Flashback: Kurt Cobain, the 20th anniversary

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On April 5th 1994, the world lost a true artist. Kurt’s body was found three days later near the Washington Lake in Seattle’s Viretta Park. It is on the same spot today where people leave notes, flowers and candles as a token of their sorrow.

As the 20th anniversary of his death came around this year, unseen photos and footages started to miraculously emerge to pay tribute to the singer. Experiencing Nirvana – an exhibition that reveals unknown off-stage photos of the band is now open to the public in Camden, London. 15 minute video footage of Nirvana’s last concert in Los Angeles in 1993 that the filmmaker Markey came across through his other videos has been available to watch online. A deluxe edition of Nirvana’s last album ‘In Utero’ with unheard B-sides and bonus tracks have also been released. On April 10th this year, Hoquiam in Washington celebrated the first official Nirvana Day – the world has been so eager to show that it still cares and remembers this timeless legend.

20 years after his death, Cobain continues to be the one of the brightest stars in the music universe. But in all honesty, how does one begin to accept his absence when you have his music keeping his memory alive? Kurt Cobain is still around us through every tune of his being played or lyrics of his being scribbled down in a notebook. It is art, with its ability to immortalise the work of spectacular individuals, that enables an artist to live forever.

During his short life, the young Kurt could not escape the burden of his depression or the dangerous spiralling of his drug addiction.  But as troubled as he was emotionally, I believe that his mind was that of a genius. Kurt Cobain used the art of music to scream out of all his anxiety, but unfortunately in the end his fate was sealed as he surrendered to the demons in his mind. It seems that he felt too much, and thus needed to find a way to mute it all – as he poignantly wrote in the note found near his body, he thought it far better for him to ‘burn out than to fade away’

 

A fascination with Kurt is a fascination with his legacy, in that his music portrays a multitude of emotions – both aggressive and melodic at the same time – which seems to have reflected his sensitive, yet tortured, personality. It is the kind of music that articulates deep feelings from the darkest corners of the heart. His tunes and lyrics are swollen with intensity, pain, and confusion, and led Nirvana to have an enormous impact on the alternative rock music era. After the death of the lead singer, the alternative genre was pinned down to a specific sound that was more or less trying to imitate Nirvana’s. But nothing huge could be produced, the biggest movement in rock culture was already made by Nirvana and could not be surpassed. In an interview, Billie Joe Armstrong admits, “I remember hearing it when `Nevermind’ came out and just thinking, ‘we’ve finally got our Beatles, this era finally got our Beatles’, and ever since then it’s never happened again.”

One thing Kurt did not agree with was him being declared as the Spokesman of Generation X, after the release and huge success of ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’. In an interview with Rolling Stone in 1991, Kurt claimed that his music spoke only for himself. “It just so happens that there’s a bunch of people that are concerned with what I have to say. I find that frightening at times because I’m just as confused as most people. I don’t have the answers for anything. I don’t want to be a fucking spokesperson.” If he only knew how big this ‘bunch’ of confused people has grown, he would be thrilled and scared at the same time. He might not necessarily be a spokesman for a certain generation, but nothing can alter the fact that his music touched many. It will always be relevant and full of meaning for his adoring listeners, music they can relate to. This is why, 20 years on, Kurt Cobain is still the name on everybody’s lips.

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