Kurt Cobain, Still Dead

16 years ago today, Kurt Cobain put a bullet in his brain and robbed us all of everything that spoke to MY generation at a time when we were so fucking confused about what mattered.
We were tired of the fluff and pop of the ’80s, sickened by the everlasting everywhereness of the Oliver Stone Wall Street mentality and the increasing loss of meaning in the modern world.
Then there they were — Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder… specifically Kurt.
Cutting through the bullshit, discarding the pretty-boy rock images that commandeered ’80s MTV, throwing down their rage and speaking to the discontent that’d been hidden by pop-hooks and plastic performances for too long now, the posterboys of the grunge-rock movement gave the establishment the finger and we roared in approval as we lined up in droves for Lollapalooza and other epic events of festival rock that brought us all together for bodysurfing, moshing, and community.
What made Nirvana’s brand of electric-pop grunge-rock so eponymous for my generation was that it could BE EVERYTHING all at once — it could be funny, hard, soft, loud, bouncy, moody, angry, and exuberant simultaneously. It was OUR existential noise put to a bouncy beat, and it GOT us. It took our insides and folded it out, and made it fun to act out and scream along to.
Few bands can push the cathartic-heart-restart button for me like Nirvana. Maybe the Replacements or the Butthole Surfers… but nobody put a finger on it like Nirvana did, and I still feel robbed today. ROBBED. Robbed, motherfucker.
Fucking hell. I’d like to beat depression and addiction to death with a tire iron for all the people and things it has robbed me of in life, and Kurt Cobain makes that list.
I’d like to say we’ve made lots of advances in the areas of addiction and death since news of Cobain’s death sent everyone in my age group (I was 20) into a depressive funk for days — even non-fans who felt he somehow had a message worth hearing that encapsulated why our generation felt so lost, even if they weren’t into him…
I’d like to say we’ve made advances, but we haven’t. We’re going backwards — losing more soul, losing style, losing voice, losing control.
Just today are reports that more people than ever before are overdosing on prescription drugs. We’re oblivioning ourselves to death. It’s so tragically ironic. Where’s our Kurt Cobain for today? Who’s trying to snap our apathy now?
For me, Nirvana woke me up about how having more than one emotion at one time could be all right, even be a good thing, that life could be felt in different ways at any moment. I could be happy and angry, glad but resentful. I could be overjoyed but despondent. I could just feel it all. I was human and it was how we rolled — Kurt Cobain said so.
And his death? I was 20. He was my Lennon, man. I remember where I was, I remember hoping it was another hoax.

Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.

