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The reason why Nirvana's Kurt Cobain called John Lennon "disturbed"


When forging their legacies, producing music that would change the landscape of popular culture, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and John Lennon didn’t have much in common. However, on a personal level, the grunge icon felt as though the late Beatle was a kindred spirit, despite once describing him as a “disturbed character.

Cobain adored The Beatles from childhood, and they played a crucial part in soundtracking his life. His family was well aware of his love for the Fab Four, and at his funeral, they chose to play ‘In My Life’ during the service. Unsurprisingly, the track in question is one written by John Lennon, and the Nirvana singer once revealed that Lennon was his favourite member of the now-iconic Liverpudlian group.

“It means a lot to me because it was the song that was played at Kurt Cobain’s memorial,” Dave Grohl once reflected about the Rubber Soul track. “That day, after everyone had said their piece, this next song came over the speakers and everyone got to celebrate Kurt’s love of The Beatles one last time together,” he painfully added.

“Still to this day, when I hear it, it touches a place in me that no other song ever will,” Grohl continued. Cobain only publically discussed his love of The Beatles on one occasion, and judging from his comments, he connected with John Lennon in a way that transcended music.

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Like Cobain, Lennon suffered from his own struggles and never professed to be a perfect, clean-cut artist. He admitted to his mistakes, offering up his attempts to learn from past issues in his life while battling an existence within the public eye. Furthermore, they were both honest to their core, held deep insecurities, and held great disdain for everything about fame. They had become A-list celebrities seemingly against their will.

“John Lennon was definitely my favourite Beatle, hands down,” he told Rolling Stone in 1993. “I don’t know who wrote what parts of what Beatles songs, but Paul McCartney embarrasses me. Lennon was obviously disturbed [laughs]. So I could relate to that.”

While calling someone “disturbed” would usually be a borderline slur, Cobain meant it in the most complimentary way possible. He saw Lennon three-dimensionally, a complex soul who was blighted by similar troubles to those that he suffered with. “From the books I’ve read — and I’m so sceptical of anything I read, especially in rock books. So I just felt really sorry for him. To be locked up in that apartment,” Cobain continued.

“Although he was totally in love with Yoko and his child, his life was a prison. He was imprisoned. It’s not fair. That’s the crux of the problem that I’ve had with becoming a celebrity — the way people deal with celebrities. It needs to be changed; it really does.”

Cobain then discussed the parallels between how he and Lennon struggled to cope with the dark side of fame. “No matter how hard you try, it only comes out like you’re bitching about it,” he explained. “I can understand how a person can feel that way and almost become obsessed with it. But it’s so hard to convince people to mellow out. Just take it easy, have a little bit of respect. We all shit.”

While Lennon’s music mattered to Cobain, it was about more than that for the singer, and it was through reading about his story that the Nirvana leader truly understood the Beatle as a person. Cobain was in a lonely place when Nirvana hit the big time, and it was reassuring to know that somebody else had previously been in the same isolating position – a comfort that seemingly struck a profound chord with his own self-doubts.

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