Thomm Quackenbush, author

Kurt Cobain

Today marks the 10th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death. Before I get in the sociological impact of Kurt's life and Death I would like to point out that it doesn't seem like 10 years ago. I am I that old? Damn, this sucks.

I remember the moment I found out that Kurt Cobain had killed himself, its one of those memories that is perfectly imbedded in my brain. I had just gotten home from school and I was listening to the radio, Z-Rock to be exact (that was like a heavy metal station that we had in my area only briefly, it was based out of Texas). Someone called in and asked if it was true that Kurt Cobain was dead and the DJ's reply was "Yeah, the idiot killed himself". Despite the fact that it was a very insensitive way to hear the news, I was shocked and I pretty much froze. I was on the phone with someone who got very confused by my sudden and complete silence and they began questioning me as to what was wrong. Instead of answering, I just hung up the phone. I then turned on MTV and saw a Special Report on that station for the first time. The rest of the day was mainly spent watching TV and calling people to discuss the tragedy. The following day at school (Junior High) everyone was in mourning, people who never listened to Nirvana in their life had "R.I.P. Kurt Cobain" written on their hand, and one kid carried a framed picture of Kurt around above his head for the entire day.

Kurt Cobain's death engulfed my generation for a long time. It affected the music we listened to, all of a sudden Nirvana was everyone's favorite band, the clothes we wore, what wardrobe was complete without a Kurt Cobain shirt? And why not, he was the voice of our generation. Hmm voice of our generation. What were we trying to articulate anyway? I don't quite recall, as a matter of fact I don't think I even knew then, I just heard the media constantly telling me that Kurt Cobain gave my generation a voice, an torment filled voice at that. We were all these angst ridden youth who wanted to rage against… um… something I suppose. Did we actually have a target for this wrath that we wanted to bestow, was it the corporate world? If so, we failed miserable at raging against them because our main protest was buying the mass produced shirts that said "Corporate Rock Sucks". Were we raging against adults? Well I suppose we were but doesn't every generation do that? You would think that I could just listen to Nirvana and clearly hear the voice of our generation screaming out our message but what was Kurt Cobain saying in his songs? Now don't get all in a huff and assume that I just don't understand the words he is saying because I do, very well as a matter of fact, what I don't understand is the significance behind the words, the message that supposedly spoke for my entire generation. Maybe that was one of the reasons Kurt hated fame so much, he had all this pressure on him to be our spokesman when maybe that wasn't his intention or desire. Maybe he didn't even know who this angst filled voice was against either. And why did Kurt not become our symbol until he died?

Suicide is a serious subject and needs to be dealt with. I had a very good friend kill himself when I was 17. It was crushing and people need to know that there is always an alternative to suicide and there is always someone who cares (1-800-SUICIDE). Now, I also work with adults with Mental Illness and suicide seems to always be lingering right over the horizon, it is reality where I work, someone is going to kill themselves. Since I have been there we have had 3 suicides in the agency, not anyone I knew but 3 suicides is a lot considering I have only been there 2 years. Also most people don't know it but April has the most suicides than any other month. I could go on and give a generic list of signs that someone you care about is considering ending their own life but I won't because generic lists have nothing to do with our loved ones. We know them best and if there is any sign we will see it if we allow ourselves. Also and unfortunately, there are not always signs and we can't blame ourselves in these situations.

Now that 10 years have passed I am also having trouble identifying with my 14 year old self who was devastated by the suicide of a celebrity. In the past ten years haven't we experienced things of much more significance such as our President being impeached, the Middle East being near peace and then spiraling back down into violence, and of course, 9/11? For so long this suicide was my defining moment, now it's little more than a blip on the radar of my life. When it happened, some people even killed themselves over it. I could almost identify with them then, but now, I can't fathom it. It seems that my peers almost celebrated this event because now we had an excuse to be angry and jaded, our leader had killed himself. Unfortunately, he was never our leader until April 5, 2004, before that he was just a lead singer in a damn good band.

People say that Kurt Cobain changed the face of music, that he brought forward the music that was a favorite of all the angry, loners of the world. Did he really though? If Nirvana never existed wouldn't we still have had Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains? Wouldn't Seattle and its music scene still have existed? Yes, I think both of these examples would have happened regardless. Now don't think that I am downplaying Nirvana or their music, they were a remarkable band but I just don't think that they changed the world to the point that MTV would like us to believe. All of us skaters, freaks, and grunge kids reveled in the publicity that our social groups gained from this event. We were getting that attention that we had been seeking for so long. People cared and not only that but they worried now that we were depressed and needed help. To this day teenagers listen to Nirvana and wear Kurt Cobain shirts; some of these people were only 4 years old when Nirvana ceased to be. I would like to know if they think Kurt is there voice and I'd like to know even more what they think their voice's message is. I have a feeling they wouldn't know just like we didn't really know. The fact is teenagers will always be angry and depressed; we just had an idol that took it too far and made the world notice us. I think maybe that was our message, we just wanted the world to realize we existed, and Kurt did that for us.



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Works by Thomm Quackenbush

The Night's Dream Series

We Shadows by Thomm Quackenbush

Danse Macabre by Thomm Quackenbush

Artificial Gods by Thomm Quackenbush