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American Scream • Kurt Cobain – 20 Years Gone

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20 years ago today, a man extinguished himself from this world …

Wow. Can anyone believe that it’s been 20 years since Kurt Cobain‘s passing? On April 5, 1994, I wasn’t yet 14 years old and the future still seemed hopeful. 20 years ago, President Bill Clinton’s America was ever the beacon of hope, prosperity, and a model example of everything working out for once. The 90’s youth were the rulers of their own destiny, and (at least in the beginning of it all), MTV copied what we were doing and not the other way around.

Niroma

… the only alleviation from the cold was purchasing an overpriced flannel shirt from Vivienne Westwood.

In April, 1994 Starbucks was edging its way into America’s coffee-addicted consciousness by riding on the back of the “Seattle Sound”, as if to say, “Hey, we’re from there too!” It seemed like everyone was feeling the chill blowing from the Pacific Northwest, and the only alleviation from the cold was purchasing an overpriced flannel shirt from Vivienne Westwood. On April 5th, 1994, Kurt Donald Cobain went into the room above the garage of his pricey home in an affluent neighborhood on 171 Lake Washington Boulevard in Seattle, Washington, and ended it all with a shotgun blast.

nirvana_93

We remember April 5th because the unofficial voice of Generation X… was silenced forever.

20 years ago today, a man extinguished himself from this world and for those who remember that terrible day, they will glue themselves to their computers, tablets, or phones and read about twenty articles just like this one, all pretty much saying the same thing. We, journalists and bloggers alike (is there really a difference anymore?), will memorialize the death of a person who helped change the face of music. Why do we do it? Why is April 5th, 1994 more important than say June 15, 1989 (the day Nirvana released “Bleach“) or for all of you posers out there, September 24, 1991 (You guessed it. The day “Nevermind” was released.) I’ll tell you why we remember April 5th. We remember April 5th because the unofficial voice of Generation X, my generation and yours, was silenced forever. Sure, we can always go back and listen to the music (which, if you just count Nirvana’s studio albums as they were originally released, comes out to 53 songs total from Bleach to In Utero.)

Cobain_suit

… the youth of America pointing the accusatory finger … letting them know that they fucked up.

Purists like to that it was Soundgarden who got signed to a major label first and thus are the ones who got the whole ball rolling on the Seattle scene and everything that came with it, but I don’t really care who got signed first or was the one to wear the first flannel shirt. That’s nitpicking. Nirvana, whether you were a fan or not, was an important band. The band’s importance in the flames of history stems not from originality, because Nirvana was not original. If anything, Nirvana was a revivalists group. Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl took the punk formula and added a heavy dose of distortion with helping of pop. The media called it Grunge rock. I called it mine. Grunge was pent-up aggression that spilled over. It was the youth of America pointing the accusatory finger back at the baby boomers and letting them know that they fucked up. The youth were just a product of their elders fuck ups, and you know what? We wouldn’t have had it any other way. Generation X was bigger than Seattle and I guess that’s what the reporters from back then didn’t seem to get. The youth were on the cusp of a second unified rebellion. Nirvana wasn’t the catalyst. They were the excuse.

Kurt_finger

how many of us can honestly say that we were ever innocent to begin with?

So here we are and it’s 20 years later. I wouldn’t get have guessed at 13 years old that one day I would be sitting at my laptop recounting what Nirvana meant to me growing up; Hell, what Nirvana means to me now. It’s very easy for me to slip back to that time in life as some of the most confusing and yet also some of the happiest moments of my life. Sure, there are more than a few moments where I can say that my teenage years weren’t all that and a bag of chips, but what man or woman can honestly say that theirs was any different. Like anything else in life, you had your ups and your downs. Sometimes more down than up, but then again, there were some bright, shining moments where that was reversed. That’s life, folks. So, to bring this back down to the question posed earlier, why do we remember Kurt Cobain on his D-day? We remember him on his D-day because by doing so, we’re reminded of what we lost on that day. Not our innocence (because how many of us can honestly say that we were ever innocent to begin with?) What we lost on that fateful day was one of our peers.

Contemplative

Last month, it was reported that a Seattle police officer who was going through the Cobain case had found a roll of undeveloped film. What was this film going to show? Would the film somehow show us something that would merit re-opening the case into Cobain’s death? I, like many people want to believe that there is more to Kurt’s death than just a mere suicide, but whatever the case, Seattle police put the rumors of re-opening Kurt’s case quickly to bed. It was ruled a suicide on April 8th, 1994 when his body was found and unless something more solid comes to light, a suicide it shall remain.

Kurt_final_roll

the rebellious spirit… shall never fade away.

Kurt Cobain might have been our reluctant “spokesman” and all that jazz, but when you barebones it, he was one of us. When he died, we mourned him not only because we knew we weren’t going to hear anything new he might’ve said, but we also mourned him because it meant that now we had to raise our own voices just a little louder; we had to keep the rebellion at full tilt. We had no other way to give our rebellion relevance than to keep pushing back. Did the rebellion succeed? Did Kurt die in vain? The rebellion was surely overshadowed with the radio and video prominence of acts such as Green Day and the Spice Girls, and historians have tried to paint the years 1990-1994 as just another fad, but for those that lived it, it was surely more than that. For a brief moment in time, WE had taken over, WE had shaped the world to our will, and in a world that’s run by bigwig authority, for a few years, WE were the authority that the bigwigs looked to for guidance. Final summation? On this April 5th and with all the April 5th’s to follow, instead of remembering how Kurt died, let us instead remember his example that man can change the course of their own existence simply by raising their voice. We remember Kurt 20 years later because remembering Kurt reminds us that although heroes of the rebellion die, the rebellious spirit is everlasting and it shall never fade away.

Kurt Cobain

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