Today marks the seventeenth anniversary of the death of Kurt Cobain. The music he and his bandmates in Nirvana created helped to catapult the indie rock underground of the 1980s into the public spotlight and forge a new rock mainstream, inspiring and influencing millions of listeners.
But Cobain, who never found an effective way to cope with that spotlight, would likely prefer to be remembered as a person, not as an icon of sadness, forever moping over his guitar on the set of Unplugged:
Remember Kurt Cobain, the music nerd, who wore Daniel Johnston t-shirts while extras in Sonic Youth videos wore Nirvana t-shirts, yet who “danced his ass off” (per Mary Lou Lord) to the jukebox disco at an after-party at a club after a NYC show.
Remember Kurt Cobain, the strident leftist, who in August 1990 spray-painted “GOD IS GAY” on the side of a conservative Christian “pregnancy crisis center” in Olympia, WA, as Kathleen Hanna recalled (NSFW) late last year at Joe’s Pub.
Remember Kurt Cobain, the goofball, who in Dave Markey’s remarkable documentary 1991: The Year Punk Broke (sadly, unavailable on DVD) bonded with Sonic Youth, whether (along with Dave Grohl) convincing Kim Gordon to apply lipstick on him (as gender-play, sure, but also just as play), or dancing hippie-like to whatever beat-poet nonsense Thurston Moore was shouting through the PA that he apparently carried everywhere he went all across Europe.
Kurt Cobain (February 20, 1967 – “ April 5, 1994)