Misery Chain by Chris Cornell

I have always paid close attention to lyrics when listening to music and I have never understood how some people don’t. I don’t need songs to have great lyrics to love them, but the songs I love most usually have good lyrics. It can be hard to force people to really pay attention to lyrics if it’s not generally something they do, so this is me forcing people to really notice how lyrically great these songs are. Me choosing this song first should come to no surprise if you know me. (But not every song I write about will be a Chris Cornell song…or I’ll at least try really hard to not have that happen. No promises).

Song: Misery Chain

Artist: Chris Cornell

Album: Higher Truth (2015) / 12 Years A Slave Soundtrack (2013)

Won’t you take one link, from this misery chain
Keep it to remind you, of a long forgotten time or a place
So that you recognize its shape, when it’s near
Any time or place this misery chain should appear

Take the locks and shackles, and melt all of it down
Shine a light upon, every shadow, every acre of ground
The hidden corners on in all around
Anywhere you feel this misery chain could be found

When we’re gone, and it’s all said and done
What will we leave
Stories told, will they speak of us when God only knows
What those words will be

And if I should fall, from the top of the world
To the depths below, so far below where our belief could exist
Down further still will be, the one who hides the key
And dares to try to put these misery chains on me

When we’re gone, and it’s all said and done
What will we leave
Stories told, will they speak of us when God only knows
What those words will be

Won’t you take one link, from this misery chain?
Keep it to remind you, of a long forgotten time or a place
So that you recognize it, ’till it’s understood
And that every trace of this misery chain is gone for good
‘Til every trace of this misery chain
Is gone for good

Why I Love These Lyrics:

I’ll start off by noting that I prefer the version Cornell has on his album, but the version on the soundtrack features Joy Williams. (I like the version that is just more of Chris Cornell…we’re all surprised, I know).

As this was written for the 12 Years a Slave Soundtrack, it’s clear why chains are the metaphor used in the song. Slavery literally and metaphorically chained people in misery, so I think the idea of a “misery chain” is simple, yet powerful. I also think it lends itself well to being able to be broken up, so each person can “take one link.” I always interpreted that as the idea that it is not one person’s job, but all of our jobs. If we all take just one link, just remember something from our history, if we all take some responsibility to recognize oppression, then we can make change. He really stresses this point, because it’s in the chorus, and I think that’s so important. We cannot escape or run away from our history, because then we fail to see versions of it come back around.

The first verse is great too, because it asks people to not be passive. Look for the misery chain, anywhere you think it could be. Don’t just carry around your link, thinking maybe you’ll see another one sometime. A.K.A, actively look for oppression and bring it to the light and destroy it. I think the next part is pretty self – explanatory, but basically, what progress did we make? What will future generations say about us? I think these are valuable questions to be asking ourselves.

The second verse addresses the people who don’t want to break the misery chain, or who don’t want to take a link, because they want to forget about it. It’s the people who don’t see it as a chain, but many separate links that have nothing to do with each other. Cornell seems to be talking about the people or parts of the world that are so hidden that many people don’t even know they exist. But they do, and they want to keep the misery chain and silence people again. Basically, if they helped and took their link from the chain, they could really help end oppression and hate, but they are hateful and want to chain people back up with the misery chain. They want people to be oppressed. So neo – Nazis, the KKK or the Alt – Right.

Cornell certainly did his part to end oppression and ignorance, and I hope we can all find a way to do the same. I know I’ll try my best.

I started a playlist on Spotify of songs with lyrics I really love. I will be adding the songs I write about as well as ones I don’t. It is very short as of right now, but it will get longer as time goes on. You can listen to it here.

Thank you for reading! Loud Love ❤