FEBRUARY 20, 1967 - APRIL 5, 1994
“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are.” -Kurt Cobain
Where were you on April 8, 1994? Our parents can all say where they were when they heard that JFK had been shot. I can still remember the heart sinking moment when the radio announcer let us know that Kurt Cobain had died of a self inflicted gunshot wound.
A snapshot. A moment of life that passed before our eyes that made no sense, and yet made perfect sense. Not that he was as important as a president, or that his impact on the world and the way he left it should be remembered as a lifetime event, but to me and my peers, it was just that. We grew up in that era. We felt the changes from the 70s to the 80s, and were reaching adulthood at a time when the future was uncertain and not as bright as we were being told. No one knew why they were feeling the angst of change. The illusion of happiness that we were encouraged to portray throughout our lives felt fake and contrived.
Hollywood and MTV sold us a vision of spandex and makeup that they marketed based on an archaic system of nepotism and record company greed...until one voice, a single human voice shattered the glass menagerie and said…
With the lights out/It’s less dangerous/Here we are now, entertain us/I feel stupid/And contagious/Here we are now, entertain us.
One song broke open an avalanche of contagious acceptance. One album turned the record industry on its head. Like a machine gun, it cut all of the posing monuments of the rock industry down at the knees. It was real. It was honest. It was something that we all felt instinctively, without having to say a word. It was something that our whole generation could identify with, regardless of whether or not that was the intended result of the creator.
Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic formed Nirvana in Seattle, Washington in 1987. They were joined a couple of years later by drummer Dave Grohl. Affected by divorce and unstable living conditions, Kurt had a rough childhood. His anger and depression reflected the stormy grey and gloomy weather that the Pacific Northwest is known for. The PNW is also geographically diverse. Bodies of water and mountains created different isolated music scenes that thrived, and eventually grew together through fanzines and DIY movements. This diversity created a rich subculture of many different styles and subgenres of punk, metal and rock. It’s hub was Seattle.
Seattle in the 90s
Seattle in the 1990s was a mecca of sorts for disillusioned artists who were tired of the commercialism and the status quo of record company dominated music. The earthy and bohemian existence combined grey moody weather with artistic integrity and really great coffee, to create a safe haven for all sorts of artistic endeavors. The talent that had joined forces in this timeless city was undeniable. Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, The Gits, Mudhoney, and Mother Love Bone all building on the foundation built by Heart and the immortal Jimi Hendrix. This made Seattle a pretty easy destination for artists looking to make a name for themselves without having to sell their souls. Where else should Hollywood look to manipulate the next big scene? They came fast and hard, and the person they caught in their crosshairs was the the impenetrable blue eyed frontman of the quickly ascending band Nirvana.