bennington died tragically and unexpectedly, OneRepublic took a detour from their national tour to stand in for Linkin Park. As for Toni Cornell, she had sung on stage with her father. However the decision came up (and despite her age), Cornell was up to singing Hallelujah for both her father and Chester Bennington.
Hallelujah is a complex song. Like Blowing in the Wind, it is a song resonant with questioning and angst. Both songs have become hymns. There are people who know neither Leonard Cohen nor Bob Dylan who think of the songs as reverent evocations of a higher spirit. The more sentimental the rendition, the more they like it. With the violins, the One Direction parts of the song are suitably hymnlike for a commemoration. Toni Cornell got the grit in song. As we hear below, so did Chester Bennington
That was 41-year-old Chester Bennington singing Hallelujah with Linkin Park guitarist Brad Delson at the private funeral of 52-year-old Chris Cornell, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, May 26 2017. Bennington was godfather to Chris Cornell’s son Nicholas. He died on July 20, which would have been Cornell’s 53rd birthday.
Like Soundgarden and the supergroup Audioslave (Chris Cornell and members of Rage Against the Machine), Linkin Park was a popular and significant band with a loyal following. Chester Bennington was an integral and much-loved member of the band.
I need to emphasise how much respect I have for Toni Cornell. Performing an act of personal mourning is hard. To do it on prime time television after suffering the death of your father and a close family friend in quick succession is next level. She read the song superbly. She did Chris and Chester proud. But it’s more than this. “Respect” from the Music Man, Toni Cornell.
. To play out, here is Chris Cornell and his young daughter Toni singing Bob Marley’s Redemption Song in NYC, November 2015: