Today marks the 25th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s tragic death, one that is still felt by many. A quarter-century later, and his legacy continues to trickle into today’s music culture. He remains to hold an influence, one that seems to mesmerize an increasing number of people each year. Like myself, many who have been impacted by Kurt’s life and work are people who were born well after his passing. A small part of that is the respect that many musicians and people industry have for him, and their efforts to keep his name relevant and proud. But that can only do so much, because for someone to be such a household name and an inspiration for many the way Kurt is, it speaks more about his character than anything else.
In the short span that saw Nirvana take over the grunge scene, the band put out heart-wrenching, vehement records that a younger audience gravitated to. It was a time when a wave of a newer, young, angsty sound was beginning to take over with groups like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, and Alice in Chains, along with Nirvana, at the forefront of the change. There wasn’t just one, but a number of these youthful bands that were put on the map at the same time.
When I first listened to Nirvana during the first decade of my life, I was drawn to the music, although I had no understanding of what Kurt was actually saying. It was nothing like Metallica, it was nothing like Bon Jovi, two bands that were also a big part of my childhood. I never heard or felt anything like it. In those early years of listening, while I was too young to get a grasp of what Kurt was actually meant with his words, I was still able to feel his emotions through the sound of the music. It’s not as if I knew what I was feeling, but I felt what he felt. It was something that wasn’t easy to carry as a ten year old, but a feeling that was too addicting.
Scouring through his lyrics and I saw there was an aspect of Kurt that drew me even more to his persona as I got older. It was his push for inclusivity. It’s something that becomes more apparent as you find more footage of him. Whether it’s iconic Nirvana performances where Kurt, alongside bandmates Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, cross dressed as a way to defy gender norms, or him just speaking out on social issues, it becomes compelling to hear what he has to say. Considering that many artists at the time, and even today, often stray away from these issues, you learn to appreciate even more what Kurt did. It’s the reason why people like LeBron James, Serena Williams, and many more have such great legacies. Aside from excelling at their craft, the efforts they put into improving society off the court is just as impactful. In the case of Kurt Cobain, he did this both outside and within his craft. Today, it’s really simple to put out a tweet, or post a graphic on instagram that portrays a socially aware perspective. To a degree, it’s almost as if these days artists are required to do so, otherwise there will be some sort of attack or cancellation of the artist. While it’s great that more and more people are pushing these issues to the forefront through social media, it can also seem disingenuous. In a time before Twitter, before Instagram, the efforts to fight for and bring awareness to social issues went beyond a few taps on a screen. For a well known name like Kurt Cobain to do that willingly and without any hesitation, considering the times we’re currently living in, that stands out to me more than anything. To me, that has and always will be his legacy, along with the angsty grunge anthems.