Thinking Out Loud: On Losing Artists to Suicide

THINKING OUT LOUD is Drooly Dog’s Advice Column in which we talk about creative process and what might be holding back that voice of yours – whatever form it might take. Send your questions to:

Content Warning: Suicide

I’m writing this on the day we learned of the suicide of Chris Cornell of Soundgarden. KEXP is playing his music all day long. As I write they are playing his cover of A Day In The Life.

Chris Cornell had just finished playing a concert in Detroit. He hanged himself in a hotel room. He had just been in a venue with gobs of people screaming and dancing and loving him and his band and his music.

We believe fiercely in this shared experience of art and music. We look to artists we admire to help us create these. We adore them for giving of themselves to us and we hope that our love travels back to them. That’s why we show up.

Losing an artist this way is uniquely unsettling. If you are like me, you may not be able to stop thinking about how alone he must have felt in his final moments. That he went from a concert to a hotel room and that the love and togetherness that we all believed in somehow didn’t make the trip with him.

What does that mean? How does that relate to making art in the first place, and the impulse so many of us have to make something or say something or play something? What does it say about the shared concert experience? Anything? Nothing at all? Was it the post-show letdown? Something chemical? We don’t get to know.

Not even the music could save Chris Cornell. The thing that has been lifeblood for so many of us and that shaped his own life, wasn’t enough. We want to believe artists can be saved by their own art, the way it saves us. When that’s not the case, it’s devastating.

If you have ever sat with someone who was suicidal, or who was having a mental break (I have done both), you know the feeling of being with someone and yet being walled off. Saying the words, “You know something is very wrong, right?” and watching them look you in the eye and nod, fully aware, and yet knowing that no matter what, you cannot get in there with them. And that they cannot come be with you.

If you have ever been depressed, you know what it feels like to know, for sure, that it literally does not matter if you go on living. And that those who care about you might be upset for a minute, but they’ll get over it. They’re better off without you, depression says. LIES.

I think a lot about how alone Prince was with his pain and his struggles with addiction. How little anyone around him knew about it. And how that isolation postponed his treatment until too late.

Here’s what I will say about this: Depression and other mental health issues are not to be f*cked with. They lie. And they do it really well because they sound like you.

And they wall you off.

So, here’s a suggestion: Put a Suicide Prevention Hotline number in your phone. Maybe not for you, maybe you’ll never need it, but have it there like a little marker. Just keep it there. Here’s one for the USA:1-800-273-8255.

Hat tip to Kevin Cole, DJ at KEXP, for making this suggestion on the air.

I don’t understand, I’m not sure there is anything to understand, but every time someone with depression loses their battle, we all feel it.

Hang in there.

Drooly Dog offers creative advice only. Nothing legal or medical, please follow of your own accord. It’s up to you, man.

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