a few words about kurt

April 5th will mark the 8th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. As I sit here thinking about what to write, I’m filled with sadness. I’m afraid of coming off as a little cheesy, perhaps a little cliche, about what it all means to me. Whatever.

I was living in Kansas, attending college the day that it happened. I don’t really remember the order of events that day, but I cried a whole lot. Nirvana was, and continues to be, one of my favorite bands. I remember going home and being glued to MTV as everything was happening. Kurt Loder was teary-eyed as he anchored MTV News throughout the day and evening. DJs from Seattle were interviewed, rock stars voiced their sorrow and the fans just wept. Everyone was stunned. I just cried and shook my head. I didn’t understand then and I don’t fully understand now.

Then there was the vigil in Seattle. Thousands of people crowded a park, making shrines to their hero, consoling one another, and crying. Then Courtney addressed the crowd, reading Kurt’s suicide note and commenting on it as she read. It was heartbreaking. More crying ensued. I cried myself to sleep that night, knowing that the same way Nirvana changed music with their birth, Kurt’s death would change music again.

I’ve read a lot about Nirvana, own quite a few bootlegs, and often listen to their music. One of the last books I read was Heavier Than Heaven, by Charles Cross. It’s the best book on Kurt’s life. He was granted access to Kurt’s personal diaries and conducted over 400 interviews for the book. I cried a lot when I read it, especially towards the end of the book. I also laughed at Kurt’s incredible sense of humor and his candor.

One of the things that I was so blown away by, and somewhat angered by, was the fact that Kurt was a fake in a lot of ways. He was so bright. He knew exactly what he was doing and from what I could gather, knew exactly how it was going to end. Many fans have been, and will continue to be, infuriated by the book. The truth hurts. Kurt wanted to be famous and he did everything in his power to make sure that he was. He relished in the drama on many occasions. That said, and told in gross detail in the book, I’m quite certain that his stomach problems and drug addiction are what killed him. There was no conspiracy. No one murdered him.

Like I said, I feel a little stupid even writing all of this, but I needed to say something. His music means the world to me and it still rips my heart out that he’s gone. He was so selfish. He didn’t have to go. I will most certainly remember the day for the rest of my life.

7 thoughts on “a few words about kurt”

  1. We come from different places: Brad, I understand and empathize with all of your very valid arguments to my post. Yes, I do have a shallow view on some things that I am not able to completely articulate. This issue is one of them. I lived through the time as well as you when Nirvana grew and died. We both, however, had a different look at the world from different ages. You’ve a good five years on me and therefore the ripe age of 18 or 19 when the band walked the edge. I was only 13 years-old. My eyes opened to the band in the reflection of Dave Grohl, the comparison, and there should not be one, was strange. I felt a bit weird not having the group produce more than 5 albums; the first 2 were barely seen by many.

    America, and people in general, look to symbols for representation, for identity. As much as Cobain probably hated that very concept of public identity, he was part of it. Popular bands cannot live beyond the television anymore. I watch television for a link to my culture, not my belief system or aesthetic guidance. Not all music fans have the opportunity to live in front of the bands they love. I am one of those people.

    You and I will never share the same opinion on the Nirvana or the Cobain matter because the events surrounding his death clouded my view, in a mature set of eyes, from ever truly seeing them as I should have. I was just watching MTV2, some concert they were playing of the band just before they broke big. I was enthralled, I love the band. Like Buckley, or any other late 80’s-early 90’s group I was not old enough to recognize, I try as hard as I can to appreciate what I have.

    I read plenty of books, also. Just not as many cultural texts as you have. I’m still in college, remember. This thick skull has just stepped into this world you’re so comfortable in. So, when I’m proverbially flapping my jaw, it’s only to learn in response. These arguments help, they teach me well. Thanks.

    JD

  2. thank you for writing that.

    Every year about this time (and Feb.20th) I think of Kurt. I was just telling a friend of mine yesterday about how the details of April 8th are permanently etched in my brain. From the time I heard about the apparent death of someone I so admired and connected to on that Friday morning, on through that following Sunday when myself and two friends walked the 20 minutes back home from the vigil at Seattle Center, soaking wet from being in the fountain with thousands of other people. I still have the little green candle that I had carved my message to Kurt on. Then we had to go to his house on Lake Washington to say a final goodbye and cry a little more.

    I had lost someone so dear to me, yet I didn’t even know him.

    Even though so many things are different these 8 years later, Kurt and the incredible impression he left on me are always there.

    Thanks again, Brad for posting your memories/thoughts.

  3. Although I can’t really say that age doesn’t have anything to do with how music effects people, because sometimes it just does. But I will say that I was also very young when this all happened. I was 14. I guess I was already searching for something real and closer to my own reality out in the world beyond my own space. No one around me cared for Nirvana and I was constantly defending them from the moment I first wore my Nirvana shirt to school at the age of 12.

