He was the poster boy for “teen angst” before every suburban household had an angsty teen wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with his face. The beautiful, bankable frontman of Nirvana was the perfect tool for the money-hungry music industry moguls who would destroy him – and Nirvana was the perfect band to bring Seattle’s music scene to the masses and, more importantly, a new genre of rock music to the developing and then-uncoined “Generation X” who were beginning to get jobs and a little extra money to spend.
The lead singer and songwriter made many jabs at his tormentor/patrons in the songs, but that was never his most pressing struggle. Listening to them now, Kurt Cobain’s songs live on as documents of his explorations into himself, reactions to the world around him, and honest pleas for others to understand him. Sung with the seminal “grunge” vocal style, which acts as the moat around Castle Cobain, scaring off the weak-hearted, Mr Cobain’s fundamental genius lies in his unabashed authenticity, sharing his hopes, fears, and frustrations with whomever might care enough to decipher them.
In a couple of months every rock magazine (maybe People and TIME, too, if March is a slow enough month) will have his face on the cover to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of his death. I would rather celebrate that today is Kurt Cobain’s birthday. If he were still on this plane with us we would be turning forty-seven years of age, but he is off somewhere else. The punkest poet there ever will be is immortal now; he lives on in the earbuds of teenagers who are just discovering Nirvana through youtube clips like the one below, in the LP/CD/cassette collections of millions of adults who have sent most of their collections off to the thrift store, but not my Nirvana albums, and in the hearts of innumerably more. Kurt Cobain loved the Beatles – John Lennon most of all – and it seems clear by now that the two of them share indisputable places in the Rock and Roll Pantheon.
Happy Birthday, Kurt. Thank you for bringing your light here to shine with us for a while. You will never be forgotten.