Twenty Years Later: Kurt Cobain Remembered


April 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Kurt Cobain, Nirvana frontman and 90s grunge icon.  Although Cobain has been dead for two decades, his legacy remains ever-present in the music world and his life and untimely death continue to spark interest among Nirvana devotees.  While his music arguably provided the foundation for the grunge genre and 90’s youth culture, the long-standing Kurt Cobain appeal still remains a mystery.  Why has Kurt Cobain remained a fixture within pop culture? Speaking from the perspective of a 20-something born during the height of Cobain’s career, the cult following that surrounded Nirvana and its seemingly subversive messages has been relayed through flashback videos and music history pieces.  This secondhand perspective focuses on classic hits like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and the famous swimming baby cover art from 1991’s Nevermind.  However, the role of grunge subculture with Kurt Cobain as its leader is an extremely abstract concept to truly comprehend after the fact.  The fashion of the era has never faded, making repeated comebacks in recent years.  Flannels, beanies, and combat boots transformed from grunge to hipster.  The angsty lyrical content of Seattle Sound grunge rock has been adopted by various indie genres. Yet Kurt Cobain continues to resurface.

During his five short years in the public spotlight, Kurt Cobain managed to generate one of the largest and long-lasting fan bases, playing into the adolescent need for rebellion.  He in many ways self-created his enigmatic image, by shying away from media attention and public scrutiny.  Cobain struggled with the pressures of fame and what was in his mind the distortion of his art.  His unpredictable relationship with Courtney Love and ongoing substance addiction blurred the lines between public and private life.  It was this contradiction that presumably led to his suicide at the age of 27.  Fans were left devastated and in shock about the loss of the voice of Generation X.  The tragedy of Kurt Cobain in many ways generated a memorialization of his life and persona and the music of Nirvana.

The 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death is marked with fan remembrance and for the many hopeful conspiracy theorists, a reinvestigation into his suicide.  Twitter rumors of a reopening of the case by Seattle police have been circulating throughout the past month but various authorities have denied these claims on multiple occasions.  The music world and fan community may never gain closure for the loss of a beloved musician.  However, Kurt Cobain continues to live on in his uniquely crafted mystery: a life simultaneously idolized by many but hidden from the very public world.