Kurt Cobain changed the face of music with classics such as Smells Like Teen Spirit and Come As You Are. But would things really be 'that' different if he was still around?
It’s 18 years since Kurt Cobain’s death, yet his legacy lives on in a million copycat bands and tribute acts, all trying to recreate the anarchic spirit of his music and the global community that sprung up as a result of Nirvana. There can be little argument, the music created by Kurt Cobain and his cohorts changed the world of music forever, even if that was just to give birth to a new musical genre - 'Grunge'. As a live band they were untouchable, although probably not the type of live band you’d book for wedding entertainment!
But, perhaps the question we should be asking is, what if Cobain was still around? Would he still have earned the iconic status he enjoys in death? Are artists who die at the peak of their creativity and popularity immortalised at the height of their fame? Or, would he just have become another burnt out has-been like so many other veteran musicians?
Certainly, dying in order to achieve rock’n’roll immortality isn’t a great idea. Firstly, you’re dead, so you don’t get to enjoy all the trappings of stardom. In the case of Cobain, there were more serious repercussions for his daughter, Frances, who ended up being the rope in a traumatic custody tug-o-war between Kurt’s mother and Courtney Love. The latter openly admits she went off the rails and never really recovered from Cobain’s death. This is all part of the infamous legacy too.
Bleach, Nevermind and In Utero! John Lennon, on the other hand, had a career of some 20 years before he kicked the bucket. Even Bros had a longer career than Kurt Cobain and unfortunately no one could convince them to end it. Nirvana fans will exclaim: ‘Nirvana started the grunge movement.’ So what? It’s not a coincidence that one of the definitions for ‘grunge’ in the Oxford dictionary is ‘rubbish’. Grunge led the way for the likes of Nickelback, Creed and Bush. Kurt Cobain would be turning in his grave if he knew that his contribution to music was to make punk rock commercially acceptable. And, for that reason alone, if he were alive now, he’d probably hate himself more than he did on that fateful day he took his own life.
When it comes down to it, Kurt Cobain didn’t like being famous. He didn’t like people. He didn’t like even like his fans – who he believed misunderstood his music. For that reason, it’s very doubtful that he’d still be making music today, certainly not for the commercial record-buying masses. Becoming part of the 27 Club may have done more for Kurt Cobain’s career and legacy than his musical genius ever did. Was he really the last great rock star or just another flash-in-the-pan who ran out of creative juice when he was 27? We’ll never know.
The closest any of us will get to experiencing Nirvana live will be to catch one of Ireland’s Nirvana tribute bands. Or if you’re having a party or music event, you might even consider booking a Nirvana coverband for your live entertainment and relive your teens... rock on!
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