Remembering Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain’s 1994 suicide consumed me, maybe because it seemed like the most premature act of self-destruction in rock history, maybe because it was yet another instance of one of the greats gone before his work felt halfways done, maybe because it fell close on the heels of my daughter’s death from cancer.

But mostly because it seemed to me the ultimate example of why the punk ideology, even as so gloriously rendered in grunge, came to a dead end—why the most consciously, deliberately revolutionary music movement in rock history could not resolve itself into anything other than nihilism, self-pity and guilt. I don’t love grunge or punk or rock any less because it suffered this infestation. I just would like to see more people survive the lures and illusions of the process. Today, I would probably add a salute to Billy Joe and Eddie Vedder, whose escape from these traps is due, I am quite certain, to honoring their own close observation of how that ideology ultimately failed while still honoring the central principle of punk. Green Day and Pearl Jam are great bands and learning from the past while insisting on a future is a lot of the reason why.

My friend Steve Perry, who then edited the Minneapolis weekly City Pages, published the first version of “Live Through This.” Later ones appeared in Rock & Rap Confidential and, I think, an early rock webzine, Addicted to Noise. I dragged it out recently for some friends on Stratlist, my online group of boon companions, and several others thought it still had something to add. So here it is. – D.M.