I’m sure the internet is awash with eulogies to Kurt Cobain, who died seventeen years ago today. However, I thought I’d add a few brief thoughts anyway.
Beyond the obvious profound and human loss, there is still a lot for us to miss about him.
Here was one of the biggest rock stars in the world, yet here was someone human, likeable, believable, gentle and honest.
Here was someone willing to use his position to shine a light on obscure indie bands and long-forgotten bluesman. He wasn’t going to hog the limelight, he was going to share it. I discovered so much through Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. In some way, I am the man I am today because of a beat-up cassette copy of Nevermind, and everything else that followed.
Here was someone willing to rail against the machismo present in rock music and the wider world, and offer an alternative. He would bait jocks in songs, he would have feminist leanings, and well, he’d happily wear a dress on stage.
He was the alternative, the underground, the leftfield, right there in the mainstream and he made us feel less alone. We could be different. Without putting too fine a point on it, he made it cool to not be a dick.
I also miss the humour. It is easy to overlook how funny he was. There was a mischief, a refreshing lack of pomposity. To open the follow-up to the huge, generation-defining, multi-million selling Nevermind with the lines “Teenage angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old” revealed a mordant, deadpan humour that cut through all the bullshit of the music industry and beyond.
He wasn’t there to lecture. He was one of us. He was on our side. But it was perhaps too much to ask of him. There’s been nobody like him since. And, oh, those songs…
Brilliantly articulated. The world needed Cobain for longer. And Bill Hicks, who died the same year.
Thank you, Steven.
And oh, to have had Bill Hicks post 9/11. It is a pretty depressing game, but I do from time to time play “What if Cobain/Hicks lived?”…
17 years ago?!? Man, do I feel old? You nailed Cobain. He was all of those things. The way you put it makes him more culturally relevant than I think he’s given credit. Folks tend to focus on the music and possibly the accompanying aesthetic, but he was more than that. I feel lucky enough to have seen him play the fall before he died. Kurt Cobain was one for the ages.
Yep, I feel old too. I’m also very jealous you saw Nirvana live.
I think the best bands work within a cultural context, and are about more than just the music. Nirvana, The Smiths, Manic Street Preachers and others all shaped my outlook on life and turned me on to particular books, films, and areas of politics. Especially when growing up, that was invaluable to me.
Good post. I was out of the loop during the Nevermind revolution (only 10 years old; no MTV at home; etc.) but Nirvana was on regular rotation during my angsty teens and twenties.