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Nineteen years ago, on April 5, 1994, the legendary Nirvana founder Kurt Cobain passed away. Defined by some as a shotgun blast heard by the entire world, the one that killed Cobain left many fans and followers in anxiety and pain. However, death did not impede Cobain’s ability to remain an icon and point of reference for people of generations to follow, who share a particular vision of the world and a peculiar kind of emotional bond.
With only a few years of public activity, Kurt Cobain managed to remain in the heart of tons of people who have felt deeply connected to his artistic genius and personality for almost two decades. The continued relevance of his songs and thoughts is astonishing. After 19 years Cobain is still saying what many do not dare, taking the stands many still won’t, and continuous to connect with those who lack profound representation.
The work of Cobain did not end with his life. The message he spread around the world in the years of his musical activity has been enhancing itself even after his death. The shades of emotions he addressed and presented are still found in his voice and resounding among many people who find a daily refuge in them. The way he addressed extremely real and raw feelings in his songs and interviews has offered a hand to people defined as misfits by society; with his attitude Cobain told those misfits it is o.k. to be one, and it is o.k. to care.
The legacy of the late musician from Aberdeen goes beyond music, albeit through music. Recognized by many as one of the most influential artists of all times, he has put in music something rare to find these days: honesty, depth and humility.
Nevertheless Cobain’s persona has also suffered from that special illness affecting the ‘great ones’ of different eras: his personality has been used, copied and manipulated, to be used as a representation of a cool and alternative way of living. “I’d rather be dead than cool” said the late Cobain in the song “Stay Away.” A sick irony wants him to be both. In a society which allows holograms of dead musicians to perform on a stage never chosen, which seems to be willing to worship appearance in place of substance, and which celebrates the manic obsession with popularity at any cost, even the figure of Cobain, who has always fought against this very concepts, has been violated by not-so-genuine intentions.
The point is not the personal battles of the late musician’s family members, such as his wife, nor the use of Cobain’s name by those who should take care of his legacy. It is the concept of him, distorted by the media and the industry as a representation of something originally criticized by the musician, which is sickening.
The last months are a good example of the improper use of his name. In the wake of “Nevermind”s 20th anniversary edition’s success, Nirvana and Cobain’s name have been over-used with no respect at all, as in the case of the so-called acclaimed ‘Nirvana Reunion,’ on the occasion of the Sound City project carried out by Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl. It is hard to reunite a three piece band of which the founder, singer, guitarist, composer, lyricist, artwork and occasional video designer, and inventor has been dead for 19 years. Nevertheless this does not matter to those who want to sell a magazine, screaming there will be a Nirvana tour with somebody else filling in. Nor does it for somebody wanting to use Cobain’s face in order to promote their new album, because liking Cobain is cool. For some reason, it even became acceptable to read his journals, the most intimate expression of a person’s emotions. When one becomes an icon such as Cobain, respect does not always matter.
As in every human situation, Cobain’s state of being an icon has taken good and bad turns. Luckily, the good seems to be winning. Kurt Cobain needs no reunion, no holograms, and no advertisement to stay real and present in this world: his vision and honesty keep on marking his presence, and the shot which killed him still sounds thunderous in the hearts of many.
“Cobain can you hear the spheres singing songs off Station to Station?” sing the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Californication, invoking the philosophical concept according to which the universe is made of constantly moving celestial bodies, which produce music. This is probably one of the most beautiful wishes for the late Kurt Cobain: to be peacefully listening to the songs of his favorite Bowie’s album while floating in the universe, far from the noisy madness created around his name.
Image credit: Niadub via Flickr.com