Kurt Cobain is one of the most consequential songwriters of all time. The great champion of Generation X, his lyrics about sexuality, drugs, inner demons and Mexican seafood were everything his generation needed to hear.
He was their guiding light, and he illustrated that there was a way out of the darkness through his music. The political, social and economic challenges they faced in day to day life could be avoided by listening to his work, either by total immersion in it or through the lessons he taught in his songs.
Almost overnight, after the release of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ in September 1991, Cobain and the other Nirvana members, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, were shot to a stratospheric level of fame. However, with Cobain being the frontman and primary songwriter, it was he who had to shoulder the majority of the weight of the burden.
Many of modern rock’s hallmarks can be traced back to Cobain. Be it lyrically, aesthetically or the quiet-loud-quiet dynamics that he plucked from Pixies, many elements that we see and hear ubiquitous in alt-rock were first popularised by Cobain, even if he wasn’t their creator.
It’s not just in the realm of rock music that we see his influence, either. Elements of the grunge spirit have been appropriated by contemporary popstars, with heavyweights such as Yungblud, Billie Eilish, and Machine Gun Kelly all owing portions of their artistry to Cobain. Of course, this is not to criticise the aforementioned artsits, it’s just a testament to his output that we still see and hear his spirit living on in so many different areas of popular culture.
It wasn’t just because of his musicianship that everyone was captivated by Kurt Cobain—it was also his personality. He was the anti-rockstar, a humble everyman who championed righteous causes, and a colourful character, to say the least. Whether it be working as a janitor at his old high school to fund Nirvana in the early days, championing women’s rights or challenging Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses, there are many different reasons that Cobain was so loved. One of the most memorable is the fact that he had a vivid imagination.
During a 1993 interview with Michael Azerrad, Cobain revealed that for a long time during his childhood, he was convinced that he was actually adopted, and his reason why is hilarious and an example of his brilliant creativity. He explained: “I always used to think that I was adopted by my mother because she found me after a spaceship left me from a different time or a different planet. Every night I used to talk to my real parents in the skies. I knew that there were thousands of other alien babies dropped off who were all over the place and I’d met quite a few of them. It’s just something I’d always like to toy with in my mind… it was really fun to pretend that there’s some special reason for me to be here.”
It’s safe to say that there were many reasons why Kurt Cobain was born, and if there was anyone who made a strong claim to actually be an alien, it was him, much like his hero David Bowie. They were too good for this world, and the lessons they taught us in humanity, are ones that will never cease to be vital.