Well Written Rock Songs: Hunger Strike by Temple of the Dog (1991)

Song Name: Hunger Strike

Band Name: Temple of the Dog

Release Date: January 14th, 1991

Recorded: around December 1990

Band Members: Chris Cornell, Mike McCredy, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament and Matt Cameron

Genre: Grunge Rock

Song Writer: Chris Cornell

 

Introduction

 

Ever since the late great Chris Cornell passed away, I have been listening to his backlog of music. This spans from Soundgarden, Audioslave, to his solo endeavours. No one can deny he was a great talent. 

 

The song that I wanted to write about today is Hunger Strike. For some reason it kept coming back on my Google Music playlists. So, I decided to write about it as I had forgotten about it for a while. 

 

Background

 

In 1990, Cornell, who was known for his work with Soundgarden at the time, decided to release an album under the band name Temple of the Dog. This was a tribute band to one of his friends who had passed away. His name was Andrew Wood. The band members consisted of:

 

Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) – lead vocals, banjo, guitar, harmonica

Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) – lead guitar, backing vocals

Stone Gossard (Pearl Jam) – rhythm guitar, backing vocals

Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam) – bass, backing vocals

Matt Cameron (Soundgarden as of the recording of this song) – drums, backing vocals

 

If those names seem familiar, it is because they would eventually become the band Pearl Jam fronted by Eddie Vedder. Matt Cameron would join Pearl Jam a few years after the recording of this song. 

 

Temple of the Dog only came out with only one album, which was self titled. The album had a few chart toppers. However, only Hunger Strike really made any headway on the charts. Hunger Strike made it to 5th on the singles charts and making it to 11 on the Canadian charts. Only one other song managed to crack the US charts and that is Say Hello 2 Heaven. This was a song dedicated to Andrew Wood and It reached number 5 on the US singles charts. 

 

Hunger Strike is a duet between Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell. According to a few sources, Chris was having a lot of trouble with certain notes in the chorus. Vedder who was practicing with his new band Pearl Jam for only a few days, was just listening in. Vedder at some point went to the mic when he noticed that Chris was struggling with certain notes in the chorus. Eddie proceeded to start singing, and the rest is history. 

 

According to  Chris Cornell:

 

When we started rehearsing the songs, I had pulled out "Hunger Strike" and I had this feeling it was just kind of gonna be filler, it didn't feel like a real song. Eddie was sitting there kind of waiting for a (Mookie Blaylock) rehearsal and I was singing parts, and he kind of humbly—but with some balls—walked up to the mic and started singing the low parts for me because he saw it was kind of hard. We got through a couple choruses of him doing that and suddenly the light bulb came on in my head, this guy's voice is amazing for these low parts. History wrote itself after that, that became the single.

 

Most people say that this is where Eddie Vedder started getting a good reputation with other bands as he showed courage or balls as Cornell put it. Chris and Eddie were very good friends until Cornell passed away in 2017. 

 

Hunger Strike by Temple of the Dog

 

Bottomline

 

There are many reasons why I love this song. The first would be, the song itself starts off simple, but until this day, it still captures that classic grunge sound. Just from the first moments , you are pulled in by the simple chords. 

 

The second aspect that I love is the combination of Cornell and Vedder on vocals. Cornell's higher pitch, along with the Vedder lower range made this a great duet. Vedder also brought in his vocal passion to the arrangements. This would become his trademark until today. 

 

The third aspect are the words. You might be asking yourself, "The words??? There are only 4 lines plus a small chorus. How could that be any good?". A well written song could be many things, written music or written word. I think this one is both and here is why. Think of it like concentrated juice. The juice packs a much as it is more concentrated. The same idea can be applied here. Although the words are not numerous, they pack more of a punch than most mainstream rock songs. 

 

From Cornell:

 

The same verse is repeated twice in this song, as Cornell felt he had said everything he could on the subject with those words.

 

I cannot agree with him more. I think the song resonates even more today than upon its release in 1991. 

 

Lyrics

 

I don't mind stealin' bread from the mouths of decadence
But I can't feed on the powerless when my cup's already overfilled, yeah

 

That is the gist of the song right there. Basically what is being said here is similar to the robin hood approach. He does not mind stealing from the wealthy as they will probably not notice. They are already over indulged. However, he cannot in his mind, steal from the poor when you already have everything that you need and more. Surprisingly this applies 18 years after this song was released. 

 

In the end, this was one of the first grunge hits to be on the charts and it still holds up very well today. The music in combo with the lyrics and the vocal passion of both Vedder and Cornell, make this a classic. 

 

What do you think? Do you like the song? Do you hvae another interpretation of the song. Let us know. 

 

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