Chris Cornell and the movies: from Casino Royale, to his Single cameo, to 12 Years A Slave

Chris Cornell - ANP
Chris Cornell - ANP

Chris Cornell, who has died at the age of 52, will be remembered by fans for the groundbreaking grunge-rock he made with his band Soundgarden in the Eighties and Nineties, and for his time with "supergroup" Audioslave, as well as his varied solo work.

But the singer was also a notable contributor to movie and television scores: his songs featured on several popular soundtracks, while he also composed original music and songs for a number of well-known films and series.

Here's a quick (and, given Cornell's diverse output, unsurprisingly eclectic) guide to finding the much-lamented rock star at the movies:

You Know My Name - Casino Royale

Perhaps Cornell's most famous contribution to movie history is Know My Name, the gritty, full-blooded Bond theme he performed for Casino Royale, the film that marked Daniel Craig's first outing as 007, in 2006.

The song went on to become one of Cornell's most famous works, and was widely praised by music and movie critics at the time, with Billboard deeming it: "earthy yet elegant...the best 007 theme since Duran Duran's A View To Kill".

 Misery Chain (feat. Joy Williams) - 12 Years A Slave

In 2013, Cornell was among several artists invited to contribute a song to Steve McQueen's soul-searing period drama 12 Years A Slave, which starred Chiwetel Ejiofor as violin player and husband and father Solomon Northrup, abducted from his New York home in 1841 and taken to the barbaric plantations of the Deep South.

“I was moved by this film and the story in a way that transcends any film experience I have ever had," Cornell explained at the time. "I was inspired to write a hundred different songs, but finally landed on one based on what I believe is an extremely important message I took from this man's journey. Compassion, basic human rights and love must be our priorities above race, religion or commerce. Every generation needs a reminder of that simple idea.”

 The Keeper - Machine Gun Preacher

Cornell received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song for The Keeper, recorded for Marc Forster's 2011 Sam Childers biopic Machine Gun Preacher.

 Stay With Me Baby (cover) - Vinyl

Last year, Cornell recorded a cover of the song Stay With Me Baby for the HBO TV series Vinyl. His rendition of the hit, first released by the soul singer Lorraine Ellison and later covered by a number of artists  including Bob Dylan, was inspired by British rocker Terry Reid.

“I was very honored to be asked to record a version of ‘Stay With Me Baby’ for Vinyl,” Cornell told Vulture at the time. “I get to pay tribute to Terry Reid, whose version of the song has been a favorite of mine for many years, and be included on a great soundtrack with an amazing group of artists.” 


 Seasons - Singles and Man of Steel

Birth Ritual, a song Cornell co-wrote and released during his time with Soundgarden, features, appropriately enough, on Cameron Crowe's grunge-era Seattle romcom Singles (1992), as does a solo track by Cornell titled Seasons. (Cornell himself also has a cameo in the film, shown below.)

Years later, however, Seasons also found its way into a radically different film: Zack Snyder's 2013 Superman blockbuster Man of Steel.

Crowe later revealed that, while making Singles, he had considered Cornell as the lead.

"Chris Cornell was another guy who was close to us when we were making the record, and still is a good friend," he recently told Rolling Stone.  

"I really loved Soundgarden; they were my favorite band. I originally thought Chris could play the lead, but then I think that turned into too big of a commitment for everybody and so he became the guy he is in the movie, but in the course of making the movie he was close to all of us. He was always around." 

The Promise  - The Promise

In 2016, Cornell recorded the title track for The Promise, which is set during the Armenian Genocide of 1915 to  1923.

"I wasn't trying to record a song that sounded like it was from 1915, but I didn't want there to be obvious modern references because obviously at the time there was no such thing as the Beatles or Metallica or everything that is my reference for musical ideas," he told Rolling Stone, when asked about the challenges of composing a song for a film about such a harrowing topic.

Eventually, he decided to incorporate period-appropriate orchestral elements, while maintaining a deliberate "out of time" feel, also reflected in the song's lyrics.

"So the orchestra works just because that did exist and it can be a little bit out of time, so I was swimming in those waters of ambiguity," he explained.

"It's from the perspective of someone singing to an older family member who is no longer around but was kind of a mentor. And it's a concept that ties into what he learned about the preciousness of photographs of loved ones to people who had suffered during the genocide, a feeling among those who were affected that transcends age. It shows that a promise was made to the older generation and then telling them that they're the inspiration."

Culture stars who have died in 2017


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