Kurt Cobain’s Death: Ten Years Later

Ten years ago today, I was in my English class when I heard the news. Kurt Cobain was dead. He had blown his head off with a shotgun.

The professor, who read Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison weeks before, allowed this news to seep in. She understood the significance too well. We didn’t. At least not then.

I remember a hush lasting a minute. The power chords shimmered through my mind. Nirvana, man. Kurt Cobain. “Floyd the Barber.” “We can plant a house, we can build a tree. I don’t really care. We could have all three.” The honesty of “Rape Me.” The secret track at the end of Nevermind. The Meat Puppets there during the Unplugged appearance. All gone save through the discs we spun.

Cobain hated being hassled. He hated playing stadiums. He was raw and angry and depressed and somehow sensitive. His voice sounded like a spatula scraping paint from a wall, the noise somehow filtered through a shaky Sennheiser, and committed to a reel-to-reel machine found in somebody’s basement. He was beautiful in his simplicity. Because he was the DIY punk inside us all.

Everyone knew Nirvana. Whether they had discovered the trio (then quartet) through the amazing Bleach, or had become part of the grand throng latching onto Nevermind. Nirvana had even obtained a strange legitimacy with the Weird Al Yankovic parody, “Smells Like Nirvana.”

But was Cobain the voice of my generation? Fuck no, I said back then. I was nineteen and cocky. And I was damned if I was going to let anyone — MTV, Ted Koppel, or any pundit trying to eulogize — throw labels around. We were the generation that had grown up during Reagan. We were the generation who knew that there wasn’t the house with the picket fence and the dog and the 2.2 children. There was no American dream. There was only a nation throwing its grandchildren into debt.

Cobain gave credence to our anger. We could crank up his music and feel the shimmering cesspool of suburban impoverishment. We could deny the existence of Motley Crue or any of the hair bands that came before. Because Nirvana was about something. The music was never overtly political, but it was sure as hell visceral.

I was in a garage band back then. And we all got together that Sunday and decided to pay tribute to Nirvana. It seemed the right thing to do. We played the songs and tried to make them sound as shoddy and slapped together as Cobain’s. But it was never the same. I screamed and grumbled into the mike. We all did. But it was never Kurt’s rage.

Nobody seemed to know the secret ingredient. But Nirvana somehow worked. Cobain was the rare voice who infiltrated both mainstream and underground circles. And, like it or not, he was the voice of my generation.

[UPDATE: More memories at The Black Table. (via Maud)]

[UPDATE: More remembrances of the Daleks Cobain from Tom, Graham, Syntax, Ellen, Coolfer, and Infoleafblower.]

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  1. Hey man, that was an awesome article. For all Nirvana fans, this article means a lot! In your writing it is easy to see how you feel about Kurt Cobain and his death. Whether or not you feel it was suicide or murder, you are someone I would like to talk to about Kurt, considering the fact that I am 14, and a girl… but one huge Kurt fan! Long live Kurt Cobain… later!

  2. Thank you for your article on Kurt Cobain. It seems that everyone is teling me to shutup and move on. I am 14 years old and was influenced by my brother to listen to Nirvana ever since i was a young child. The lyrics back then did not speak to me as much as they do now. And for some reason, on Thursday, April 8th, listening to the documentaries on Kurt Cobain on the Radio and looking at the pictures across the internet saddens me. I do not think this case should be closed. Kurt Cobain should not be known to everyone as a psycho who shot himself. OKay. Mabye it was going to happen sometime. But who knows what could have happened. What if he was still around today. Imagine how today’s society would be. My peers are sucked into this whirlpool of just really bad music. Sometimes I feel like the only one that notices this. Most modern music is disgusting and frankly makes my ears hurt. We need to change this. But, without Kurt Cobain I feel as if its over and no one can change the modern music today. Kurt Cobain is my idol. Yes he was a drug addict and apparently “commit suicide” but his music still lives on, and it’s what gets me through each day. I wish he could know how much his music lives on and how it changes peoples lives. R.I.P Kurt Cobain, your are truly missed.

