Monday, April 4, 2011

Out of the ground, into the sky... (R.I.P. Kurt Cobain)

Although a lot still remains fuzzy surrounding the death of Kurt Cobain, the fact remains that 17 years ago this month his dynamic life was cut far too short, his incredible voice was silenced and his daughter was sadly thrust into life without a father. Volumes have been written in both criticism and praise for Kurt as a person and as an artist, so it’s no surprise that his death was just as shrouded in mysteries and contradictions as his life was. His favorite instrument was contrast; noise with melody, ugliness with beauty, nonsense with meaning, and he wielded it like a classically trained composer. He wasn’t the first musician to mix quiet, nuanced verses with loud, abrasive choruses, but he did it better than most. He wasn’t the first songwriter to mix thoughtful phrases with nonsensical imagery, but he did it more poetically than most. He certainly wasn’t the first musician to be unfairly labeled with the “voice of a generation” responsibility, but he embodied it more than most. A shy, introspective guy who turned into a behemoth when he put a guitar on, Kurt brought so many people happiness with the art he created out of his pain. Although he sadly never found the resolve he had given to so many other people, I believe his voice and his songs still continue to touch people as much as they did in the 90’s. If you take Nirvana’s entire catalog and strip away all the veneer of what “grunge” and “alternative music” was categorized as, you’ll find a deeply creative well of songs, truths, mantras, melodies, invitations and catharses within the reverberating rawness. Like many other kids my age, Kurt was the reason I picked up a guitar in the first place. He let me know it was okay to write my own words instead of relying on someone else’s language to describe my own experiences and he let me know it was okay to not fit in. In fact, he encouraged us all to revel in our non-conformity. Come as you are indeed. Although Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged was recorded a few months before his death, I’ve always viewed it as a eulogy of sorts. From the somber set list to the muted set decorations, it had the eerie feel of a funeral. Their closing number, a cover of Lead Belly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night," is still one of the most mesmerizing and halting moments in musical history.

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