In memoriam: Kurt Cobain

The Turntable

I did once make a promise not to write on music greats but sometimes trawling the net can make you do things that you promised not to do. So looking up Kurt Cobain on his death anniversary threw up some strange results that ranged from his statue being unveiled to a video of some kid singing the famed 'Rape me' song but none on the genius or his life. Appalling, sometimes I feel libraries with racks of magazines and books are better than the infinite repository of information called the Internet.

This piece comes a bit too late as April 5 marked the 18th anniversary of the death of the enigmatic Kurt Cobain.

I can vividly picture the day I was introduced to Nirvana by a friend of mine. After school, we had a habit of exchanging comics, books and even music  - when this friend of mine came up to me and said 'Man,you got to listen to this, this will blow your mind' and handed me a copy of Nirvana's Nevermind.

I headed home, excited, not knowing what to expect and checked if my parents were there as in that era, listening to metal was considered by my folks as a sureshot way to drug addiction. Not seeing them at home I put the cassette in the recorder and I was in for a rude shock - being a fan of Queen, Doors, Simon and Garfunkel and The Beatles, I was not prepared for grunge. But music always fascinated me so I sat down patiently and listened to the entire album in one go. After 42 minutes, I was left breathless and was in love with the band and the vocalist Kurt Cobain.

The lyrics were dark and the music brash, but Nirvana appealed to me and thus for me and many others who grew up in the '90s, Nirvana became the rebellious version of pop music and heroes to a generation that needed a voice badly. After listening to the band a zillion times, I realised that the lyrics came straight from Cobain's heart and had an element of melancholy to it.

Eighteen years have passed since he put a bullet in his head; many are still fascinated by a mystery named Kurt Cobain. How could a person at the peak of his music career die such a ghastly death? How and why?

Kurt was heavily influenced by the The Beatles and called John Lennon his idol. His aunt Mari recalls him singing 'Hey Jude' at the age of two. Those were his happy days.His world came crashing down when his mother wanted a divorce, leaving Kurt's father to explain to the kids what was happening.

Kurt's biographer Charles R. Cross is the book 'Heavier Than Heaven', had written that the split was an 'emotional holocaust' in the singer's life. In an interview, Kurt had told Spin magazine, "I had a really good childhood, up until I was 9". This sums up his childhood - a childhood lived in bitterness post his parent's divorce as this had a profound effect on his life.

"I remember feeling ashamed, for some reason. I was ashamed of my parents. I couldn't face some of my friends at school anymore, because I desperately wanted to have the classic, you know, typical family. Mother, father. I wanted that security, so I resented my parents for quite a few years because of that," he told Guitar World.

His parent's divorce had sown the seeds of a rebellion in him and made him a recluse to a certain extent. Kurt had even befriended a gay student at school so that he could be left alone.

He once wrote on his bedroom wall: "I hate Mom, I hate Dad. Dad hates Mom, Mom hates Dad. It simply makes you want to be so sad."

His mother Wendy had once said that Kurt's personality changed dramatically after the divorce and he became defiant and withdrawn.

This is when Kurt started to find solace in music. Not many have experienced the level of adulation and fanfare that Kurt received. Nirvana only lasted for about half a decade but their music made them one of the most loved and influential bands of our times. Nirvana and Kurt dared to do the impossible by changing the music of the generation and bringing back grunge rock into the mainstream.

The passion with which Kurt sang was what made Nirvana a band with a difference, his songs touched a chord with millions of young listeners around the world as they were loud and easy but confusing at times, and emotional. Most of the lyrics penned by him reflect his trauma and that is what makes him popular and endearing to his fans.

Kurt once said, "I'd rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not." This sums up Kurt Cobain - he strummed and sang with emotion and passion, making great music which still has and will finds fans in generations to come.

But then he became a victim of his own success - his relation with his own success had soured. Kurt believed his lyrics and music to have been misinterpreted by his fans - a fact that led him to heroin addiction and depression.

On April 5, 1994, Kurt committed suicide ending his love-hate relation with life.

His suicide note was addressed to his imaginary friend  Boddah:

To Boddah

Speaking from the tongue of an experienced simpleton who obviously would rather be an emasculated, infantile complain-ee. This note should be pretty easy to understand. All the warnings from the punk rock 101 courses over the years, since my first introduction to the, shall we say, the ethics involved with independence and the embracement of your community has proven to be very true. I haven't felt the excitement of listening to as well as creating music along with reading and writing for too many years now. I feel guilty beyond words about these things. For example when we're backstage and the lights go out and the manic roar of the crowd begins, it doesn't affect me the way in which it did for Freddie Mercury, who seem to love, relish in the love and adoration from the crowd, which is something I totally admire and envy. The fact is, I can't fool you, any one of you. It simply isn't fair to you or me. The worst crime I can think of would be to rip people off by faking it and pretending as if I'm having 100% fun. Sometimes I feel as if I should have a punch-in time clock before I walk out on stage. I've tried everything within my power to appreciate it (and I do, God believe me I do, but it's not enough). I appreciate the fact that I and we have affected and entertained a lot of people. I must be one of those narcissists who only appreciate things when they're gone. I'm too sensitive. I need to be slightly numb in order to regain the enthusiasm I once had as a child. On our last 3 tours, I've had a much better appreciation for all the people I've known personally and as fans of our music, but I still can't get over the frustration, the guilt and empathy I have for everyone. There's good in all of us and I think I simply love people too much, so much that it makes me feel too fucking sad. The sad little sensitive, unappreciative, Pisces, Jesus man. Why don't you just enjoy it? I don't know! I have a goddess of a wife who sweats ambition and empathy and a daughter who reminds me too much of what I used to be, full of love and joy, kissing every person she meets because everyone is good and will do her no harm. And that terrifies me to the point where I can barely function. I can't stand the thought of Frances becoming the miserable, self-destructive, death rocker that I've become. 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 and 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 then to fade away.

Peace, Love, Empathy. Kurt Cobain.

Frances and Courtney, I'll be at your altar. Please keep going Courtney, for Frances. for her life will be so much happier without me. I LOVE YOU. I LOVE YOU