(Oh no, I know, a dirty word)
Do you know what April 8th is? It's the twelfth year memorial of the passing of Kurt Cobain. To this day I remember hearing the news of his death. I was practicing driving maneuvers in my parents' beat up Subaru on our gravel driveway, gnashing my teeth over the challenge of mastering reverse on an unwieldy stick shift, when the Tori Amos cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit came on the radio. I remember pausing to take in this particular version of the song, a version I had never heard, rendered soft and haunting by Amos's vulnerable voice. I remember wondering what the significance of the radio playing this particular version was, why this one, and why right now. It ended, and the DJ announced in a hushed tone that Kurt Cobain, age 27, 90's rock icon, had been found dead earlier in the day, evidently at his own hands (although rumors to the contrary would eventually emerge and flourish within certain circles to this day).
Nevermind, the album that we all know, the one that sprung his band Nirvana to astronomical levels of fame, the one that would place them at the very least in the pantheon of 90's rock legends had come out in 1992, but I didn't discover them until at least a year later. Word of new cultural phenomena often hit my sleepy New England town later than they do in other parts of the country, and I rarely listened to the radio, preferring instead the same Indigo Girls and Edie Brickell I had favored since the beginning of high school. But when I did finally hear Nevermind, its now eponymous first track in particular, it was like some sort of switch flipped for me, suggesting a path into self awareness that I hadn't yet considered. To put it more concisely, I was at that moment, plunged into adolescence. I have always been a late bloomer-- the last of my friends to kiss a boy, defy authority, the last to occur to rebel. Listening to Nevermind, a new world of ambivalence and bravado opened up before me, a new lens through which to view my surroundings, with which to question (endlessly, I can assure you) everything I have ever been told--the perfect springboard for the end of my senior year of high school, the beginning of my gradual evolution away from sheltered only child to head strong, independent adult.
Of course I didn't know any of that at the time. Back then, I was only aware of an escalating feeling of boredom with my surroundings, my friends, my family, my identity. Hearing of Cobain's passing on the radio, I was saddened in a way that I could not pinpoint, grieving--but why? In short, perfectly encapsulated in the angst of late 20th Century privileged adolescence.
Today, admittedly still hanging on to some vestiges of rebellion and ennui, hopefully spinning towards a better understanding of adult self-assuredness, I still dig out the Nirvana every now and then--Nevermind in particular (thanks to Musical Guru by the way, for burning me a new copy). Listening to it reminds me of how far I have come from there, and how much further I have to go. Plus it rocks, which is always a plus.
This April 8th I encourage everyone to follow my lead. Dig into the deep corners of your cd collection and dust off a copy of some Nirvana CD you haven't listened to in ages. Even if its just for one track. Listen and learn, or at the very least--remember.