Chris Cornell performed the song on the soundtrack of 2007 Bond movie Casino Royale (Picture: AP)
Chris Cornell has sadly passed away, but I’ll always remember him for one big reason.
At 52, the singer/songwriter died shortly after performing with Soundgarden in Detroit on 17 May, with reports confirming that he took his own life.
Regardless of the heartbreaking details surrounding his death, I instead want to focus on the genius of the man.
To distraught fans out there – and there are many the world over – I’m not about to profess to knowing everything about the man and his career.
Instead, I wish to look at one of his songs i consider a personal favourite: his 2006 soundtrack single to Casino Royale, You Know My Name.
Let’s for a moment strip away those opening graphics and throwback to classic Bond era cinema with its silhouettes and smooth graphical transitions of the franchise’s iconography.
For a moment remove yourself from the situation of watching a James Bond movie – even if it is Daniel Craig’s debut and arguably his strongest appearance as 007.
Instead, just listen to You Know My Name for its stellar orchestral accompaniment and flawless vocals. With its opening instrumental, there’s a faint whiff of James Bond music in there while being something sustainable and boombastic in its own right.
For me, it encapsulates everything that’s great about a Bond theme song, whether you’re listening to it without or alongside the opening credits.
Cornell’s song is a flawless Bond theme (Picture: Getty Images)
It’s an evocative, powerful, driven song that stands up on its own two feet as highly emotive and purposeful songwriting.
That voice, though, is the exact level of grit and raw edge that Cornell was synonymous for and pours out his soul with one of the most rapturous Bond themes in years. It blew me away how great it was and still is today. A perfect pitch of gravelly vocals and note-perfect delivery on the artist’s part.
It’s a song i can listen to on repeat because it’s so evocative and well-structured.
And it means something, too. It tells a story. It’s not merely a jumbled concoction of words to fit into what its selling: Cornell made the track his own and managed that rare feat of separating it entirely from the Bond franchise to forge part of his own music and feature on Carry On; his sophomore album in 2007.
Co-written by soundtrack composer David Arnold, it didn’t feature on the official Casino Royale soundtrack, which is surprising considering it defined the film to an extent and was the first piece of overt music we hear in the feature; instead allowing him to retain a degree of ownership and identity of the track.
Despite rating Casino Royale as one of the better if not best 007 outing in existence (and that’s no easy admission), I say this whilst holding it under the microscope of how it co-exits with the film. In order to get that cinematic balance of perfection, the movie itself has to have a symbiosis with its theme tune. The pair should feel organic to one another.
After all, the two were designed to go hand-in-hand and each relies on the other to elevate itself to the next level.
And that’s precisely what happens here. The song works. The film works as an origin story of sorts for the character and its theme song links into the brutality and menace of our protagonist. It’s a pleasure to associate Cornell’s strong effort with Craig’s reinvented depiction of James Bond; I couldn’t imagine anyone else fronting Casino Royale’s opening credits than Chris Cornell.
So thank you, Chris, not only for your lengthy contribution to music, but as a huge Casino Royale fan, thank you for contributing your skills to this film; a film you personally elevate to something even more memorable and stunning than it is.