Today would have marked Kurt Cobain 's 45th birthday (February 20, 2012). Cobain died at the age of 27, killed by his own gunshot wound. The former Nirvana frontman has been immortalized as the undisputed king of the grunge movement; a spokesman for the world's disaffected youth and his decision to commit suicide has left him frozen as a talented, ill-fated 27 year-old in our minds.
It's hard to imagine what a 45 year-old Kurt Cobain would be like. He struggled, quite notoriously, with the side-effects of his music's popularity; the manipulative ways of the music industry did not rest easy with Cobain and he seemed forever torn between his underground roots and his new life as a globally-famous rock star, with the world's youth hanging on his every word. Would he still be making music? Would he still be as unendingly adored as he was at the height of Nirvana's fame? Or would the back-bite of the industry have kicked in? Would he still be married to Courtney Love, his wife and mother to his daughter, Frances Bean Cobain? There's no denying that Nirvana's musical legacy remains strong and new generations of rock fans are still discovering Cobain's music. With the resurgence of a grunge sound, new music fans are looking back to the not-too distant past to find the bands that new artists such as Yuck and Dinosaur Pile Up were influenced by. And the fans that were there in the first place are left wondering where the time went. It seems almost unfeasible that nearly eighteen years have passed since Kurt Cobain died and now his influence has come full circle. Especially considering the fact that Nirvana's drummer, Dave Grohl just went home from last week's Grammys show with five awards in his arms, for his band Foo Fighters.
It's the kind of self-congratulatory music industry back-patting that Kurt Cobain seemed to abhor, of course, but as Dave Grohl and his band hopped across the stage to accept their awards, he seemed as youthful as ever and you can't help but feel that somewhere along the way, Kurt was short-changed in the awards stakes. Nirvana won the Best Alternative Music Album Grammy in 1994, for their MTV Unplugged album - the most commercially palatable of their releases. And although Foo Fighters have an undoubtedly more commercial sound than Nirvana ever did, it seems a little unbalanced that Grohl has an armful of mantelpieces decorations thrust at him for the songs on Wasting Light, yet the enduring influence of Bleach and In Utero, not to mention to the multi-million selling Nevermind was never predicted or acknowledged in Kurt's lifetime. In many ways, Kurt's legacy is in danger of being overshadowed by the events that have happened since his death. Legal wranglings between Dave Grohl and Kurt's wife, Courtney Love have been far from dignified, with Courtney all but accusing Dave of taking food from Frances Bean's mouth. Conspiracy theories regarding Kurt's death have never really been buried. Despite having a music career of her own (albeit with varying degrees of success), Courtney Love is more widely known as Cobain's widow. Conspiracy theorists have fuelled a number of books and documentaries on the issue of Kurt's death, most notably, Nick Broomfield's inconclusive 1998 documentary Kurt and Courtney. More recently, details have emerged regarding Courtney's troubled relationship with her daughter, of whom she has not always retained custody, as a result of her on-going substance abuse issues. In many ways, Frances Bean serves as pointed reminder of who Kurt Cobain was. To look at her, she caries a strong resemblance to her father and has the same piercing eyes as Kurt did. Despite having become a tragic poster-boy for Generation X, though, Kurt's real legacy seems likely to continue its lasting effect, through the music that Nirvana released. The grunge sound hasn't dated yet and with upcoming bands acknowledging its influence, it seems likely that Kurt Cobain will be remembered for his musical legacy for some time to come, regardless of the drama created by his peers.