    Now I feel like have just tried to make myself seem cooler or something for having liked Nirvana when it wasn’t popular to like them (even in Seattle, in 92). I just felt I had to comment on the age thing, that I felt just as strongly about Nirvana at that young age as anyone who was older and had seen more in life.

  4. JD – Don’t misunderstand the point of my post. I wasn’t trying to cut you down or say that just because I had a certain view, yours wasn’t valid. I don’t know that I buy the age thing. I’m going to have side with Shayna on that one.

    I’m quite certain that there are people my age that remember John Lennon passing away. Perhaps that had an impact on them because of the environment they grew up in. Sure, I remember, but I’d be lying if I said it effected me the way Kurt or Jeff’s passing did.

    The point is, I was just expressing how I felt about Kurt and you were expressing your ideas on it. It’s all fine and no harm done. Their’s no correct way to feel on this subject or any other. You just feel the way you do and that’s the correct way.

  5. With It, I’m Out: This is a topic that is difficult for me to completely identify with even though I consider myself a fan of Nirvana. When I fall in love with a certain type of band, their sound, their image, I tend to absorb myself into the facts and the tunes, who they are, where they’re from. With Nirvana it’s difficult. I used to own many of their albums, I even tried to identify with the messages contained, but I failed to do so with all my heart because being radical or being avant-culture in suburbia was not easy. Most kids when I was 13 liked the thrash of Nirvana and nothing else. I can remember some of my best grade-school friends digging for old Nirvana material when I was listening to pop radio and fucking with baseball cards or street hockey.

    When I try and listen to people memorialize Cobain I feel this lucid sense of shallow idolatry creep into the room. Humans are known for keeping the memory of their artists at the top of the list, even sometimes over family members. I look towards the “Cobain” generation, which I don’t believe I am a part of, and I see something for the first time. Is he our first generational music icon, like Hendrix was to ’67 and such? I have no idea. I think the whole modern process of idolatry and worship has gone awry. Elvis freaks, sideburns and all, recognize the man for the image, like he was sold to be. Now, Cobain got swallowed by a movement on the edge of corporate nonsense. I look at Nirvana and I get these horrible flashbacks to Cameron Crowe’s “Singles,” with it’s pithy Seattle soundtrack and OH BOY! Matt Dillon. Bullshit.

    Today, I keep Nirvana in a special place in my mind. It’s a place where the likes of Jeff Buckley goes. However, I am a big Buckley fan. He reached me at a more fragile part of my life, he changed my thought. Unfortunately, Cobain and the rest of the boys did not. They entertained me, something I can’t ask any more of in a band.

    I argue with my close friends over the legend, the 27 year-old spookiness and the blah blah of Courtney Love and her speeches about Kurt. Again, who knows what to think in the presence of modern media?

    I will not mourn Kurt Cobain. I will listen to him.

    –JD Stone

  6. JD – You used to own many of their albums? They only had 5 full-length releases. Anyway, that’s not really the point I want to get into your thick skull. I’m going to preface this by saying that while I don’t take offense to you not being able to relate to Nirvana or whatever, I take major issue with your own brand of shallow idiocy.

    Stop with your throwing of sociological blankets on me, for they are far too small to cover. Humans are known for not only shallow idolatry, but for senseless killing and jerking of to people shitting on each other. Your point is? I’m not here to cut you down. You are certainly entitled to your opinions, but at least put a little more thought into them. If people like Elvis and want their sideburns, so what? That was his image! And don’t even act so naΓ”ve as to think that Elvis, or Kurt for that matter, had nothing to do with how they were sold. Kurt did not get swallowed by the movement. Read Heavier Than Heaven and then talk to me about that. I’m not going to bother to comment on your “Singles” comments.

    Who knows what to think? I do. I listen to what’s inside and try to go from there. Using modern media as an excuse just wreaks of lame. Read a book and stop watching TV. There are facts out there. Sure, you may have to hunt through the muck to find em, but they’re out there.

    Again, I’m not asking you to be anything. I don’t even care if you don’t like Nirvana or identify with them or any of that. If you don’t, then you don’t. I’m not out to defend Kurt’s name or his legacy, but you know me…I’ve always got something to say about something.

    P.S. I certainly will not argue with the Jeff Buckley stuff. Troubled genius as well.

  7. Agreed:

    It is such a difficult thing to argue over a person’s death in general. I feel that we are lucky to have a musical catalogue to support our arugments, as well as the wealth of cultural knowledge available from the press and from personal opinion.

    I did not feel cut down, just humbled. Trust me, Brad, the first thing I need sometimes is to be cut down. This 6’7” meathead is coming into his own. He still needs a good bop on the head. I’m grateful and ready for more.

    JD

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