Remembering Kurt Cobain?

kurt_cobain1(sound of someone knocking at the door)

“Hello, Mr. Cobain, are you in there? This is your electrician.

(more knocking)

Hello?!

(Sound effect of a shotgun blast)

This was the outgoing message on my answering machine 15 years ago yesterday, after Kurt Cobain’s body was discovered by an electrician. I thought it was timely and morbidly humorous.

Many of my friends did not find it funny at all. My friend Greg didn’t talk to me for a while afterward or at least he didn’t want to. For Greg, and many others, Kurt Cobain’s death was a big deal. It was an emotional time. For me, it was an annoying time as I was forced to hear Cobain lionized as the savior of music.

I grew up in a small town, and it pissed me off that the kids who had been making fun of me for years because of my “weird music” were all of a sudden listening to, and telling me about, the same bands I had been trying to tell them about for years. It’s ridiculous to me now, but at 21 this was a big deal. The ironic thing is that Cobain also struggled with this sort of thing as Nirvana audiences grew to include the kind of kids who would have beat him up a few months before “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was released.

I enjoy Nirvana much more now than I allowed myself to when Kurt Cobain was alive, and I regret that my immaturity caused me to miss seeing them in concert. I also understand the reaction to the suicide now, although I don’t think that people were upset about losing Kurt Cobain the person.

Allow me to explain…

Nine years after Cobain’s suicide, I woke up to find Elliott Smith had killed himself. I cried that morning. And I didn’t leave an outgoing voicemail about stabbing oneself either. But, a few hours after the initial shock, I realized that I wasn’t crying because I cared about Elliott Smith the person. I had never met him. Instead, I was crying because I cared about Elliott Smith the artist. Did I ever worry about him because he was an off again on again heroin addict? Did I ever care that he was a sad guy? No. As long as he churned out excellent albums like “Either/Or and “Xo” I didn’t care what hell he had to go through.

I contend that most music lovers, if given the choice, wouldn’t rid an artist of their inner demons if it meant they would no longer have the art created by those “tortured” artists. I know I wouldn’t. In some cases, I may even help the fuckers out. For example, while I think it’s great that the members of Aerosmith kicked all their nasty addictions, if getting back on heroin would make Joe Perry write another riff as kick ass as “Back in the Saddle,” I’d tie him off myself and cook up some China White.

What about you? How would you answer the following  hypothetical question?

The musician who created your favorite album of all time is addicted to heroin. It’s slowly killing him, but you can  save him from his eventual, fatal overdose. If you choose to save him, however, your favorite album of all time ceases to exist. What do you do?

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2 Responses

  1. Brief answer:
    I get the impression that this discussion is about our selfish intentions and desires. I had a lot of thoughts, but my favorite was this: Let the artist get better. A period of sobriety can still end in the next addiction. If we allow our musical inspirations to keep returning to their torment—-that means every now and then we get a contemporary and relevant piece of art.

  2. While I’d wish pain and suffering on no living creature, I’m going to use my hypothetical omnipotence to go back and save my mom, or maybe kill Hitler. I don’t feel a special debt to the rich stranger who wrote my favorite songs. They got paid for their work in fame, money and groupies, so I think we’re square.

    But ask me if I’d trade lives with them for a while, knowing I’d have to endure their addiction. I mean, I have kids, so no permanent switch. But to be a rock god for a week, even one with a heroin habit and/or depression issues?

    Have you seen the movie Strange Days? When that technology is available, I’ll be first in line to sign up for the “week in the life of Mick Jagger in his prime” memory even if half of those memories are a drug-induced fog, it’d still be amazing.

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