As a rock star, icon, musician or simply himself, Kurt Cobain was an unwavering force for good in the world, and it was the fact that he had made such a positive impact in his short time in the limelight that made his tragic death too much to bear for many fans.
A champion for the righteous, and a defender of the lost, jaded and disillusioned, Cobain led by example, and the progressive spirit he espoused only helped to certify his status outside of the music.
Since he was young, Cobain had a refreshing outlook, no doubt inspired by the ethos of the punk movement. He was anti-homophobic, anti-sexist, anti-racist, and always challenged bigotry and ignorance wherever he encountered it, a stark departure from many of the world’s most prominent rockstars, who, for the most part, the Nirvana frontman was at ideological odds with.
Speaking about Cobain with Forbes back in 2019, Nirvana’s manager Danny Goldberg revealed that whilst the grunge star was a fan of the music of classic rock bands such as Led Zeppelin and AC/DC, he wasn’t a fan of their lyrics because of his moral code.
Asked if this was because they were sexist and homophobic, Goldberg confirmed this: “Oh completely! Absolutely. First of all, I agreed with him about that. Secondly, I think he was torn: I think he liked the music. He liked Led Zeppelin’s music—and AC/DC. But the lyrics were not something that he felt comfortable with, for exactly the reason that you said. I think I quote him saying something like that in the book. I wanted to do it because it’s central to who he was as artist.”
He continued: “He definitely identified culturally with the values of the punk rock communities. Which were rebelling not only against Reagan and things about society that pissed people off. But they were rebelling about things the music business produced. That was a generational statement, and it was one that he shared in. But as a musician, he had a very broad appreciation: As is widely known, he loved the Beatles—not that the Beatles don’t have some sexist lyrics, they do.”
Discussing Cobain’s love of music, and his adherence to a moral code, Goldberg concluded: “You know, I love John Lennon and Kurt loved John Lennon, but I think that ‘Norwegian Wood’ though is a bit on the sexist side. But he loved the music of a lot of different artists, but culturally he identified with a moral code. That was one of the things to me that made him such an exciting artist to know and to work with. That included a real abhorrence of macho stereotypes and behaviour.”
Watch Kurt Cobain discuss his identity below.