Stain: Cobain at 45

I wasn’t cool enough or smart enough to be in on Nirvana and Kurt Cobain when I should have been (that has since been completely rectified), though I knew enough, even at the age of 12, to be saddened by his death. That’s one of those moments that I can’t shake, those things that stick out in the memory like an excited and raised arm in a still crowd. Kurt Loder, monotone and sullen, telling me through my television that Cobain had killed himself.

I remember the days that followed too, all the saddness and tears that I saw on TV and in the halls of my school with kids sat down in front of their lockers, tears running down their faces.

My mother told me what it was like to sit in a classroom as news of Kennedy’s assassination broke; I can’t think it was the same, but I can’t think it was all that different. People felt a connection to Cobain, and in the end he rejected them and this world. Maybe he had his reasons, but to those left behind there was only sadness, not understanding.

It’s been almost 18 years since that day, and while a generation has grown up absent the (almost certainly) landscape-altering music that died with Cobain, the man is still relevant and revered. Canonized in death as many are when they pass at such a young age.

Today is Cobain’s 45th birthday. He wouldn’t be a young man were he still breathing. Older, maybe different, maybe even a sellout. The ideals that shape us when we are younger have a way of betraying us, and while some are immune to that, who knows if Cobain would have been one of those lucky few.

I wonder about that and what his music would sound like now, what his voice would sound like. Would it crack after years of howling or be scrubbed of imperfection by pro tools and technical wizardry? I half-wonder about other things too, and based on the cottage industry that rose up on Cobain’s private writings and every bit of video and audio he ever appeared in or on, I am not alone.

See, the man was a mystery to us in an age that preceded social networking and the forced intimacy that being an “entertainer” demands. It’s bullshit, but everyone accepts it and so we see every cut that bleeds, catch pictures of every half-bender that rises to momentary legend status by way of TMZ and other similarly useless things.

Would we see Cobain break apart before our eyes were he to fall to pieces now, suffering from the same demons that brought him to his end? Would it matter in any way that is relevant, any way that isn’t all about voyeurism? I suspect not, as those people seem to spin until they stop, not until they are stopped.

Cobain died as he came to us — suddenly, with little warning, and with a deep impact. In the end, I don’t know how Cobain would stand as a 45 year old man because I, and you, never really knew him. And I think that’s alright. All there is is the music — that’s his stain, bled in to the fiber of us, eliciting memories from some but noted by all who come across it.

Jason Tabrys

Written by (@jtabrys)

The former editor-in-chief, Jason still reappears in the rafters of our fair site from time to time but he now spends his days leaping from one place to another, trying to put right what once went wrong. You can still find his words across the toxic constellation that is the… More »

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