“Where were you when you found out that Kurt Cobain died?”
That’s the question that most of GenXers still ask each other, even 27 years later. Yes, today marks 27 years since Kurt Cobain died. And he was 27 years old. The significance of that just boggles my mind. (I have a thing with numbers. I can’t explain it. Just go with it.)
The Seattle music scene was a big deal for me. I fell in love with Nirvana when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” came out, just like a lot of the rest of the world. And then came all of those other lovely bands – Screaming Trees, Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains – and of course, Pearl Jam, my all-time favorite. But there was just something unique and different at the time about Nirvana.
I have memories of the power walking unit in gym class, listening to “Nevermind” on my Walkman. I blasted it at home all of the time, rotating it with the others, of course. And when I finally discovered “Bleach,” it was like a whole new world of music opened up to me. To this day, that is still my favorite Nirvana album, because it is so raw and not tweaked to please the commercial mainstream.
But back to that April day in 1994. I was a junior in high school and we were on spring break. My boyfriend at the time – let’s call him Dave – planned a day for us going to the zoo, eating Rally’s for lunch, and then probably hanging out at his house watching movies later. You know, typical high schooler date stuff.
We were in the car on our way back from the zoo, listening to the radio, when the announcer finally said, “Coming up, more on the body found at Kurt Cobain’s house in Seattle.”
My smart ass boyfriend went, “Ooh!” and turned up the radio. I felt a drop in my stomach.
The announcer came back on, confirming that the body was that of Kurt Cobain. I didn’t know what to say or think. I felt somewhat sick to my stomach. I know I didn’t cry, not yet. The tears came later.
We got back to Dave’s house and went inside. He ran for his phone and started calling all over town to track down his best friend – we’ll call him Nate – to tell him the news. (Remember, this is before we all had cell phones.) And the two of them started making fun of me because I was upset.
I remember I left his house soon after that, because I was too upset to want to sit and watch movies. I needed to immerse myself in all of the coverage on MTV News and just wallow in my sorrow. It’s what I do.
I went home and told my parents. They weren’t sure what to say or do, but let me be alone in my room while I watched the coverage and listened to my cassettes. Soon after, my father did start making his crude jokes, his twisted way of dealing with the sad situation. Being a teen with ‘tude, I was properly annoyed.
Flash forward a week-and-a-half and Pearl Jam was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. Somehow, I had missed this information, because I was too busy hanging out with my boyfriend. We’d spent the entire flipping day together, so when I saw they were going to be on, I had to run home and record it. Back then, I was obsessive about taping my favorite bands doing their stuff on TV. Dave got mad, but oh well. I recorded history.
That was the famous performance where they played “Daughter,” “Not For You,” and “rearviewmirror” and Eddie had “Kurdt” written on his guitar. And then at the end, Eddie pulled his long-sleeved shirt aside to reveal the “K” he had written on his t-shirt over his heart. (You can now see that shirt at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH.) View that clip here:
Several years later, I finally got to go to Seattle to see Pearl Jam live. I had been teasing my sister than when I got out there, we would be going to Kurt Cobain’s house. She said if I could find it, we would go. It took me all of two seconds to locate it online and it turned out that it was close to her place. In fact, she had been jogging past it for months and didn’t realize what it was.
I’m not going to post all of the pictures I took that day, at least not right now. But every year, to mark the date, I use the following as my cover and profile pictures. That’s one of the benches at the park next door to the house where Kurt and Courtney were living at the time, and me making a K over my heart in my recreation of Eddie’s t-shirt nod. Apparently this actual bench and one other one, which were the original two benches in the park, were sold at auction the following year, which would have been the 20th anniversary of his death.
It’s been 27 years, but I still love listening to Nirvana. I crank the radio when they come on. I see the arguments all the time about how important was the band, really, to music, or were they any good. Don’t get me started on the conspiracy theories. I don’t care about any of it. I just know that I loved them and still do.
So how about you? Where were you when you found out Kurt Cobain passed away? Did it have an effect on you at all?