Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Unhappy Kurt Day: Cobain 17 Years Later

The 12 hours or so of euphoria I felt after watching my alma-mater UConn Huskies take the national championiship in Men's basketball dissipated in an instant when a friend reminded me it was the 17th anniversary of the suicide of Kurt Cobain.

Suddenly the grimness of that horrible day came flooding back - the grey Seattle sky, the curt (pardon the expression) news reading of MTV's Kurt Loder, the endless loop of Nirvana's eerie Unplugged performance. Suddenly it was 1994 all over again.

Then I realized that today, April 5, is the anniversary of Cobain's actual suicide, based on witness testimony and forensic evidence. As Nirvana fans know all too well, Kurt's last days are filled with unsolved mystery and tragedy. The day we all heard the news was April 8, when the Cobain's electrician saw one of Kurt's Converse All-Stars peeking out through the window of the room above their suburban Seattle garage and instead of calling 911, called the local radio station.

Thus Kurt Day is the grunge version of Martin Luther King Day, which is always celebrated on a Monday, regardless of when January 15th falls on the calendar. Or something like that.

Unlike the life of MLK, Kurt's crippling depression, drug addiction and seemingly inevitable suicide are not events to celebrate.

What is worth celebrating is the fire in his sprit that created the best rock music of my generation. People talk about the titans of classic rock and say "they don't make 'em like that anymore." Well, occasionally, they do, and with Kurt, they did. Just as a pure rock & roll singer, his power and vulnerability put him right up there with Lennon, Jagger, Plant, et al.

I had the good fortune to catch Nirvana live at the New York Colliseum in the fall of 1993, the same weekend they filmed their Unplugged show. One could feel the greatness and the foreboding in the air right from the start of their opener "Radio-Friendly Unit Shifter":

As the show ended with wails of feedback that sounded like the worst storm you ever heard, I remember thinking that there was no way this could last. But I never expected things to end the way they did. (You can read a fine account of this show written by friend and fellow attendee Doug at his great new site All Exits Final here.)

RIP and TCB KC, you are missed. Let's go out with Nirvana's funny-but-not live-in-the-studio cover of Terry Jacks' "Seasons in the Sun."

Get yer Nirvana on iTunes here

No comments: