Death Is Not The End, Part 6:
I Hate Myself And I Want To Die
I saw both Cobain and Garcia each perform only once. Nirvana and Pearl Jam both opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Salem Armory in January 92, weeks before the hype machine hurled them into being a household name as opposed to merely being one of the best bands in Seattle. And I only saw the Dead that once when they played with Dylan at Autzen in Eugene in 87, but I realized that the mourning that accompanied the deaths of both Kurt and Jerry is rooted in the same pain.
Both bands were a direct result of the times that produced them. Punk was the appropriate springboard Nirvana jumped on with their songs of both effervescent joy as well as the articulations of rage and anger at not only the administrations of Reagan and Bush and the ruthless greed of the 80s, but also much more personal things like the undertow that parental neglect and divorce many kids of the 60s and 70s found themselves burdened with often because of the immaturity of their parents to properly raise their offspring as soaring divorce rates made it much too easy to neglect their parental responsibilities. Kurt had the triple-whammy from the get-go, too. A bright, artistic kid born into a family with a history of depression, suicide and divorce.
Kurt Cobain was not only a musician, but a hero for every kid who ever got punched out in school just for being different, who saw hypocrisy, intolerance and insensitivity everywhere and was able to get the attention of the world to finally express his rage at the evil the world has to offer. But what is the follow-through after you've got the world's attention? Perhaps that's why there are so many celebrities these days and no real heroes. Most terminal pleas for attention do end up getting answered, you get your fifteen minutes of fame, but the reason why it's only fifteen minutes is because celebrities (as opposed to heroes) are fully content to simply get attention and get caught in the Gordian knot of being famous simply for being famous. Cobain, like any serious artist, wanted to use his fame as a way to get across to the masses what was on his mind, but the fame kept getting in the way. (As Jello Biafra, lead singer for the Dead Kennedys, said shortly after Kurt's death, "I hope someone down the road remembers he was about the only heavy rock mega star ever to openly support gay rights.") When asked about the limited, almost word of mouth popularity Tom Waits has a few years ago, Waits responded that he was always worried that if he tapped on the shoulder of the world that the world would turn around. Then what? You've got to have something pretty important to say if you insist on the world paying attention. Both Cobain and Garcia did.
Death Is Not The End, Part 7: