A Final Goodbye to The Man of Golden Words | “Say Hello 2 Heaven” by Temple Of The Dog


Shay Gale, Writer/Volunteer

The rise of most new genres of music are usually spearheaded by a handful of bands who best represent the sound being established. This is especially true for the grunge movement. However, one thing that the grunge bands of Seattle had that not many new genres did was a linking friendship between almost all members of all major bands on the scene. Andrew Wood, lead singer of Mother Love Bone, is generally seen as one of the forefathers of grunge. Wood was close friends with members of Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, and the yet-to-be-founded Pearl Jam, so his death was especially impactful as the Seattle music scene had just begun to attract commercial attention.

Wood’s death would hit Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell especially hard, as the two had been roommates and good friends throughout the ‘80s. This led to the creation of Temple Of The Dog, a Seattle supergroup named after a line from the Mother Love Bone song “Man of Golden Words.”  Composed of Chris Cornell and future members of Pearl Jam Mike McReady, Eddie Vedder, Matt Cameron, Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard, they would cement themselves as one of the greatest rock supergroups of all time through the many amazing songs found on the album. Among them was “Say Hello 2 Heaven,” which was written by Cornell shortly after Wood’s death while touring in Europe. The song is notable for being one of Cornell’s most pointed, abandoning his usual vague lyrical style in favor of a more direct tribute to Wood.

An ethereal guitar introduction opens the song, followed by the rhythm guitar and drums following up with a quick burst before being overtaken by Cornell’s voice. The opening lyrics are sung from both Wood’s and Cornell’s point of view, with Wood’s sections lamenting the pain of life and Cornell’s bouncing between frustration and the deep sadness he harbors towards his friend’s circumstances.


The words never listen /

And teachers, oh, they never learn /

My warmth from the candle /

Though I feel too cold to burn /

He came from an island /

Then he died from the street /

And he hurt so bad like a soul breakin’ /

But he never said nothin’ to me, yeah.”


The chorus begins, with the loudness of the first section being brought down in line with Cornell’s relaxed voice, calmly echoing “say hello to heaven” before returning back to his feelings towards his good friend’s death. While the second verse lacks the interesting perspectives of the first, it’s used as a sort of warning for anyone on a similar path. The line “seems like too much love is never enough, yeah / you better seek out another road, cause this one is ending abrupt” encapsulates it perfectly, as even the purest of us can be destroyed by the addictions that plagued so many of the musicians in the ‘90s.

The third verse is by far the most impactful of the whole song, as Cornell’s frustration apparent in the rest of the song fades away to nothing but a longing to see his good friend one more time. The instruments echo this sentiment, preparing a slight return to the dream-like state found in the introduction of the song. The lyrics found here are perhaps some of the most grief laden in Cornell’s entire catalog, singing as if he was talking to Wood himself.


“I never wanted /

To write these words down for you /

With the pages of phrases /

Of all the things we’ll never do.”


The acceptance seems to beam through his lyrics, acknowledging his peace in the situation and his hope that wherever his friend is, it’s a better place than where he left. The imagery of Wood simply going to sleep seems to line up with the newfound peace of the situation; an elegant way for Cornell to finally say goodbye to his old friend.


“Hey, so I blow out the candle and I put you to bed /

Since you can’t say to me now /

How the dog broke your bone /

There’s just one thing left to be said.”


Finally, the chorus comes around for an explosive finish, as the instruments switch back from dreamy to a climax fit for the late grunge legend, all the while Cornell’s earth-shattering high notes finally come out as a final cry to his lost friend, piercing through the instrumentals and background vocals to bring his grief to the forefront once more before the songs end. The repetition in “say hello to heaven” almost takes on a different meaning this time around, seeming more like a command from Cornell for heaven to open the gates to Wood. Finally, as the dust settles the dreamy electric guitar from the very beginning of the song makes its way back as the outro, bringing a sense of somber peace where moments before there was frustration, melancholy and devastation.