The 29-Day Blogging Challenge: K is for Kurt Cobain
I love music. I’ve always been an avid listener, a sometimes player, a general follower. I’m not a ‘groupie’ or into the ‘cult of personality’ in any way, though. There are bands and individuals that I consider some of the greatest contributors to the musical zeitgeist, those who have elevated the level of talent and progression to ground-breaking heights; but I can’t name more than a single member of most of my favourite bands, don’t know the detailed discographies, and half the time can’t even name more than a few of their songs. If their songs come on, though – even after years of not hearing a particular track – I can sing along (very poorly, mind you) to every lyric, follow the lifts and bridges and licks and warbles as though I had heard it only yesterday. Music is just natural for me to follow, although I don’t necessarily follow the source.
I keep my ‘ear to the ground’, as it were, and am fairly informed about the current music scene. Outside of the fringes and underground scenes, however, I see little redeeming quality in music – or mainstream ‘music’ – today. It is heavily produced, cookie-cutter, image-driven tripe, for the most part. But there are a few, and some from the days of my youth, who do hold a special place in my iTunes playlists. Some are long gone – classical composers, big band leaders, early jazz and blues pioneers… even those more contemporary but who have left the stage far before the final curtain.
Kurt Cobain is of the latter group. I don’t know when I first heard Smells Like Teen Spirit but it was not long afterwards that Nirvana’s break-out CD was a permanent fixture in my shuffler. It was the first CD that I loved every song, without exception. I loved the twisted – and twisting – imagery-laden, dark, expressive, angst-ridden lyrics. Not because they necessarily spoke to me, but because they were more honest and naked than I had heard in a long time. It was like Kurt was exposing his soul, every fear and failure and ghost-within to the world, and found a cathartic release – or at least temporary acceptance – in doing so. Fucking awesome.
Often considered the founders and greatest contributors to the ‘grunge’ scene of the early ‘90s, Nirvana released more albums, found a larger audience, garnered constant media attention, but for the most part hated all of it. They wanted to make music – that was all. They didn’t care about worldwide fame, didn’t want constant interviews and paparazzi attention, and certainly didn’t tailor their public image to satisfy anyone. They – Kurt specifically – were vocal supporters of gay rights, the pro-choice movement, and racial equality, going so far as to write in their Incesticide liner-notes, “if any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different color, or women, please do this one favor for us – leave us the fuck alone! Don’t come to our shows and don’t buy our records.” Kurt himself went on record to say that social liberation could only be made possible by the eradication of sexism.
Kurt was hounded and haunted by the band’s success, as he felt that it betrayed the ‘underground’ spirit of the music. That same success also found him branded the unofficial spokesperson for the alternative, dissatisfied, flannel-wearing Generation Y crowd. Grunge became a fashion statement, a fad, an easily-recognizable and easily-emulated set of clothes, must-have CDs, and ever-present look of lamenting boredom with the world. It belied the true music, the true source of lyrical exploration, of Kurt himself. In 1994, under tragic circumstances, he killed himself; and the world moved on to another genre, another group to hound, another icon of its mercurial personality and mood.
I haven’t mentioned much about his personal life, or the situation(s) surrounding his death, for a number of reasons – the biggest of which is that Kurt wouldn’t want that. He never put himself above the music, above the message, above anything. I guess that’s part of the tragedy; he was bigger than a lot of things, if only for his honest declarations, serpentine confessions, grainy but melodically intricate lyrics.
Kurt Cobain is one of the few I would love to meet. I wouldn’t shower him with praise, or ask for an autograph, or try to get a picture. I wouldn’t say anything; I would just sit and listen. And maybe try to play along a little.
I’m so happy ’cause today
I found my friends
They’re in my head
I’m so ugly, that’s okay
‘Cause so are you
Broke our mirrors
Sunday morning is everyday
For all I care
And I’m not scared
Light my candles, in a daze
‘Cause I’ve found God
- Nirvana, Lithium
Previous posts: Introducing the 29-Day Blogging Challenge; A is for Anonymity; B is for Busses; C is for Canada; D is for Dogs;E is for Expatriate; F is for Failure;G is for Google; H is for Hedgehog; I is for Indian food; J is for Jill, obviously