For all of his talent, Kurt Cobain was not the spokesman for my generation

I was finishing my senior year in college, and remember watching MTV’s announcement of Kurt Cobain’s suicide, 20 years ago today. I admit I wasn’t surprised, as he always seemed like a tortured soul. Two decades later, I must admit, I still feel ambivalent toward Nirvana.

I was probably an oddball back then because I simply did not identify with grunge. In fact, I partially blamed it for the negative Generation X stereotypes that pervaded media in the early 1990s. We were labeled as “slackers,” “lazy,” “depressed,” and “apathetic,” and that horrible movie Reality Bites summarizes this myth. No one I knew sat around wearing flannel, constantly complaining about how life sucked. Grunge simply promoted that image and the bad rap my generation got, I thought.

Nirvana was the worst example of this, as everyone pointed to the band as “representing” my age group. Therefore I disliked them and grunge in general, and was relieved when the trend passed.

Fast forward 20 years, and I have mellowed somewhat on grunge. I still like very little of it: Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots are probably the two groups I can tolerate the most. I now appreciate Nirvana as a pure rock and roll band. Yes, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Come as You Are,” and “In Bloom” are damn good rock songs. Their Unplugged appearance also impresses me more today, specifically Cobain’s emotional reading of “All Apologies.”

Do I better relate to him and the band? No. Do I equate Cobain with some of the greatest songwriters, as others have? Sorry, I don’t.

Yes, I still squirm when Nirvana and Kurt Cobain are proclaimed spokesmen of my generation. But Nirvana was a great rock band, injecting some grittiness into the charts when slick pop was dominant. Cobain also possessed a powerful voice that had impressive range, both emotionally and vocally.

Time has allowed me to simply appreciate them as, to put it more crudely, a kick-ass band rather than representatives of a so-called apathetic, disillusioned age group.

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Kit O'Toole

Kit O'Toole is a lifelong music enthusiast who maintains a stand-alone music blog called Listen to the Band. In addition, she is the internet columnist and a contributing editor for Beatlefan magazine. She also holds an Ed.D. in Instructional Technology. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • Dedalus

    Nirvana was never a band for the squares and the socialites, nor for the terminally well adjusted, let alone the academic desperate to pigeonhole Nirvana or claim them as “hardcore”, “grunge”, or heaven forbid “rock”…

    The fact you never bonded with what he had to say, or the sound of Nirvana, says more about YOU as a person, rather than Generation X’ers in general. Kurt might not have spoken for you and your social circles, but for my mal-adjusted, smacked out, parentally-tortured, outcast, outsider teenage self he reached out a hand through his music and that music has stayed with me as an inspiration and a release throughout the years that followed.

    I lost many friends from my generation over the years to drugs and suicide, Kurt’s experience of feeling isolated, marginalised and wasted was not unique to him, and his music has made many not feel quite so alone. To be frank now is not the time to be whining about Kurt’s artistic legacy.

    So, speak for YOURSELF and your taste in music, and dont pretend that you are speaking for the whole of our generation.

  • vonholland

    I never dug nirvana either . Theyr ok n overrated . But I guess they can represent the over medicated crowd .