When Kurt Cobain was a kid, he could make his entire family and all of his friends laugh until they cried with his Latka impersonation. If you didn’t grow up in the 70’s, then you might not be particularly familiar with the T.V. show, “Taxi”, in which comedian Andy Kaufman played the part of a foreigner with a questionable multiple personality disorder, among other things. It was a goofy, ridiculous character, and Kurt nailed it. Kurt was extremely funny, artistic, creative, outgoing, and always putting on a show – at least for his first ten years, which he and others have described as the happiest time of his life.
Reportedly, before Kurt ended his own life on April 5, 1994, he listened to one last song- R.E.M.’s “Man on the Moon“. If you were around in the 90’s, then you definitely know this song. After they recovered his body a couple days later, his wife, Courtney Love (who later played Lynne Margulies – Andy Kaufman’s girlfriend in the movie “Man on the Moon”, staring Jim Carrey) found the disc, Automatic for the People, still in the CD player.
This poetic symmetry is one of many poetic things Kurt Cobain left with the world. He was a brilliant lyricist. In fact, in any pole or list I’ve ever seen regarding the top lyricists in music history, Kurt almost always falls somewhere within the top 20. He was also a very gifted artist, even from a very early age. There is a Cobain family story about when Kurt was six years old, and he drew a picture of Donald Duck for his grandfather. Leland Cobain couldn’t believe that this picture was not traced, due to it’s accuracy and near perfection. Kurt sat down and drew a picture of Goofy right in front of his grandfather. It was a defining moment in everyone else’s recognition that this boy was not just your average kid.
His parents’ nasty divorce and the baggage that came with it ultimately lead Kurt into a downward spiral. Since there was a significant history of depression within his family, this sense of loss and confusion hit Kurt harder than most. Growing up in Aberdeen, Washington, a somewhat “down-on-its-luck” timber mill town, there wasn’t a ton to do. Even after discovering some of his artistic and musical talents, Kurt got caught up in the party, drug and alcohol scene. But most significantly, he refused to conform.
In a weird way, his numerous experiences as a teenager rebelling against the norm ultimately transformed him into the voice of an entire generation. When Nirvana was formed, grunge was born. He didn’t know it then, but the music he created and left behind changed everything people knew about rock’n’roll. Is Nirvana’s music sad? Angry? Sarcastic? Funny? Truthful? All of the above. It was the early nineties. Teenagers were wearing Converse sneakers, ripped jeans, vintage concert t-shirts and old-man cardigans. He was an icon, a star, a legend.
I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt says it best in this video (see 1:55 mark):
So today, Kurt, I dedicate my blog to you. I am so sad that you’re not around to see your influence on music, but I thank you for what you left behind.