  3. ten years on and some people can not get over the fact that he killed him self!!! it was a sad loss to the music industry i know, but its what kurt wanted.

  4. Found on the 8th, died on the fifth.
    We all love him.
    Suicide or murder, it remains undecided.(www.cobaincase.com)
    Forever 27.
    Never Fade.

  5. hey there kurdt kobain was found the 8th i believe he died on the third of 94 which was my 5th birthday and he did not kill himself courtney love had a part in it she set him up to be killed if you don’t believe me fread the book love&Death

  6. Kurt Cobain made a diffrence and I know that even if he did commit suicide he would want Nirvana’s music to live on through all of the fans hearts!Keep the legacy going!

  7. Kurt Was the voice of us. In some way he is not gone he is alive in all of us. He is alive in his music.
    We all love him so muc.
    R.I.P Kurt

  8. I believe in the saying “A person doesn’t really ever die if their name is remembered.” Kurt Cobain will live on forever. In our hearts, and his music.

  9. Kurt Donald Cobain… Ahh, he died much too soon. He was only 27. Despite what the media says, I do believe that he was murdered. There is more evidence that he was murdered than that he committed suicide.

  10. Kurt did not commit suicide.there is a online petition for his case being reopened.his case should of never been closed in the first place.kurt cobain may have been a drug addict and apparently he was a person that would “commit suicide”,but he is also a legend and his music lives on in all of us and he is my idol and my hero.i may be young and most of the time stupid but i am not stupid enough to believe kurt killed himself.kurt was and is the voice of all us.i havent been a nirvana fan all that long but long enough to love nirvana and kurt cobain.the online petiton web address is http://www.petitiononline.com/q90x458/petition.html please check it out and sign it.i have signed it twice using diffrent email addresses.i have 10 email addresses so im about to go sign it 8 more times.i advise you all to go and sign it since you say you are a fan of nirvana and kurt cobain.”I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.”~kurt cobain.R.I.P.

  11. Kurt was a kick ass singer and it’s sad that he’s dead. And i do believe that he was murdered after seeing all the evidence….theres tons believe me….well later….LONG LIVE KURT COBAIN!

  12. Kurt was murdered. No matter what te media says I am sure that he was murdered and Courtey had something to do with this murder. I always ask ‘Why?? Why Kurt?? What has he done to end like this??’ I LOVE YOU KURT

  13. Kurt was a man, a artist, a father, a husband, a friend, a best friend, most of all a person which we should remember him as that not a heroine user or a druggy or anything that would put him down if he were still here today with us. who ever murderd Kurt Cobain should rot in hell either if it was Coutney, the man nanny or anybody else! Except Kurt Cobain if he commited suiceid then he should go toa happy place because he never had one him self . If he left us behind then he did it for a reason.

  14. nirvana & cobain rok i wish i was old enough to have experienced his music before his tragik death neway he’s always in our hearts and we will never stop listening 2 him and his kikass songs

  15. I am reading this book about how Kurt could have died and I believe that he did not kill himself. Wherever he is now, I hope he is happy, since he didn’t get it here.

  16. I hate courtney Love….she did freaking kill Kurt because look at the “Suicide Note”…look at Kurts handwritting and look at her’s….It’s not fair….Why ddi she have to kill such a good person…I mean I know he did drugs but its still doesn’t mean he wasnt a bad person….Well I guess i’ve spoken my peace

  17. i love kurts music and if he could see how it moved people today then i have a feeling he would be happy.
    He didnt like to performe but who would……. if there were a bunch of teeny boppers screaming their asses off after Nirvana got big

  18. kurt was killed. nirvana kick ass and so did he.

    sign that petition NOW. He deserves it and so does his music, and frances bean

  19. kurt cobain is the best f**king guy in the world he didnt deserve to go out the way he did and courtney did play part in it. i love kurt alot hes an amazing man and can sum1 tell me is “my hero” by foo fighters dedicated to kut?

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