Covers are a great way to show appreciation for an artist who may have inspired you in a certain way. But with some artists, there are big shoes to fill.
If you have ears and aren't tone deaf, then you'll probably agree that Chris Cornell was one of the greatest vocalists of all time. So yeah, covering pretty much anything he originally sang is quite the hefty task to take on. Matt Cameron is also a terrific drummer, and Kim Thayil has his own trademark sound, as well.
However, plenty of artists have successfully done their own versions of Soundgarden songs. "Black Hole Sun" was probably the most frequently-covered rock song of 2017 following the death of Cornell, so there's a long list to choose from.
But, for the sake of this list, we chose to focus on studio versions only. It's one thing to pay homage to a fallen hero by playing their song live, and it's another entirely to have actually put in the time and effort to record your own version. That isn't to say these were all released after Cornell died, though — a lot of them existed prior to the tragedy.
The Pretty Reckless are enormous Soundgarden fans, and frontwoman Taylor Momsen even had the chance to perform some of their songs with the surviving members of the band at the 2019 "I Am the Highway" Cornell tribute show. TPR went on to record their own version of "Loud Love" in 2020 though, so that made the count.
Of course, one of the most famous Soundgarden covers of all time is Johnny Cash's rendition of the Badmotorfinger hit, "Rusty Cage," which sounds absolutely nothing like the original, but it's great in its own way at the same time. Cornell was actually approached to write a new arrangement for Cash, but he couldn't, so producer Rick Rubin did instead.
Check out the eight best Soundgarden covers below — they're not in any particular order.
Halestorm - "Fell on Black Days"
Let's just cut right to the chase — if there is anyone who is worthy of covering a vocalist with a wide range, it's Lzzy Hale. Halestorm in general are a high-energy, good 'ole hard rock band, but Hale certainly has the pipes to take on a Cornell song. Their cover of "Fell on Black Days" is featured on Halestorm's Reanimate 3.0: The Covers EP, which came out in January of 2017.
The Pretty Reckless - "Loud Love"
The Pretty Reckless tackled the Louder Than Love track "Loud Love" for SiriusXM in 2020, but Momsen had previously sang the song with Soundgarden at the "I Am the Highway" concert in 2019. She has the same grit and passion heard in Cornell's voice, which is probably related to the fact that he was one of her all-time favorite vocalists. The singer has repeatedly named the Beatles and Soundgarden as the common ground her band was founded on.
Johnny Cash - "Rusty Cage"
As noted earlier, the idea for Cash to cover "Rusty Cage" for his Unchained album actually came from producer Rick Rubin. Cornell later admitted that he was unable to reimagine the song for Cash, so Rubin worked with Dave Navarro on it. “It sounds like a song he could have written, which is great. That's the way it has to be," the Soundgarden singer told Triple J after hearing the new rendition.
Brandi Carlile - "Searching With My Good Eye Closed"
This is a cool one. Brandi Carlile was another performer who shared the stage with the members of Soundgarden at the "I Am the Highway" concert in 2019. She sang "Black Hole Sun" with them and Peter Frampton, and guitarist Kim Thayil told Rolling Stone she was one of the standout singers of the night. As a result, the Seattle-born vocalist asked Thayil, Cameron and Ben Shepherd to work on a project with her for a special Record Store Day release. In addition to "Black Hole Sun," they did Badmotorfinger's "Searching With My Good Eye Closed," and the result was titled A Rooster Says. We picked the latter song for this list since it's been covered less frequently than the former, and it's just damn special that it actually features the original composers on the instrumental section.
Sevendust - "The Day I Tried to Live"
Sevendust tackled the Superunknown hit "The Day I Tried to Live" and released it in 2020 during the pandemic. "I just put my heart and soul into it," frontman Lajon Witherspoon told Full Metal Jackie. "With the album being pushed back, we were looking and thinking, "How ironic that this song felt like it fit what was going on in the world today."
Stone Sour first covered "Outshined" the night before Rock on the Range in 2017 at the pre-party show. The news of Cornell's death had just broke earlier that morning, and Soundgarden were set to headline the first night of the festival. "That song is no joke. It's hard. We learned it that day," frontman Corey Taylor told Loudwire Nights host Toni Gonzalez the following day. "For me, I guess this is a posthumous thing, I didn't realize the impact that Chris had on me as a writer and a singer until I really started thinking about the fact that he had no boundaries when it came to writing music and doing whatever he wanted." Stone Sour later recorded a version of them performing the track, which they released on the deluxe edition of Hydrograd.
Dillinger Escape Plan - "Jesus Christ Pose"
Dillinger Escape Plan initially released their reanimation of "Jesus Christ Pose" on their Myspace page and then later on their Plagiarism EP. "Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron, Chris Cornell, Ben Shepherd.... whew! Remember that shit?! That time period was the jam. Shit like that is hard to find now. Anyhow, this is our little homage if you will to a great band from a great time that was influential to all of us," they wrote [via Blabbermouth].
The Acacia Strain - "Black Hole Sun"
This one definitely stands out the most sonically against the rest of the covers on this list, but that's why it's here — it shows how wide of an impact Soundgarden has had on varying styles of music. The Acacia Strain released "Black Hole Sun" in 2016 as part of the split EP, The Depression Sessions. "Now, you’ll never see Soundgarden play 'Black Hole Sun' again and that’s the mystique of the whole thing," vocalist Vincent Bennet explained to the Heavy Blog Is Heavy a month after Cornell died. "That song is even more legendary now that it was before. No one will see that song live again."