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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Remembering Kurt

Note:  I usually don't make a habit of reposting my articles.  In this case, I couldn't think of the words to better describe my feelings about one of my idols.  A couple of minor edits have been made, but essentially, this post remains unchanged from last year.

Eighteen years ago today, Kurt Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home, the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.  

For my generation, it was our "John Lennon moment".  A voice for everything that was inside of us, as fucked up as that voice was, had unexpectedly left.  Looking back, maybe not so unexpectedly.

Long before his death, Courtney and Kurt were media fodder for their heroin use.  No one knew the true depths of Kurt's addiction until years later, when the biographies and the VH1 'Behind The Music' specials would air.  At the time, we knew nothing of the multiple overdoses or failed suicide attempts.  We saw a rock star, and someone who acted, in public, the way that we would think a disenfranchised, brooding musician with a "fuck it" attitude should act. 

Unless you were the most ardent of Nirvana fans, you likely knew very little of Cobain's undiagnosed stomach problems.  Few outside his inner circle discussed details that he could very rarely, even when sober, keep any food down.  Or, how he often would use heroin as a way of alleviating unbearable stomach pain.  This later led to untreated depression and body dysmorphic disorder, as a result of his gaunt appearance.  He essentially became a poster boy for being troubled and suicidal, and the world let him end it.

Within months of his death, the death of grunge followed.  Vedder, Chris Cornell, Layne Staley, and the rest of the megastars from the Seattle area from the early 90s, had become monumentally ineffectual.  The following couple of years saw the emergence and popularity of the "imitator" bands like Bush, Silverchair, and Stone Temple Pilots, but, for the most part, the remainder of the decade showed a complete 180 in the public's taste in music.  Listeners now preferred jam bands and hippie rock;  a trend that would continue until the early part of the next decade.

In October of 2002, after a lawsuit was settled between the remaining members of Nirvana and the heroin and Oxy laced Yoko Ono of our generation, Courtney Love, an agreement was made to release a locked away final Nirvana single.  'You Know You're Right' had it's original vocals and lead guitar recorded in studio by Cobain just 10 weeks before his death.  Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl later came in and recorded their roles.  Eight and a half years after Kurt Cobain's suicide, and after the demise of the "Seattle sound", the song debuted at number one on the rock charts.  Frankly, it sounded ahead of anything on the radio at that 2002.

So, what of Kurt's legacy?  What legacy?  In 2007, VH1 called 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' the "Greatest Song of the 90s".  It was two places ahead of the Backstreet Boys' 'I Want It That Way' (#3), and five spots ahead of Sir Mix-A-Lot's 'Baby Got Back' (#6).  

Kurt became a playable character in the video game 'Guitar Hero 5'.  Once you unlock him as a character, though, he sings not only the Nirvana songs, but all of the other songs on the game as well.  So, if you've ever wanted to see an animated Kurt Cobain sing No Doubt, Coldplay, or Stevie Wonder, this may be the game for you.

Unlike Yoko, Courtney Love hasn't done much to preserve Kurt's legacy.  In the eighteen years since his death, the world has more to remember Courtney Love about than her husband.  She has focused more attention on her acting career, her music career, and trying to keep her name out of the tabloids.  Then again, Kurt wasn't John Lennon.  Kurt was damaged, perhaps beyond the point of repair.  He wasn't preaching peace and love and "Imagine", he chanted "I'm not gonna crack".  Regrettably, he did.