The singer Chris Cornell called “the best of all time”

There’s certainly a place in rock music history reserved for Chris Cornell. Throughout his time with Soundgarden and Audioslave, Cornell’s ability to pull raw emotion in every song whenever he performed made him stand out among some of the biggest vocalists of the 1990s. Like every great showman before him, though, Cornell was indebted to the greatest frontmen of the past.

Looking at his body of work, it would be easy to draw comparisons between Chris Cornell and Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin. Since both men came from bands known for making eclectic rock music alongside some amazing pop hooks, Cornell practically has the influence of Zeppelin subconsciously branded on him.

When talking about some of his most significant influences, though, Cornell stands by Freddie Mercury as one of the greatest musicians in rock history. Compared to the traditional approach to rock vocals, Cornell thought that Mercury belonged in the conversation of more renowned vocalists in classical music, telling Yahoo Music, “Freddie Mercury had a powerful, almost operatic voice and a stage presence that was undeniable”.

Aside from his talents as a vocalist and showman, Mercury was also known for having a tremendous approach to rock instrumentation. Throughout his career with Queen, Mercury could turn some of the strangest ideas into a musical symphony, famously pairing disparate pieces of songs together to create ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.

Even with a massive musical mind, Mercury knew that the studio was far from his strong suit. Despite being an auditory artist in the studio, Mercury held the crowd in the palm of his hand whenever he played shows with Queen, putting every ounce of energy into the songs and engaging with the crowd in various participatory vocal ad-libs.

Outside of the raw power, Cornell also noticed a soft side of Mercury’s vocal tone: “There was a vulnerability to it, his technical ability was amazing, and so much of his personality would come out through his voice. I think Freddie Mercury is probably the best of all time, in terms of a rock voice”.

Listening back to Soundgarden and Audioslave’s work, it’s easy to see where Cornell got some of his tricks. While admitting to not buying too many Queen records growing up, Cornell’s way of sustaining notes is indebted to Mercury’s style of singing, from the smooth tone that comes through on ‘Seasons’ to screaming bloody murder on the chorus of ‘Spoonman’.

Cornell also had a personal connection to Queen because of one of his best friends. Rooming with Mother Love Bone singer Andy Wood, Cornell remembered Wood considered Mercury to be his idol. Since Temple of the Dog was formed as a tribute to Wood’s memory, it’s hard not to think of the tortured sound of ‘Hunger Strike’ as Cornell’s subtle tribute to Mercury’s influence. While Freddie Mercury will forever be known as one of the greatest vocalists to ever command a stage, Cornell prefers to see him as a musician instead of the showman that has gone down in history.

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