In the early 1990s, we were reminded once again of Seattle's ability to breed amazing musicians. In the late 1940s, Ray Charles called Seattle home along with Quincy Jones. In the 1950s, it was where Jimi Hendrix spent his youth before moving to Tennessee, New York and then England in the 1960s. In the 1970s, it was the emergence of Heart. And then in the 1980s, something was brewing, which the music industry would later categorize as grunge.
Influenced by artists such as Black Sabbath, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Kiss, and the Ramones, a new style of music surfaced. Bands that fit the bill were Alice In Chains, Candlebox, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. Precursors to some of those bands included Green River, Mother Love Bone and Temple of the Dog. And it's Temple of the Dog that I'd like to talk about in further detail.
The Temple of the Dog project was conceived by Chris Cornell, frontman for the band Soundgarden, as a musical tribute to Andy Wood, frontman for the band Mother Love Bone, who tragically died of a heroin overdose at the age of 24. Cornell and Wood were roommates at the time and Chris was looking for a way to pay homage to his fallen friend.
The band ultimately consisted of Chris Cornell; Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, who were Andy's bandmates in Mother Love Bone; Mike McCready, childhood friend of Stone's; Matt Cameron, Chris's bandmate in Soundgarden; and Eddie Vedder, who happened to be in town auditioning with Stone, Jeff and Mike for a spot in the band that later became Pearl Jam.
Temple of the Dog's self titled album had ten songs, all of which were lyrically composed by Cornell himself. Tracks one and two, "Say Hello 2 Heaven" and "Reach Down" respectively, were directly inspired from Wood's death.
With the loss of any friend, we all respond and recover in different ways. And the making of the Temple of the Dog record was just one way of continuing the healing process for Chris, Stone and Jeff. It allowed them the freedom to mourn, celebrate, create, and pour emotion into something special—something they knew their friend would be proud of. There was no pressure—just making music for the sake of making music.
"It was the easiest and most beautiful record that we’ve ever been involved with,” said Stone in an interview following the record's release. Cornell adds, “Temple was about making an album simply for the joy of doing it. We weren’t concerned about what anyone outside of our group of friends would think of it. It was the first and maybe only stress free album that we all made.”
Fast forward twenty-five years from the album's release and Andy's passing...
In November of 2016, Temple of the Dog reunited for an eight show tour, which started in Philadelphia and concluded in Seattle. My wife and I had the privilege of seeing them in San Francisco, which was about half way through the tour. Needless to say, the show was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
As I sat back and absorbed every second of the show, I could not help but take a trip down the band's memory past. I was vicariously teleported back to the time when they originally formed—a time filled with grieving and questioning and longing for a friend. But also a time of recovery and renaissance and tribute to someone they loved.
Andy Wood passed away on March 19, 1990. The Temple of the Dog album was released on April 16, 1991. Later that year, Pearl Jam released Ten on August 27 and Soundgarden released Badmotorfinger on October 8. And nestled between the release of those two albums was Nirvana, who released Nevermind on September 24.
The Temple of the Dog experience was a small and special side project that turned out to be discretely positioned on the forefront of a new music paradigm that erupted from Seattle. And at the core of that project was Andy and the inspiration he created in those that surrounded him. How sweet it was to see that nostalgia expressed onstage twenty-five years later in a manner just as fresh as it originally was.
The Greeks had numerous words for love, one of which being the word philia, meaning "brotherly love." With brotherly love there is kindness, forgiveness, trust, honesty, patience and understanding. And when brotherly love is present, you will remember a friend long after they have passed away. Why? Because the love for a true friend never dies, which I find so inspiring.
(The picture above shows Chris Cornell, frontman of Temple of the Dog, performing at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, California on November 11, 2016. The blog thumbnail from nearest to farthest shows Stone Gossard, Chris Cornell, Jeff Ament and Mike McCready.)