Just this past April the twenty year anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s suicide passed. Why are we still talking about his death? The author of Here We Are Now explains Nirvana’s impact on music, and why he thinks Cobain was one of the best songwriters in rock and roll history. Charles R. Cross has written about the Seattle music scene for many years, this is his second book about Cobain. His first was a biography that was published in 2002. His first encounter with Cobain came while he was writing for The Rocket, a Seattle magazine. With this experience, he has unique insight into Cobain’s life and career, and recalls in the book getting the call about a body that was found in the area of Cobain’s home and knowing, yet dreading, that it was Kurt.
What was Kurt Cobain’s impact on the world? According to Cross, it was significant. Of course he has influenced countless musicians – across all musical genres. But because of the grunge culture there is also an element of fashion and style. Who can forget the band t-shirt flannel shirt combination? I practically lived in baggy corduroys!! Not only were there similar bands coming out of the northwest, there were bands all over the world that were influenced by the Nirvana sound. Seattle during the 90s was also undergoing an transformation, and grunge music brought even more attention to the city. Starbucks began to franchise all over the world, and the tech industry started its own boom. On Kurt’s influence Cross says –
“It wasn’t Kurt Cobain who made these bands that followed Nirvana successful – it was their talent – but the ground he broke, and the attention Nirvana brought to Seattle, helped get some of this music heard. Nirvana was a big enough tanker in the water of the music industry that many other bands saw their boats with them”.
I remember the day Kurt died clearly, remember the lost feeling I had watching on the coverage on MTV. My teenage world had been rocked – and even 20 years later, I understand that because of Kurt music changed forever. This was a second counter-cultural movement. The parents of those who had grown up in the 90s had lived through the 60s, and experienced an incredible cultural upheaval. Living through the grunge era was something similar, and Cross points this out too.
Kurt Cobain was a rock god, however scarred his legend may be. His influence transcended music – and this influence is exactly what Cross is trying to identify. Nirvana continues to inspire. I laugh each time I see a kid wearing one of their t-shirts, wondering if a kid can truly appreciate their sound and impact on the world of music. Of course they can! And Cross is reminding us why.