Tragically, musicians sometimes die young, whether its through drugs, suicide, or a freak accident. These people made music that resonated with us, and provided a soundtrack to our lives. Maybe we owe it to them to consider what they would want us to do with their legacies.
Nirvana were one of the biggest bands of the 90’s. They helped pioneer a sound that has endured to this day, and they will go down in history for that. Today would have been the 48th birthday of their iconic singer, Kurt Cobain. This article is about his legacy, and the damage that people do to it every day.
We’ve all seen them. The T-shirts. Not the Nirvana t-shirts with an album cover on it, the t-shirts with Cobain’s face and some of his lyrics, or a vague quote that may or may not have actually been his. The T-shirts that have nothing to do with the actual band, or his music (you can also find posters like these in college dorms across the country). People think they are honoring their fallen music hero (they do the same thing with Dimebag Darrell from Pantera). In reality, they are doing something that would have made their hero’s very uncomfortable.
Kurt Cobain’s mind has been studied in depth through his journals, letters and notes, as well as through interviews with people who knew him. Some people wear their fame very naturally, and for others, it’s like an ill-fitting suit. For Cobain, it was more like he was trying to wear one of Lady Gaga’s meat dresses. If he could see 15 year old kids walking around wearing a t-shirt with his face on it today, he would be furious. Not because he is being remembered, but why he is being remembered. His image and legacy has been co-opted by people who may have had nothing to do with him in order to make money. Cobain hated the mainstream music industry, and all the corporate nonsense that came with it. Obviously, Courtney Love has played a huge role in the monetization of Kurt’s death, but she isn’t the only culprit.
We’re all guilty too. We lost sight of what was special about him, and that was his music. I think he’d want to be remembered for the music he made, rather than for all the merchandise that bears his name. We do this to Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Randy Rhoads, John Bonham, John Lennon and Dimebag Darrell just to name a few. Sharing their music with others and exposing them to great art honors their legacies, wearing a t-shirt with their face on often goes against their values and lines the pockets of people who don’t understand that it’s about the music.