By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
SEATTLE -- Former Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell's larynx was replaced today in an operation doctors described as the first of its kind. Cornell was forced to undergo the emergency surgery after a routine examination late last week determined that, after years of abuse, his larynx had virtually disappeared, as had the surrounding vocal chords. Cornell's national tour, promoting his first solo album, Euphoria Morning, was immediately halted, and he was admitted to Seattle's Virginia Mason Medical Center.
Dr. Tripp Wilkins, chief of surgery at Virginia Mason, described the damage to Cornell's throat as "equivalent to being hit with a baseball bat, repeatedly. Maybe a sledgehammer." In a five-hour procedure, a team of doctors, headed by Wilkins, removed Cornell's damaged larynx and vocal chords, replacing them with a car alarm and a tape of two cats fucking, deemed by the doctors to be the closest substitutes to Cornell's actual voice.
Later, Wilkins declared the surgery a complete success, though he warned that Cornell's fans shouldn't expect the singer to be his old self anytime soon, if at all. "When I first opened him up, I thought someone had beaten me to it, because there just wasn't anything there," Wilkins says. "But, after an extensive rehabilitation period, Chris might be able to sing again. Ah, hell, who am I kidding? I've heard his records, and I'll say this: Everything's going to be just fine. I'd be surprised if anyone heard a difference."
Susan Silver, Cornell's wife and manager, expressed gratitude that Wilkins and his fellow doctors were able to act so rapidly and promised that Cornell would be on the road to recovery in the near future.
"I'll be honest: Chris' voice has always irritated me," Silver says. "I mean, you can turn off a CD, but you can't turn off someone singing in the shower every goddamn morning at 7 a.m. Euphoria Morning, my ass. Jesus Christ, he sings so loud, and the worst thing is, they aren't even good songs. He's just making shit up. I can't even begin to explain how much glassware I've lost since we've been married, not to mention the loss of hearing I've experienced in both ears. And you can't even yell at the son of a bitch, because who could hear anything over that noise? If his voice hadn't gone, I would have. What was the question again?"
Reached for comment at his home studio in London, Robert Plant, former Led Zeppelin singer, said that he would probably drop his pending lawsuit against Cornell. "There doesn't seem to be any point anymore, really," Plant says. "After all, from what I've heard, all the evidence has been destroyed, right? Serves the bastard right, stealing my vocals all these years. The only tragedy of it all is that I wasn't able to take my voice back from him myself. But, you know, what are you going to do?"
Cornell is expected to remain at Virginia Mason for the next two weeks, and his rehabilitation will continue for another four months. Wilkins expects Cornell to make a complete recovery, and added, "Besides, I always liked Pearl Jam better anyway."
ó Zac Crain