When Soundgarden and Pearl Jam both appeared on the lineup for the 2014 Bridge School Benefit it meant that, not only would drummer Matt Cameron be pulling double duty, but a Temple of the Dog reunion was practically inevitable. It hadn’t happened since Pearl Jam’s 20th anniversary celebration in September of 2011 when Chris Cornell came out for a four-song Temple of the Dog mini set, and there was no way they were going to let him remain backstage and pass up the opportunity to do it again.
The big moment came near the end of Pearl Jam’s acoustic set on both nights of the 2014 Bridge School Benefit. “Are there any more singers back there?” Vedder asked the crowd on the second night. “There’s a lot of types of singers. How about a Chris Cornell-type? This right here is the best Chris Cornell-type singer you’ll ever hear.” Sitting on twin acoustic stools and laughing like the old friends they were, they then duetted on the song they first sang together right after meeting in 1990.
Eddie Vedder was the shy, new guy in town at that fateful encounter. Temple of the Dog was rehearsing for their new album and Cornell was struggling to figure out how to finish his new song “Hunger Strike,” which only had a single verse. “I was singing the chorus in the rehearsal space and Eddie just kind of shyly walked up to the mic and started singing the low ‘going hungry’ and I started singing the high one,” Cornell told Rolling Stone last year. “When I heard him sing, the whole thing came together in my brain. I just felt like, ‘Wow, his voice is so great in this low register. He should sing on it. I’ll sing the first verse and then he’ll come in. Even though it’s the same lyrics, it’s a different singer and it’ll feel like two verses.'”
The result is one of the most memorable songs of the grunge era, and the first sign many got that Eddie Vedder was an incredible new talent. Temple of the Dog never got a chance to tour since Pearl Jam and Soundgarden both got too busy with their own projects once their lone album came out, but over the years Chris Cornell joined Pearl Jam a handful of times to sing “Hunger Strike.” Once Soundgarden’s Matt Cameron became Pearl Jam’s drummer in 1998, every such occasion became a complete Temple of the Dog reunion.
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The band reunited for their first tour just last year, but Eddie Vedder never made an appearance during their brief run of dates, even when the tour wrapped up with a two-night stand in Seattle. It’s quite probable he wanted to keep the attention on Cornell and the incredible songs he wrote for Temple of the Dog, knowing his appearance would dominate the discussion in the following days. But it meant this video of Eddie and Chris at the 2014 Bridge School Benefit shows the final time their voices ever meshed.
Watch Chris Cornell’s final performance with Soundgarden.