Thursday, April 9, 2009

I've been so verklempt and generally out-of-commission mentally and emotionally lately that I totally spaced on the 15-year anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death this week. I seriously can't believe that I forgot this year.

Two years ago I had a radio show scheduled on the day of his death, so I got my rotations all out of the way early on in the show and then played nothing but Nirvana, no breaks, no commentary, for the next 30 or 40 minutes, or however long it ended up being. I think my follow-up hosts were a little late that day, for which I was grateful, since I got to play even more.

I think the ten-year anniversary was the day I wore all black to school. I got some strange looks, since it's not something I usually did. When I explained, a lot of my classmates didn't even know who Kurt Cobain was, which kind of made me want to tear my hair out, to be honest.

I guess it just goes to show how far removed from him I've gotten that I didn't even remember his death this year - it wasn't till I was on the phone with my mom earlier and she told me about hearing it on the radio (and talking about the "27 club" in conjunction with that), that I remembered. Back in my really, really dark days, he was this weird symbol to me that held stronger significance than I've ever been able to explain or even understand. It was more than the music, more than the icon - something about him struck something in my young, depressed, anxiety-ridden, severely sleep-deprived self that felt a personal connection and held on tight.

I still have that, to some degree. There aren't many people in my generation who have such a closeness with him, which gives me a kind of protectiveness and possessiveness about him, a kind of appropriation of him as my own. My mom and I were watching something on the greatest hard rock songs of all time (why, I'm not sure; it was probably a lazy Sunday night or something), and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was, of course, #2 or #3 or something. And all these 80s hair-metal guys were talking about how great Kurt was, and all I could think was, "You know what, fuck you. He couldn't stand you, and you couldn't stand him right back." And who could blame them? This bratty, scrawny little upstart who invalidated everything on which they had made their fortunes and had been playing all these years?

The truth is that there are so many facets to the image and icon that is Kurt Cobain, and the truth is that I don't just love the one of the tortured artist. I love the bratty snot-nosed punk that he was, too, with the childish lyrics he wrote early on and his obsession with bodily functions (seriously, it's kind of creepy.) The husband and father that he struggled to be in his past years, the scared and uncertain kid that he was early on. And the part of him that was conscious of all the fabrication and reveled in creating it; the part that wanted to be famous, god damn it, and the part that hated it. I connected with all of it, and I still do. Even though I don't need him anymore. Not the way I used to.



  1. I spaced too. We were eating dinner and watching the stupid CTV if-it-bleeds-it-leads news, and Mr. Lothere casually mentioned "Gee we should have listened to [music-related radio show on French radio] instead, it was all about Kurt Cobain." *jawdrop* *cry*

    I remember the day back in high school when I was lying on my bed quilt writing or reading something, listening to the radio with my record-button-pressing finger at the ready (cassettes baby!!), and the local rural-Ohio radio station played "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for the first time. *jawdrop* *rewind-play-rewind-play*

    I suppose it was necessarily the moment at which they had become mainstream, but I remember thinking that music had forever changed that day. Certainly it defined the entire rest of my own personal high-school-years soundtrack. *cry*

  2. Poor dead Kurt. *sniffle*

    It's true, they had such a massive impact. Whether or not they had "sold out" - whether or not they were the band that "deserved" to be the face and sound of grunge - whether or not Kurt Cobain was "worthy" of the fame he got - there's no doubt that they had a huge, huge impact. And the grunge era is probably the last time that we had (or will ever have) true larger-than-life rock stars. Which is really kind of sad.

  3. Wow, do you really think so? I know you're studying history of rock and so on. ;-) But I wonder what has changed to cause the larger-than-life rock star to go extinct? I'm trying to think of reasons here in case I ever had to BS my way through a history of rock final exam. I actually came up with a few, and any one of them would signify a depressing evolution of our culture. :-(