I intended to write a lengthy piece about Kurt Cobain, his musical genius and his tragic demise ten years ago today, but there has been so much coverage of this in the printed press, on the radio and on television that I decided to spare everyone the details you all know too well. Instead, I'm going to revisit my teenaged self and briefly recount how Kurt's life and death touched my spirit.
When I was a teenager, there was no bigger band on the planet. From the moment I spun Nevermind on my portable Phillips CD player for the first time on the strength of "Smells Like Teen Spirit", a single getting heavy airplay on CFNY, the desires of my ears changed forever. Prior to this, I was a guy listening to Guns 'N Roses, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi and other such 80s rock bands. When I needed an edgier fix, I would spin Public Enemy, probably my favourite band at the time. I was desperate for a musical movement to devour me whole, a musical movement that seemed far more organic than the contrived sounds of Warrant, Poison and Skid Row. Nirvana turned me on to a scene that offered me everything I was looking for. The media anointed it grunge.
I was 19 when I first heard that Kurt was dead. I went numb. He had it all. He was a huge rock star with lots of money and a baby girl. There were other options, weren't there? Couldn't he have just quit the business? Was it better to burn out than fade away?
At 27, Kurt Cobain had produced a great deal of genius. I loved Bleach, I loved Nevermind, I loved Incesticide and I loved In Utero. I remember going to Sam the Record Man at Yonge and Dundas the morning In Utero was released. I remember reading the liner notes during class at U of T...I couldn't wait to get home to give it a spin. I had a similar love for the music of Pearl Jam, but Nirvana was #1.
What I remember the most in those days and weeks following Kurt's suicide is listening to nothing but Nirvana. It's how I fed my sorrow. All Nirvana, all the time. Shortly thereafter, Alan Cross did an "Ongoing History of New Music" on Nirvana and Kurt's suicide and I still have that episode on tape. Unplugged in New York and From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah would follow, and both were as awesome as I expected them to be.
It was ten years ago today. The music Kurt Cobain produced during the short career of Nirvana is as relevant to me today as it was then. He was pained, vulnerable, screaming for help. He was ours and I miss him.
I am now 29 years old. That's two years older than Kurt was at the time of his death. I often wonder how he was able to look his daughter in the eyes and still want to end it all. Clearly, he felt his daughter would be better off without him. That, in a nutshell, is the saddest note in his final, tragic song.
Peace, love, empathy.