I know exactly where I was when I heard. I can picture the moment in my mind; the exact piece of road I was driving on. Newsflash. Disbelief. Then there was a quietness and a roar inside my head, as tears slowly dripped from my cheeks as I drove on. It's hard to believe that this moment was 20 years ago. I was 23 then. Kurt Cobain had died.
I guess for Gen X, this is our 'where were you when Kennedy was shot' or 'man landing on the moon' that Baby Boomers have as their fixed moments in time. For me and many other people my age, Kurt's death holds the same sense of witnessing something big. The world felt different after this news.
Perhaps it felt so huge because of the age I was. But I can hear Nirvana songs and again have flashbacks to moments in my life. Being at someone's 21st and smiling and singing along to Lithium. Driving along the great ocean road with one of my dearest friends, to the rolling drums of Territorial Pissings and seeing dolphins playing in the waves off shore. I had a well-worn cassette tape in my car with Bleach and Nevermind. I've just remembered driving in my car and listening to Nevermind for the first time. Again, I know exactly where I was at that moment. They were part of the soundtrack to life in my 20s.
Nirvana helped sum up Gen X-ness which I think was their appeal. Cynical, sarcastic, critical, and embracing of uniqueness and individuality. I was most definitely born for that generation. There were mass candle-lit vigils and public outpouring of emotion. A grieving widow read from the suicide note and a toddler in a leopard print jacket looked confused. Then horrifically, photos from inside the room where he killed himself started to appear in the press. An open window, a body on the floor with familiar jeans and sneakers. The invasion of privacy at such a moment is beyond awful.
For some reason when I think of Kurt's death I also think of John Lennon. I was 10 when he was killed. I didn't know who he was at the time, but saw this weird bearded guy and his wife in bed on the news. He seemed so odd to my primary school self. I missed the public outpouring and tragedy of the moment. Interestingly, six years later I would know almost every word to almost every Beatles song. They began to feel part of my DNA. I read books about John and cried for him then, in my late teens. I've since watched documentaries like The U.S. versus John Lennon and mourned his loss again. I often wonder what John would think of currently politics if he was still with us. What creative output would he offer? Would he still be the difficult, flawed man who wore his intellect on his sleeve?
But alas, it was guns that took both of these complex men from us. For John to be murdered outside his apartment building by a 'fan' is hard to come to terms with. Equally sad is the fact that Kurt, at the age of 27 decided to kill himself. Again, I wonder what he would make of the world today. As a 43 year old, I can hardly believe where the 20 years has gone. The world kept turning and life kept going. As I listen to Nirvana today, the music seems as amazing and loved to me today as it did all those years ago. For me, they have not lost any of their impact. Perhaps, like the Beatles these songs have become part of my story, my soundtrack and my DNA.
27 is too young. I miss you Kurt. Thank you for the music.