Remembering Kurt Cobain, 17 Years After His Death

By Gil Kaufman/

There are a few indelible moments in life that instantly bring evocative memories to the surface: the Challenger and Columbia Space Shuttle explosions, the riots following the Rodney King verdict, the September 11, 2001 terror attacks and, for me, the death of Kurt Cobain.

I’ve seen any number of rock stars pass both before — and right around — their time in my life, but for some reason Cobain’s death struck me harder than any other. It was 17 years ago today that the man who (reluctantly) became the voice and face of a generation yearning to be heard took his life after years of struggles with depression, drugs and the crushing pressures of global fame.

Though Cobain’s body would not be found for several more days, the ripple effect of his tragic suicide continues to this day, as his limited musical output inspires succeeding generations of musicians to follow their muse, down whatever dark path it takes them. Cobain was just 27 when he died, but in three short years of mainstream exposure, he and bandmates bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl managed to turn the music business on its head with a sound that owed as much to the Beatles and the Pixies as it did to garage rock and the Stooges.

And while April 5 always elicits that uncomfortable twitch of longing about all the music we never got to hear from Cobain, this year also marks the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind, an album that has justifiably taken its place in the rock pantheon as one of the best of all time. Fittingly, the Experience Music Project museum in Cobain’s hometown of Seattle will soon open “Taking Punk to the Masses,” hyped as the most extensive exhibition of Nirvana memorabilia ever presented.

Whether you were a superfan, a casual listener or an outright hater, take some time today to listen to a few Nevermind tracks. Tell me that the thundering cascade of guitars on “In Bloom” doesn’t move you at all, or that you aren’t a bit hypnotized by the seductive pull of “Lithium.” And if you don’t get even just a ripple of goose bumps from that final, feral scream at the end of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” well, whatever. Your loss. And ours.


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