Thursday, April 08, 2010

Remembering... Kurt Cobain

Even to a person who feels normally, the world can seem like an overwhelming and cruel place at times; to a highly sensitive person, though - unequipped with the ability to occasionally shut out the more hurtful aspects of human nature and focus on the good - life can make them feel like the only sardine in a bucket of piranha...

PhotobucketKurt Cobain was one such person. By all accounts a joyful and loving boy, following his parent's divorce in 1974 (when he was just seven) Cobain became withdrawn and began acting out. He developed an early interest in punk music, likely as a release for pent-up emotion; when it became clear that he wasn't going to be like a regular guy - that is, a misogynist jock - the bullying started. An early friendship with a gay classmate didn't make things any better.

With as much emotional pain as he had, Cobain also spent most of his life with chronic physical pain as well; persistent bronchitis frequently left him ill, and doctors were unwilling or unable to determine the cause of a debilitating stomach ailment. In 1980, at the age of 13, Cobain tried marijuana; when that superior brand of pain relief failed to work he found something stronger: heroin. For the first time in his life, his physical pain was gone. However, his emotional pain would only worsen as that drug wove its tendrils around him...

Cobain was 14 when he'd first picked up a guitar, and within a decade Nirvana was the biggest rock band in the world. Yet if there was anyone in the world less able to deal with the peculiar savagery of stardom it was Kurt Cobain. For awhile it looked like Cobain had come to some peace via his art; marriage to Courtney Love and the birth of his daughter Frances Bean ought to have made things right. That is, if life were anything like a fairytale. But Love had her own struggles, and given the couple's individual reputations, their being together didn't merely double their problems but multiply them.

In retrospect, it all happened so fast; Nirvana's first album Nevermind was released in September 1991 and the band was propelled to super-stardom on the strength of the teen-angst anthem Smells Like Teen Spirit, he married Love in February 1992 shortly before his first attempt at rehab, Frances Bean was born in August, there was an overdose in July 1993, and an initial suicide attempt the following March.

On this day in 1994 Cobain was found dead in the room over his garage at his home in Lake Washington, a room known as 'the greenhouse'; he was 27. His body was discovered - by Gary Smith, a technician who'd been hired to install security lighting - holding a shotgun; when found it was obvious he had suffered a major head trauma. A suicide note, addressed to his childhood imaginary friend Boddah, quoted lyrics by Neil Young: 'It's better to burn out than to fade away.'

Since then, many conspiracy theories have bloomed - many of them pointing directly at Love; most of these are discussed in Nick Broomfield's documentary Kurt & Courtney. Such things, though, are often smoke screens for the simple truth, since the grief-stricken will believe anything - it seems - but their own grief; the simple truth in Kurt Cobain's case seems to be that he was tired of being in pain, and could think of no other way out...
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