~Kurt Cobain

My friends and I suddenly dreaded aging — 27 was the age of death now. Him, Morrison, Hendrix — all dead at 27. But Cobain was different from the others.
Cobain gave up. It wasn’t just stupidity, it was a shotgun blast. It was a willful choice that life was too much. This unassuming anti-hero we all put our hopes in, blam. Gone, dead, done. He was our voice and he just fucked off.
We had hopes for Cobain. He was like that fucked-up friend with incredible soul that you know is a beautiful person through to the core, and even in their sadness a soft sunlight pours from their insides.
Cobain was kinda like that, the tragically-beautiful big-hearted broken-souled rebel we all understood in a small way, who spoke of beauty while ripping at his existential scabs, who mostly fucked up but sometimes didn’t and THAT was awesome? Kurt was THAT guy.
Lennon was stolen by a madman.
Cobain was taken by madness.
In nearly 30 years, we’ve done nothing to change the isolation and hopelessness felt by those with mental illness. The lonely are alone by design, even now. Increasingly, now.
Medication is doled out by the fistfuls because it’s easier to mask the symptoms than it is to solve them. To solve them would be to admit that everything about our modern life — the pace, the technology, the goals, the ambition — is a sham. We can’t have that. Not now. We’re so awesomely tech-dependent that we can’t possibly admit it might not be helpful to us on some deeply emotional/spiritual level.
Technology didn’t solve your life, so, here, this pill can help you — and if that pill doesn’t work, take this pill, but don’t worry about turning in those other not-working pills, and never mind about all those processed foods you’re eating or the lack of life you live, or the fact that you think your Wii exercises you. Don’t worry about solving what really ails you — turn on Glee and take this pretty pink pill and enjoy that tasty beverage, because nothing really matters anyhow. Hey, is that a text message? Hold that thought.
We ARE the soulless society Kurt Cobain railed against… times ten. We’re so empty and vapid as we all walk distractedly through our days that Cobain’s existence seems almost a cutesy little ironic footnote in my generation’s life.
WE rebelled against it all and now we’re the expense-account smart-phone motherfuckers micromanaging our lives in a desperate attempt at the illusion of power over a very real powerlessness. We want to pretend we control our lives. It’s all a sham, but it’s one that’s just so PRETTY, and LOOK it’s so SHINY.
I’m 36. I’m not a rebel these days, per se, but I sure as shit didn’t drink the social Kool-aid yet, either. I’m not the anti-establishment type some still are, but I’m enough of one that I’m a little more broken-hearted on this anniversary.
Even today, I don’t fit squarely on the right or left, but I speak truth to power and I don’t hide behind or excuse-away my ideas.
I own how I feel, I put it out there and I don’t apologize for it. I say it like it is so SOMEONE hears what oughta be said, or at least I know I tried to speak the truth to power.
I’d like to think much of who I am ideologically comes from those early heroes I had — especially the rock’n’roll types, ones who made me realize being multi-faceted wasn’t a contradiction in terms — it was a lesson in humanity.
Cobain taught me, along with a few other antiheroes of mine, that my emotions and my anger were an important part of who I am, that they drove the art I wanted to create, that they made me a more complete person than I was when I lived under the veneer of good’n’happy little citizen. They taught me that my word choices were my weapons, and I could be more at one time than I thought I could be.
Yeah. I still feel robbed. And I’m angry Cobain’s death feels in vain. I’m angry I have so little of him to draw on after all the years that have passed — that I’ve grown in my world-view and never got to see Kurt do that in his.
Some small part of who I am today, though, was in large a part of what Nirvana tried to do. And I thank them for that contribution.
Fuck you, depression and addiction.  Fuck you hard.

4 thoughts on “Kurt Cobain, Still Dead

  1. Rob J

    Thanks for this post, Steff. It gets me thinking a lot about rock idol worship.
    I think it’s a hell of a thing to be viewed as a voice of a generation. It makes one think that one must be that thing, when it is really ultimately impossible. I think that’s what killed Cobain, personally. He took on the burden that was not really his burden, one that is too much to ask of anyone, least of all a guy who had his own darkness to wrestle with without the benefit of an idol to look to. Some people in his position simply refused to take it on, and were willfully opposed to it – like Lennon, who became a househusband, a baker of bread, and an abandoner of what he later described as the merry-go-round.
    I should say that to me, Cobain was more a musical hero than a social one. He took 80s indie rock made by those who didn’t match the vision of the rock star (the Meat Puppets, the Melvins, Shonen Knife), and married it to American hardcore punk and Cheap Trick power pop. His ability to do this seamlessly, and to be able to write songs that backed up that sound was an incredible achievement. To me, this was his genius.
    I wish he’d concentrated on that.
    I wish he had gotten the help he needed, at least to get to the point that he could see the funny side , the absurdities of fickle fame– that some punk from a little scene in Seattle could sell more records than Michael Jackson. I mean how ridiculous is that? To start out as the voice to the dispossessed, only to knock the King of Pop off of his perch? To me, I wish he’d been laughing about it, rather than feeling like he’d betrayed his ideals, and the ideals of those who followed him. I wish that he’d cut the messianic shackles off and let people think what they wanted of him without trying to take on their wounds. The Jesus gig only really ever leads to the cross, and then to the grave.
    .-= Rob J´s last blog ..Sarah Slean Performs ‘My Invitation’ =-.

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  2. Zoeyjane

    See, now maybe it was my age, idealism and the fact that I was high as fuck, but I always ‘got’ that Kurdt offed himself because he didn’t *want* to be the posterchild for a revolution. Because it was too large a task, that he ultimately felt unworthy of. Maybe I’m simplifying it too much, but that’s the message I took from hearing Courtney read his goodbye letter.
    I remember this day, 16 years ago, as the first/last day I cut. The time my father’s abuse passed into the sadistic land. The first/last time I considered patricide. This day… so much more than Cobain’s death, leaves me wounded feeling, every year. I wish I’d been your age, then.
    .-= Zoeyjane´s last blog ..On this week in (my) history =-.

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