23 years ago today, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain killed himself after his struggles with stardom, various physical ailments, drug addiction, and the problems that stemmed from them became too much for him to bear. The suicide note that was found in his Seattle home ended, before the postscript, with the Neil Young lyric “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” Even though his life was quickly extinguished by a self-inflicted shotgun blast to the face, the legacy and influence of Cobain and Nirvana continue to live on and will never truly fade from the public and cultural conscious. It will certainly never wear off on me.
The music Kurt wrote was raw, loud, and aggressive. It spanned a range of emotions that anyone can tap into, especially if you’re moody like I am at times. When I’m going through a particularly nasty downswing in mood, one of the most therapeutic steps I can take is blasting the Nirvana discography and letting the music drain those negative emotions out. More than any other band or musician I listen to, I feel like Cobain is speaking to me and I can connect with the genuine angst or sadness or elevated happiness he’s expressing. I realize that sounds messed up, especially since Kurt had much bigger problems then I do, but I think it’s a testament to the fact that we’re all a little off in some way and his music provides a perfect soundtrack and outlet for that.
Listening to Nirvana and watching interviews with Kurt has also greatly influenced how I consume art in its various forms. Musically speaking, I used to be strictly of the mindset that “If it ain’t heavy metal, it ain’t worth listening to,” which is a funny thing to say out loud to get a rise out of people but a dangerous belief to legitimately hold. Although grunge and alternative rock don’t deviate all that far away from the hard rock and heavy metal I normally listen to, it was the start of my willingness to listen to music, watch movies, and view other forms of art that don’t fall within my normal comfort zone. I also gained an appreciation for the emotive aspects of the art and artist, and not to immediately dismiss things that are considered weird or unconventional.
Perhaps the greatest legacy Kurt left behind was the feeling you’re connecting with a real, genuine person through his music and interviews. That you don’t need to be an untouchable rock god in order to create music that people will enjoy and appreciate, which makes it not relatable. I’m paraphrasing here, but Kurt once said in an interview that anything can be good as long as it sounds good and has passion, a sentiment I agree with and think anyone can do. This line of thinking helps inspire others to create art and express themselves no matter their talent level. Hell, that mindset is what got me into writing. I’m not some Pulitzer winner, but I try my honest-to-God best to write articles with sincerity and passion (Even the dumb ones about partying) and hope that there’s an audience that can relate or at the very least find them enjoyable.
Cobain’s death occurred when I was three years old, so I can’t and won’t sit here and reminisce about where I was when I heard the news or tell you how it affected me at the time. But he was a fascinating person, and his music and legacy profoundly influenced me in many ways, just as they have many others. I will go so far to say as they are the most important band of my life. It’s almost hard to believe that some dude and his band from Aberdeen, Washington were able to leave such a huge, indelible mark on our culture, but that’s almost the beauty of the entire thing. There may have been better, musically superior bands that followed Nirvana after Smells Like Teen Spirit opened the door for them to break into the mainstream and thrive, but none of them will have the lasting impact that Kurt did. Long live Nirvana, and long live Kurt Cobain..
Image via MTV / YouTube