Stargazing

Chris Cornell’s final music video is an emotional plea to help refugees

“I've had many people break down when they watch the video. They either cry or are silent for 10 minutes,” director Meiert Avis tells Rolling Stone of the last music video singer Chris Cornell made before he died last month. Befitting its theme, the video was released Tuesday on World Refugee Day.
“I've had many people break down when they watch the video. They either cry or are silent for 10 minutes,” director Meiert Avis tells Rolling Stone of the last music video singer Chris Cornell made before he died last month. Befitting its theme, the video was released Tuesday on World Refugee Day. YouTube screengrab

Director Meiert Avis could not have known the music video he and Chris Cornell created earlier this year would be the musician’s last.

Cornell, the 52-year-old lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave, died on May 18 after a concert in Detroit. Authorities ruled his death a suicide, though his family disputes that.

He filmed the official music video for a movie called “The Promise” shortly before he died. As he had requested, the video was released Tuesday on World Refugee Day, befitting its theme.

Cornell pledged to donate all proceeds from the song and video to the humanitarian aid charity International Rescue Committee.

After the singer and his family toured refugee camps in Greece in April, they decided their Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation would focus its efforts on helping child refugees.

The video reveals the singer’s lesser-known altruistic side, Rolling Stone notes. It intersperses harrowing images of refugees fleeing war-savaged Syria, Libya and other countries with Cornell performing the song during a session recorded in Brooklyn in March.

“It’s very hard to put the pieces together for me,” Avis told Rolling Stone. “I’ve had many people break down when they watch the video. They either cry or are silent for 10 minutes.”

“The Promise” is a 2016 historical film starring Christian Bale that follows a love triangle in the aftermath of the Armenian genocide. The lyric video for the movie included scenes from the movie. But the official music video widened the scope, using current news footage of refugees.

“He was always curious about how others were feeling, and he had an interest in learning about their lives,” the film’s producer, Eric Esrailian, a close friend of Cornell’s, told Rolling Stone.

The pop culture website The A.V. Club finds sad irony in the uplifting message of hope Cornell insisted on including in the video.

“And despite the song’s subject material and the video’s accompanying theme — the horrors of war and the plight of refugees, interspersed with an ultimate message of hope for the future — it’s hard not to see echoes of an ironic statement about the musician himself, whose death casts a shadow over the song’s call for ‘a promise to survive, persevere, and thrive / Fill the world with life,’” the website notes.

For Father’s Day, Cornell’s 12-year-old daughter, Toni, made public a poignant letter she wrote to “THE BEST FATHER IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD.” It was published Monday on Cornell’s official Facebook page.

It begins with one word: “Daddy.”

“I know you are still here,” she wrote, “and the warmth I feel beneath the cold, is you.”

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