I’m currently reading ‘Here we are now, the lasting impact of Kurt Cobain’, by Charles R. Cross, the journalist who also wrote ‘Heavier than heaven’, an excellent biography of Kurt (it’s excellent even though the murder theory is dismissed a bit too easily, in my opinion).
Now that I’m 4 years older than Kurt was at the time of his death, my view of him is getting a somewhat different perspective. I’m reading (and inevitably judging) the actions of a person who never got to be older than 27.
When I was 27 I was… a child. Looking back I was still a child, I didn’t know anything. Now that I’m four years older than Kurt at the time of his death I’m getting an inkling of an understanding of what it must have been like to be catapulted to such worldwide fame at such a young age. I know I wouldn’t have handled it very well at the age of 24/25 (the age Kurt got to be really famous).
Also weird is that my empathy for him hasn’t become less, but has grown. Perhaps because my empathy in general has grown over the years. I’m starting to look at him as a kid who was a little lost and was finding his way in the world. Intuitively I’m guessing he wasn’t the depressed, dark, suicidal creature we are often led to believe. Friends report he was often laughing and had a great sense of humor. Well, I suppose my friends would say the same and I’ve been suicidal for long periods of my life.
All in all I’m wondering why I’m still reading about Kurt Cobain. I’m not a huge music fan any more, I’ve discovered ZERO bands in 2014. The only songs I’ve discovered I’ve picked up from movies or series I’ve watched. No, I’m not a huge music fan. I relate somewhat to him of course. He was spoilt. He’s a Pisces. He was very sensitive. He was a control freak. He wasn’t as sweet as he looked. He could be nasty if he wanted to. I suppose I relate very much to his being a control freak. It doesn’t look like that on the surface, but he was. His band members had no doubt who was the boss. He looks like some dwarfed, disheveled angel, but he called the shots. And he chose to surround himself with very passionate people. I don’t think Nirvana’s success was an accident. Every step Kurt took was towards success, even though he later came to hate the effects of such massive success (having the wrong sort of fans in Kurt’s eyes for example, having to perform when he didn’t feel like it, being expected to keep repeating himself, he wanted to evolve a lot, he often referred to the remarkable evolution the Beatles went through).
I’m not a musician, so Nirvana and Kurt can’t influence me musically. How did they influence me then?
They just went for it. They decided they wanted to make music, and they did. They had no money, came from nowhere and they didn’t settle for jobs, they worked at their craft (a lot!) and they did it. The band went through serious hickups, but they kept at it. I don’t know if there’s a formula for success (the quest for the holy grail of our age, it seems, is looking for the formula to achieve success) to be derived from their example. They were deeply influenced by the music they liked and they built on that. The Beatles and Black Sabbath to name only two. They knew what they liked, they knew what they wanted to deliver and they kept at it until they did. And even at the height of their success they kept challenging themselves to be true to their art. My favorite album is ‘In Utero’ (and I like the third cd of ‘with the lights out even better’. It was called ‘commercial suicide’, and in a small way it was. It never reached the insane selling figures of ‘Nevermind’, but it’s an incredible work of art, it’s a blast of melodic, LOUD authenticity.
So perhaps that’s the impact of Nirvana on me. A call to:
A) Put in a lot of work to get good at what I do, ignoring orthodox distractions such as getting a loan to finance a house
B) To stay very true to your self and to do just that
C) To know who influenced you, give them the credit that is due, and build on that
D) Not to marry Courtney Love
E) Beware of what money does. ‘Expenses rise to meet income’. I’m saying this because Kurt started to worry about money only AFTER becoming very wealthy. The more money you have the more you start to spend. Kurt also mentions that lots of pleasure he had when being poor, were gone when he hit the jackpot. He mentions for example that he no longer had the satisfaction of walking into a second hand shop and walking out with something great at a bargain price. If you can buy the whole store, there is not much satisfaction in hunting for something beautiful, but cheap. So perhaps they urge me to love what I do, regardless of what it gets me… And that is a very hard thing for me to do, perhaps they force me to acknowledge that.