Saturday, April 5, 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Kurt Cobain. Five days later, the surviving members of the band will stand on a stage to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Few artists have had the impact of Cobain with such a small body of work.
The following post is a collection of thoughts about the life and death of Kurt Cobain. It is written by our editor, Jeffrey Clayton.
Feel free to share your thoughts on Cobain below.
"It's better to burn out than to fade away."
-- Neil Young
Kurt Cobain quoted Neil Young in his suicide note. That knowledge has stuck with Neil Young ever since. Ironically, it was Young who was desperately trying to contact Cobain not long before the Nirvana front-man took his own life.
On April 5, 1994, Kurt Cobain pulled the trigger on a shotgun.
His life was over at 27.
Conspiracy theorists still believe that Cobain did not kill himself. Because of that note, I believe he did it.
Kurt Cobain's suicide note reads like it was written by a conflicted soul. That is the word I use to summarize Cobain's life and career.
Kurt Cobain was a conflicted person. Many of his fans contend that he was an underground artist who was thrust into stardom he never wanted. That's simply not true.
Kurt Cobain wanted Nirvana to become the biggest rock band in the world.
At least that's how he felt in 1990. While seeking a major record label, Cobain would tell record executives that he wanted Nirvana to be the biggest rock band in the world.
But, Kurt Cobain was conflicted.
He was the tortured artist, but he also loved to laugh.
He loved the Beatles and Sex Pistols.
When Nirvana became the biggest band in the world, they did the typical "big band" things. Nirvana played MTV Unplugged. But, they did not play Smells Like Teen Spirit and they brought the Meat Puppets on stage and played three of their songs.
Because, Kurt Cobain was conflicted.
That does not make Kurt Cobain special. Everybody is conflicted. But, we often look at things in black and white. Because, it is the 20th anniversary of his death, there will be thousands of comments about how Cobain and Nirvana were the greatest, gone too soon, and irreplaceable. But, there will be thousands more thoughts claiming Cobain was overrated, whiny, and cowardly.
Kurt Cobain had an undeniable impact on our culture. That is exactly what any artist seeks to accomplish. He was a conflicted man who had a special connection with millions of conflicted fans.
When you read the suicide note, you read Kurt's realization that the conflict is still there. Platinum albums, headlining festivals, and cultural impact do not matter when you are conflicted.
But, it was more than a rock star on drugs.
From Cobain's suicide note:
"I have it good, very good, and I'm grateful, but since the age of seven, I've become hateful towards all humans in general. Only because it seems so easy for people to get along that have empathy. Only because I love and feel sorry for people too much I guess.
Thank you all from the pit of my burning, nauseous stomach for your letters and concern during the past years. I'm too much of an erratic, moody baby! I don't have the passion anymore, and so remember, it's better to burn out than to fade away."
Cobain's parents divorced when he was seven. That changed everything about Kurt. He also suffered from chronic stomach pain. That is actually the reason he started to use heroin.
Kurt Cobain was a man with a lot of problems. He turned to music for an outlet. The results were incredible for his fans. But, music did not solve his problems.
You should look somewhere else for an answer on why exactly people commit suicide. Mental health is a serious issue that should get more of our attention.
But, we all wish that Kurt Cobain would have thought more about another line from the same Neil Young song. It is a line that Young has specifically emphasized at concerts for the last twenty years.
"Once you're gone, you can't come back."