20 years after – The true legacy of Kurt Cobain
I was 10 years younger than he was when he passed away. And nowadays I’m 10 years older than he was at that time. And I’ve been thinking of him every day since. Or at least this is what I like to believe.
Since last October’s nominations for the Music Hall of Fame and until the induction ceremony a few days ago, passing through the commemoration of Kurt’s death on April 5, I have assisted with great mixture of feelings to a huge wave of press articles about Nirvana. An explosion of media coverage about the band, about Kurt Cobain and the Seattle grunge scene. Just as if it was 1991 all over again. It made me smile, it made me cry. It made me live again my teen age years. It brought back a wide range of emotions felt in the past. A wave so unexpectedly huge that I couldn’t find the strength to filter or inquire it. I was simply emotionally reactive. And I didn’t want to feel otherwise because I didn’t want to break the magic: Nirvana was on the spot again. For old time fans and new listeners’ generation.
Despite the fantastic return, there will be always some unshakable shadow cast upon the grunge style that rose so quickly from a remote area to win the world in the ’90s. I guess the media had a most difficult task: deliver a good exposure for a guy who actually killed himself. Loaded up a gun and blew his brains out. Combined with the use of drugs and the gloomy lyrics, anyone has big arguments to dismantle Nirvana’s fame.
I read a lot of responsible articles, but sometimes they seemed to be written too carefully and with consideration and in the end they could apply to any rock star on this planet: Cobain was a product of his generation; the political times he lived, the social and his unfortunate family background brought him to the point where he couldn’t face the challenges of the mainstream pressure; he was the victim of the music industry machine; he has great influence on the following bands and alternative music and so on. New but insignificant facts related to his death were made public. A tasteless commercial for beer came up putting Cobain on the same level of celebrity as Elvis or John Lennon. People cleaned out their drawers to find unused forgotten photographs which now proved of being more valuable then ever.
I guess this state of leveling him with common sense clichés made me sad. Until, among other good media actions, NME magazine had a brilliant statement on the dedicated cover: “Forget about the shotgun and the drugs. It was always about the music.” It was indeed. But how come?
Similar in a way to the punk scene, Nirvana emerged almost out of nowhere. It was never about setting up a musical trend or comforting teenagers. Drifted by the tendencies of their times – signing a good label and have good producers and promotion – Nirvana shaped itself to become better but it was never about music virtuosity. So, how come the impact, deepness, fame and persistence over time?
Obviously, there are external factors that kept the spirit alive. The greatness of Dave Grohl, who never forgot where he came from and paid his respects every single time he got the chance. The disarming silliness of Courtney Love who instinctively fed both the love and hate of fans over the years. The other bands of the grunge scene which continued their carriers and proved that we had witnessed was an intense style even if it was not hugely represented in number: Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots. For the most rational and restrained among the audiences, these are reasons good enough to re-issued or buy any Nirvana album.
There is only one cliché I’m going to use here: there is no Nirvana without Kurt Cobain. It’s a sad story no matter how hard we try to wrap it up in shining silver paper. It’s a story about a guy who named his band Nirvana, freedom from pain and suffering while singing about pain and suffering. A guy who named his songs “Blew”, “Sliver”, “Come as You Are”, “Heart-Shaped Box”, “Lithium”, “Even in His Youth”. A guy who was talking about suicide, guns, pain, rage, his aching childhood and human atrocities with a smile on his face. Always trying to put an act on top of his running away, hoping that this way the pain will be buried so deep to be forgotten or lost forever.
For those of us who are introvert and emotional, he is the story of the little inner child sending out messages that something is not right with this constant fear of living. Messages that everyone hears but no one listens to. Because sometimes ignoring is the only thing to do. We choose to ignore the unhappiness and depressing things in our lives. It’s a survival instinct. We choose to stay children or we choose to become distorted adults. And the best way to hide a pain that no one could understand is just … smiling. I put the success of Nirvana on the account of any of these survivors. The survivors of dark feelings of any grade. The legacy of Nirvana is not in the evolution of music; what came after can be hardly named progress, it was just the extension of an image full of bands struggling to survive or conform to the music industry rules.
Stores are already full of tennis shoes and sneakers. I expect a new wave of grunge bands soon. But what we really need is Kurt’s smile. The smile beyond which lays everything that one will never know. There are people out there who get that. Many of us. And we don’t do drugs. And we didn’t kill ourselves. And we continue smiling. And sometimes we even laugh hard at the absurdity evil. Even though “The worse crime is faking it” (Kurt Cobain) “.Posted on: April 15, 2014ywannish