When discussing rock royalty of the modern era, Dave Grohl’s name is one that’s placed right near the top of the pile. He’s been an ever-present fixture that has seen the genre refigure plentiful times around him. One band captured his attention to such an intoxicating degree that Grohl compared them to the holy duo of Black Sabbath and The Beatles after first hearing their music.
Grohl’s influence on contemporary rock is undeniable. He’s the beaming frontman of Foo Fighters, who are arguably the biggest group on the planet right now. It is something they’ve earned through decades of blistering material and huge tours. In turn, the singer has become a pillar of the musical community. If you get Grohl’s blessing, then your career is on the right track, and there’s a weight of integrity attached to his voice that is immeasurable.
Every so often, a band comes along which stops you in your tracks, and for Grohl, the first time he heard Soundgarden’s ‘Black Hole Sun’ was an experience he’d never forget. The moment occurred during Nirvana’s final ever recording session, which was a tumultuous experience with Kurt Cobain’s mental health increasingly fragile.
However, producer Adam Casper arrived armed with Soundgarden’s debut album, Superunknown, which he’d been working on, and Grohl was immediately awe-struck.
“He played ‘Black Hole Sun’ and I remember thinking, ‘Holy shit, this is gonna be huge,” Grohl recalled. “Because to me it was that perfect meeting of the Beatles and Black Sabbath, which is what I think we put in our Nirvana bio. But I don’t think that had ever successfully been paired until that record, and in particular that song.
“It was so much more melodically sophisticated than anything any of the other bands in Seattle were doing. It was a big deal. To me they had that punk-rock, underground, do-it-yourself ethic, but they were playing really interesting rock music.”
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“Soundgarden were the first band to get out, the first band to sort of break, the first band to do the major-label thing in the underground scene. It only made sense they were the first band to write a song like ‘Black Hole Sun.’ And that record really just raised the bar for everyone. Nobody had a voice like Chris.”
He continued, “Nobody played drums like Matt. They were an incredible band. Twenty years later, that’s one of those records I honestly feel like your kid or your kids’ kids will discover and say, ‘Wow, dad, did you know about that band Soundgarden?’ 25 years from now.”
After Cornell’s death, Grohl was understandably beside himself in grief, commenting, “He was a really sweet guy. Full of life. And he had so much to offer. That one hurt. Over the years you sort of count your blessings that you survived, and when you see another one go down”.
As the Foo Fighters lynchpin points out, the jewel in Soundgarden’s crown was the dynamic voice of their singer, which made all the other groups around sit up and take notice. Cornell had innate grunge sensibilities, which he lethally combined with his keen ear for melody.