A Kurt Cobain Appreciation post; on his 26th Death Anniversary

Kurt Cobain means a lot to me. Not just his music, but him as person. How does someone who’s been dead for longer than I’ve been alive, affect my life so much? I don’t know, but that’s the power Kurt had – he influenced and connected with an entire generation. Like Lars Ulrich of Metallica said “with Kurt Cobain you felt you were connecting to the real person, not to a perception of who he was — you were not connecting to an image or a manufactured cut-out. You felt that between you and him there was nothing — it was heart-to-heart. There are very few people who have that ability”

Now I don’t know what it must’ve felt like hearing the news of Kurt’s suicide on 5th April 1994 at the age of 27 (though the body was discovered three days later), but from what I’ve heard, it’s one the saddest days in rock history. I know this much, if I were alive back then I would probably lock myself in a room for the whole day and not talk to anyone. But that’s not what happened. In fact I only started to listen to nirvana’s music two years back. I had obviously heard of them and listened to smells like teen spirit, but other than that no real connection. But over the past two years they have grown to become one of my favorite bands of all time.

A portrait of the young man as an artist. For his eighth birthday in February 1975, Kurt received this easel from his paternal grandparents. Comic book characters were his favorite art subjects in childhood; he began with Disney-related fare, such as Donald Duck, but quickly moved to superheroes. Here, Kurt is copying the cover from Giant-Size Werewolf #4, an April 1975 Marvel comic.

Now this post isn’t about nirvana’s music or a review of their entire catalog, I just wanted to share with you my love Kurt Cobain and what he means to me. I feel a lot of personal connection with Kurt, things about his early life that reflect my own. Kurt had a tough childhood, a dysfunctional family and his parents divorced when he was small. He loved comic books and would sit in his class making drawings and sketches. He developed hatred for his father as he lived with him and later his mother, whose boyfriend abused her, which really left a emotional stain on Kurt. Kurt didn’t like sports but still pretended to be interested and played with others in school. He listened to classical and punk rock songs with passion since he was a kid. He also suffered from diseases like bronchitis from a very early age. He later fell prey to chronic diseases like depression in high school and also spent a period homeless. Now, these are not reasons to love someone, but somewhere, I feel Kurt would understand my life since it’s so much similar to his. But the most important thing is he survived through all those problems and lived fearlessly, which makes me look up to him even more.

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana during the taping of MTV Unplugged at Sony Studios in New York City, 11/18/93. Photo by Frank Micelotta.

But let’s be honest we wouldn’t be talking about Kurt today if it wasn’t for his music. Nirvana was a revolutionary act. Before them, alternative music was considered underground music, only for a niche. But Nirvana made Alternative music mainstream. And thanks to them Alternative music still remains one of the top genres in terms of quality and content. Nirvana became famous with their global hit single ‘smells like teen spirit’, from their 1991 album “Nevermind”. The album also earned great reviews for them and a tour deal for two years. And in no time they became the most adored rock stars of early 90’s. Their sound was revolutionary, inspired by artists like Iggy Pop and Pixies, it made wave for a new kind of music. Their music was raw, unfiltered and loud and it always left an impact on you. They had the ability to get to you.

An entry from Kurt’s journal.

But let’s talk about Kurt’s lyrics for a minute. I know he said they don’t mean anything and it’s useless to try and find any deeper meaning in them. He also said what’s most important to him while writing songs are melodies, and he writes lyrics just around them. Now I don’t know, I certainly don’t more about his own music than him, but his lyrics mean so much to me. They speak to me. According to his band mates he was even obsessed over writing lyrics and spent a long time during the process. He also would often rearrange and rewrite lines while recording them in studio. Also his journals reveal his love for writing and poetry. Trust me, if you ever get a chance, read his journals. And even when he was one of the biggest stars, self doubt hadn’t left him. He often writes about feeling worthless and about his depressive periods in his journals. I find Kurt’s lyrics very similar to Sylvia Plath’s poetry. They are both simple on the surface but possess really dark themes and deep meaning in them, if you listen carefully. And nowhere is this more apparent than in the band’s third and last studio album, “In Utero”, which contains some of Kurt’s most heartbreaking lyrics ever. What makes his lyrics so emotional is that there is no bridge between the words and the man. It is raw and exposes every part of Kurt out for display. He talks to you and you talk back to him, and the words stay with you forever.

Kurt’s suicide note.

Well, now I know that this story doesn’t have a happy ending. I know about his drug addiction, I know about the controversies, I know about his destructive relationship with Courtney Love, I know about his struggles with fame and the pain it caused him, and I know that he killed himself. But I don’t want to remember all that today, that’s just the shadow of the man I love, which he couldn’t avoid any longer. It had been hanging there with him for a long time and his time had come. No, I want to remember the man who defied the shadow, the man who brought light when the sun was gone. I want to remember the man who loved to drink strawberry milk. I want to remember the man who loved making sketches of Donald duck. I want to remember the man who spoke about the poor and damaged, the man who gave them a voice. I want to remember the man who was one of the first feminists and LGBT+ rights activists. I want to remember the beautiful man who sang like an angle, and tried to make a change. I want to remember the real Kurt Cobain.

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