It was 15 years ago today that Kurt Cobain took his own life with a shotgun blast to the head. His body and suicide note would be found three days later at his Seattle home.
A very polarizing individual, everyone has their own opinions about the quality of his music, his status as a celebrity, and the appropriateness of memorializing his death because of its “ugly” qualities– the fact that it was a suicide and that Kurt’s continuous struggle with drug addiction was probably an influencing factor. But for a lot of people, Nirvana’s music and Kurt’s death constitute defining moments in their adolescence, and are therefore worth memorializing.
The truth is that we depend upon artists to be the whipping boys for all our inner demons– to feel intensely and confront directly the emotions and frightening parts of the human psyche that the rest of us struggle daily to keep under control or to ignore, and to somehow encapsulate those battles in four minutes and thirty seconds worth of commercially viable radio catharsis. Sometimes they lose those battles–casualties of an unseen war whose only manifestations are the writing, the acting, the painting, or the music the rest of us so enjoy.
When those battles are lost, the rest of us remain the beneficiaries of their wills, inheriting a legacy of life experiences described vibrantly and succinctly through a lens of concentrated emotion that is at once both out of control and carefully contained in an artistic format– be that literary, visual, or aural.
So I don’t feel at all inappropriate or pandering in memorializing his passing and recognizing his own unique contribution to the rock music canon.
Rest in peace, Kurt. And thanks for the music.