Looking Back at Kurt Cobain

Lately I’ve been pretty obsessed with Kurt Cobain. My husband accused me of having a crush on him. I don’t have a crush on him. But I do have a crush on my youth, nostalgia. I have a crush on what could have been, on trying to figure out what was.

I wasn’t edgy enough to be obsessed with Nirvana when they were still around. I was too busy listening to timeless bands like Poison and Skid Row and The Bangles. This is something I am deeply ashamed of. However thanks to the power of the Internet, I can obsess about Nirvana now and add them to the list of people I’d wish I’d seen live when I had the chance (this list includes Michael Jackson and Bob Marley).

Here are my trail of crumbs in trying to understand who Kurt Cobain was and some thoughts on his death.

Kid Kurdt (Montage of Heck, HBO)

I saw Montage of Heck when it came out on HBO earlier this year. God I miss grunge. Something about the shininess of today’s artists make me yearn for how ripped apart and messy it was, I guess the way my parents miss Ray Charles or Neil Diamond. His voice was undeniable, it came from somewhere. And I savored the moments none of us were ever supposed to witness — Courtney taking a bath, Kurt nodding off during Frances’ haircut, tuning his guitar during MTV Unplugged saying he didn’t need anymore tea — these moments offer an intimacy and sadness so pure it breaks your heart. You feel like you might have known him, really known him, even though the truth is you have no clue.

A month later, I watched Soaked in Bleach on Vimeo — basically an extended interview with the private investigator Courtney Love hired to find Kurt after he disappeared from a rehab center. Now, I hate conspiracy theories. I hate them because I get caught up in them too easily. Who knows, maybe conspiracy theories are the government’s way of controlling us.

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you. — Joseph Heller (and Kurt Cobain)

I had to watch it though. The parts that struck me most were the voice recordings of Courtney Love—it’s Courtney’s voice, discussing Kurt’s disappearance in the same breath as Kurt turning down Lollapalooza. She goes on to say that if he didn’t want to do it then her band could do it and think of all that money. I was all like, huh? This self-obsessed woman was the love of his life? Part of me could understand how a wife would want her husband to provide for their family and be disappointed in him not doing that. But then the other part of me… wishes she had not been like that.

I watched this interview with Kurt Cobain on a boat. This is something you never see today — the interviewer lets him talk. Doesn’t interrupt him. Is okay with silences and long pauses. Maybe Kurt was full of shit most of the time, but this interview just makes him seem like the most genuine, humble, intelligent guy in the industry.

Favorite part… 16:02, where he makes a joke about hiring a hitman and the interviewer almost takes it seriously.

I watched this interview with Kurt, Krist and Dave, three stoned kids fucking with us. Nirvana was beyond anti-establishment. We can’t even reach that level of anti-establishment anymore because anti-establishment has become so established. I don’t think they ever would’ve become a parody of themselves because they would’ve kept changing, kept moving, but maybe that’s just me being optimistic.

Favorite part… 1:00 where Kurt reminds everyone that trees came before logs

I watched this interview with him holding Frances. Here, as ever, Nirvana sits in stark contrast to the awards-obsessed artists of today.

“I’m not an artist”

I bought a collection of his notebook ramblings.

Some favorite quotes:

I’ve been told that an artist is in need of constant tragedy to full express their work, but I am not an artist
Grow old and reminisce about the days when I was a professional reminiscer.
Suck em in with quality entertainment then hit em with reality.

What a completely baffling human being. Are all human beings this baffling?

Theories and revelations

Buzz Osborne responded to Montage of Heck by saying almost everything out there about Kurt Cobain is bullshit. Finally, something I can believe?

But because my brain can’t stop thinking about this, I’ve come to the conclusion that I know what killed Kurt Cobain, and yes you can add this to the list of theories already out there.

I think it was Love, both upper and lower case.

We all know the time-honored story of women who are so blinded with the need for love that they do the craziest things to have it and even crazier things when they can’t. It happens to men, too. And I think it happened to Kurt.

He only had one girlfriend before he married Courtney. She was loving and supportive but probably not interesting enough for Kurt and the life he was destined to lead.

Then he met Courtney, who he himself described as “raging with ambition”. And yes, she was. And still is. She went after him, and he felt loved. But it wasn’t love.

When he left the Rehab center that day, he didn’t go to Courtney who was only 10 minutes away. He flew back to Seattle alone. And four days later he killed himself.

I think his heart was broken.

Kurt realized he had everything and wanted none of it. He didn’t want to be the star he’d worked so hard to become. He didn’t want to be divorced. He didn’t want to be a shitty father. Maybe he didn’t want to give up heroin. And he was too young to know that it could eventually be okay — the music would be ok, his daughter would be ok, and he’d find love again. And he had no one to tell him that, because everyone around him was completely and utterly checked out.

It’s hard to blame anyone for his death. The combination of youth, drugs and fame put blinders on him and everyone around him.

“Life teaches you how to live it, if you live long enough.” -Tony Bennett

Putting myself in the shoes of someone about to take their life is one of the most profoundly depressing thoughts I can have. I try to imagine how utterly alone and hopeless a person must feel in order to do that. I’ve had only fractions of that feeling in my lifetime, here and there. But I always had something — some answer, a way out, or someone to keep going for. Then I imagine taking that thing away.

I think about everyone who loved that person and how the rest of their own lives are a never-ending string of what-ifs — what if I had said this, what if I had done that, what if I had called, what if I had gone over there, what if I’d stayed home, or done one thing differently…maybe he’d still be here.

I wish anyone feeling that alone would have someone, anyone, to tell them to keep going, to push through to the other side, and that they’re not alone. And I wish that person could find a way to believe it.

I read this “what-if” about the rest of Kurt’s life had he not died in 1994. It’s a future that’ll only ever exist in our imagination. I hate futures like that.

Written by me, Sarah Cooper, who usually writes comedy :-)