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Sun Is Gone But I Have A Light Thinking About Kurt Cobain
By Ross R. Thompson
In a few weeks it will be the anniversary of Kurt Cobainís death (April 8, 1994). Seven years ago, the musician retreated to his Seattle home, put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. We should be used to suicide by now. It happens all the time. But it still remains a Christian taboo, the ultimate act of cowardice: a defiant gesture; pulling down the temple; rejecting Godís love. Primo Levi did it. Sid Vicious did it. Jim Morrison may have done it, but no one can be sure. Dave Gahan tried it a few times and failed. Sylvia Plath tried it a few times and eventually succeeded. Third time lucky. The world moves on. So it goes.
Kurt may have had a few failed pleas for release himself. A month before he took his own life, the singer checked into a hotel in Rome, swallowed a bunch of sedatives as if they were sweets and washed them down with a whole lot of champagne. Most journalists wrote that it was just another petulant artist acting up again, albeit a sulk that dragged Kurt into a near fatal coma.
Perhaps it was an accident and perhaps it was on purpose. Too much money and too much teen angst. If anything it was a cry for help. Not a lot of people were listening. So it goes.
The news spread around the world like flu. Some stations dared to show Kurtís lifeless body, lying on the floor of his Seattle home. Parents tsk-tsked and complained about the young generation. No sense of responsibility, leaving behind a wife and daughter like that. What sort of music are the young folk listening to nowadays?
Radio stations played his bandís records as a mark of respect. Fans held vigils outside their heroís Seattle home and in parks across the country. They drank and wore their Nirvana T-shirts. They knitted quilts and burnt candles and refused to acknowledge that grunge was over. The day the music died. So it goes.
A different generation did the same thing a decade and a half before, when John Lennon left this world on the business end of a gun. That was a tragedy though. Lennon died by someone elseís hand. The man who murdered him was locked up and the hippie dream was locked up with him. The hopes and dreams of the peace and love community were snuffed out. So it goes.
People sifted through Kurtís lyrics for hidden meanings, for subliminal messages. Some shred of reasoning for why a man so gifted should choose to cut short his life in such an ugly way. ĎAnd I swear that I donít have a guní took on cruel irony. Bad taste jokes were bandied about just as they were when everyone from Freddy Mercury or Buddy Holly died in their own respective ways. Some jokes even bordered on being funny. We all felt uncomfortable - laughing about it made it easier.
Some crackpots suggested that he was murdered. The FBI did it. Courtney Love did it. Aliens did it. We all tried to ignore the fact that he had done it himself.
Perhaps the note that he had left would offer us some clues. We felt as useless as Daphne in Scooby Doo as we tried to decipher what exactly he meant by these cryptic words. He confessed to being a lonely and frightened child. He called himself Pisces Jesus Man, whatever that was supposed to mean. He paraphrased Neil Young by defending his act: Itís better to burn out than to fade away, he wrote.
In any case, the note was written to Boddah his childhood imaginary friend, not us. We were looking for reasons why, but they probably werenít there. The anger took its time to fade.
The post was full of tributes instead of fanmail. REM wrote a song for him. So did Neil Young, perhaps guilty or bemused that he was in part responsible for persuading someone to walk over the edge. Jim Carroll described that passion starts out as a kiss and follows like a curse. Kurt would no doubt have agreed with that. He only ever wanted life to be 100% fun.
Sadly it didnít turn out that way.
Some fans, or fanatics, took their own lives, allegedly inspired by their mentor, their idol. Parents across the country tsk-tsked again. How could we have let society come to this?
So many things clouded Kurtís death. His music was still played in record stores and in bedrooms across the world. Virgin and HMV did specials on his bandís albums. The second record was named one of the most important of the nineteen-nineties. People forgot that there was more to Kurt than the songs.
Sometimes you canít see the forest for the trees.
Perhaps it was the ultimate act of cowardice or the ultimate act of compassion. Perhaps it was foolish and perhaps it was stupid and perhaps it was a number of things. Whatever. None of this changes the fact that someone at the end of their tether took their own life to try and silence the demons or let them out. Maybe itís easier to remember the music. Maybe Kurt never allowed his listeners to know what he was really like. Or maybe we never tried. Maybe we donít like to think about it because it would forge the world into a darker, sadder place. The world isnít supposed to be like that after all.
Afterwards, when it was all over, and the world turned its attention to a newer, more exciting tragedy, a young girl returned to her Seattle home, only to find that daddy wasnít there any more. So it goes.