Chris Cornell always had a mellow side, but in his later years, the Soundgarden singer developed into a bona fide wandering rock troubadour, often embarking on solo acoustic tours. His “Nothing Compares 2 U” cover went viral last year, but that was just the tip of the iceberg: Throughout his career, Cornell used the setting as a chance to show off his extremely broad range of influences, reconfiguring songs by everyone from Metallica to Bob Marley in smart and surprising ways. Here are some of our favorite examples.
Cornell’s affinity for Robert Plant was clear to anyone who heard him belt out one of Soundgarden’s aggro staples, but here, he nods to his vocal forefather’s more understated side, covering the Led Zeppelin II tearjerker “Thank You.”
At a 2013 show, Cornell got inventive with a mash-up of two famous songs with the same name: U2 and Metallica’s respective hits titled “One.” He sang Metallica’s lyrics over U2’s music, creating a mesmerizing acoustic performance that united two very different aesthetics.
“Black Hole Sun” made plain what was already becoming clear: In addition to his status as an alt-metal master, Cornell was a lifelong devotee of Beatlesque melodic rock. Here he offers a tender reading of the Sgt. Pepper masterpiece, complete with a percussive noise breakdown in the middle.
“I Will Always Love You” is a notoriously tough song to sing, especially after Whitney Houston’s cover of the Dolly Parton classic became the most famous version. Cornell proved that the booming ballad was well within his wheelhouse, even as he toned it down for a subdued acoustic rendition.
After both Pearl Jam and Soundgarden hit it big, the one-time collaboration between Cornell and Eddie Vedder for Temple of the Dog’s sole album became a grunge landmark. Cornell paid a little extra tribute to his former duet partner with a solo cover of Pearl Jam’s poignant hit “Better Man.”
Cornell brought out the mournful overtones of the Thriller smash, turning it into a downbeat folk ballad, on this 2013 live version.
At a 2003 Lollapalooza stop in Seattle, Cornell reunited with Tool frontman and fellow Lolla alum Maynard James Keenan for an impassioned version of the wry Nick Lowe–penned classic.
Seemingly every acoustic-guitar-wielding singer-songwriter eventually takes on Bob Marley’s timeless anthem of hope, and Cornell was no exception. In 2015, he performed the song in New York with help from his daughter Toni.
Watch Chris Cornell’s most memorable songs.