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Book Review: Total F*cking Godhead: The Biography of Chris Cornell By Corbin Reiff

Release Date: July 28th, 2020

Soundgarden have sold millions of records, have created iconic songs, and helped defined the Seattle sound. Yet up until recently, they’ve been treated like an afterthought when it comes to their impact on music. Overshadowed by behemoths like Pearl Jam and Nirvana, Soundgarden and frontman Chris Cornell rarely got the recognition they deserved. Outside of fans, few acknowledged Cornell’s powerful stage presence or his unique voice. It wasn’t until his 2017 death that others finally realized the gift that was taken away from us. Cornell’s talents, legacy, and life are given the attention it deserves in Corbin Reiff’s new book Total F*cking Godhead.

Based on research, past interviews, and conversations with those close to the late rockstar, Reiff tells the story of a bright-eyed young man with big ambitions who made his dreams come true through hard work, perseverance, and immense passion. With detailed accounts of Soundgarden’s history, the formation of Temple of the Dog and Audioslave, and Cornell’s solo career, we get to know the man behind the howl. We see Cornell’s different sides like the perfectionist who pushed his otherworldly voice to the limit. The musician who put every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears into his art. And the devoted husband who loved and cherished his family. We also see Cornell’s struggle with addiction and his recovery letting us into these private and difficult moments.

The book is filled with stories longtime fans and new fans alike will relish in. Great anecdotes include Soundgarden’s impromptu appearance on Bill Nye the Science Guy, Cornell nearly being cast in Reservoir Dogs, and behind the scenes stories about their music videos, like the MTV-banned “Jesus Christ Pose.” Rieff also takes us into the studio for a rare look at the recording of albums like Superunknown and Out of Exile. After reading stories behind Cornell’s songs and key performances like their Lollapalooza debut, you’ll spend hours online reliving these iconic moments.

Total F*cking Godhead | Book by Corbin Reiff | Official Publisher ...

While the book gets detailed about Cornell’s musical history, it doesn’t dig deep into his personal life. It briefly touches on the end of his first marriage, his alcohol and drug abuse, his eventual recovery, and finding new love with Vicky Cornell, but it’s only a small part of the book. Rather, Reiff shows us who Cornell was by studying his songs providing key insights behind their inspiration, composition, and recording. New interviews with friends, producers, and Cornell’s peers also give us a glimpse of what he was like off stage.

Though Cornell had his struggles and took his own life, he’s not painted as a tragic figure. Instead, we see a man who was loving, loyal, and passionate about the music he created. It was in his blood, the thing that kept him going even during his most difficult moments. Though his solo work and his time with Audioslave never met the success of Soundgarden, he never stopped. He challenged himself to try new things and do what he wanted even if it meant failure. Music was his passion; it’s what made him happy. And it’s the music he should be remembered for.

Total F*cking Godhead isn’t interested in picking apart Cornell’s life searching for clues that foreshadow his death. Rather, it’s a celebration of his legacy and the amazing music he created. The book gives us a portrait of who Cornell was. Filled with engrossing stories and rich histories, you’ll breeze through its 384-page length and still ask for more. You not only walk away with a greater appreciation for Cornell, you see his impact on music. Though his loss was tragic, Reiff reminds us how lucky we are Cornell had the chance to share his incredible gift with the world.

Total F*cking Godhead is out now.

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Corbin Reiff - Total F*cking Godhead
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Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Illinois Entertainer. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Creeper, and Green Day.

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