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Watch Eddie Vedder's heartbreaking tribute to his friend Chris Cornell, onstage in Italy

Ed and Chris
(Image credit: Steve Jennings/WireImage)

Eddie Vedder never forgot the kindness Chris Cornell showed him when he first came to Seattle to try out for a new band being assembled by former Mother Love Bone duo Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament.

When Soundgarden's frontman invited the shy newcomer to duet with him on an embryonic version of Temple Of The Dog's Hunger Strike, he initiated a friendship both men would come to treasure as the unanticipated commercial success of grunge transformed their lives forever.

Naturally, Vedder was devastated when news broke, on May 18, 2017, that Cornell had been found dead in a Detroit hotel room, hours after a Soundgarden show in the city.

By his own admission, Vedder chose to remain "somewhat in denial" of his friend's passing, the singer telling radio host Howard Stern in 2020 that he still hadn't "dealt with" the tragedy, fearful of the consequences which might arise from doing so.

"I was just terrified where I would go if I allowed myself to feel what I needed to feel," he admitted, "or what I was instinctively wanting to feel or how dark I felt like I was gonna go." 

With the benefit of hindsight, one can only begin to imagine the grief Vedder was feeling when he chose to honour his commitment to undertake a solo tour in Europe in May/June 2017. But that grief was all too tangible when the singer performed at the Firenze Rocks festival in Italy, on June 24, and dedicated a solo reading of Pearl Jam's Black to Cornell.

Introducing the song, Vedder made reference to the fact that the region was celebrating the feast day of San Giovanni, aka its patron saint John The Baptist, and said, "The first two letters reminds me of one band... Soundgarden."

"I obviously don’t have a band up here, but I have you, and we have each other," Vedder continued. "We’ve been playing with some string sections, and they couldn’t be here tonight. So I’m looking to employ you, and employ you to do this one together, we’ll borrow a few Stone chords. We are many, we are one, and probably all of us at one time have been through the blacks."

Watch the singer's emotional performance below.

Paul Brannigan
Paul Brannigan

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.