20th February 2014, the day that would have been Kurt Cobain’s 47th birthday. At the height of Nirvana’s immense fame Kurt’s intense lyrics, unique voice and incredible stage charisma truly cemented his place as the voice of a generation.
When Kurt Cobain died in 1994, I was 7. It wasn’t until the age of 15 that I was given my first taste of Nirvana by an ex boyfriend in the form of the track Lithium, and I never looked back. Slowly but surely I began to work my way through Nirvana’s back catalogue, falling under the spell which had captivated a generation before me & thus beginning my 10 year love affair of men with guitars and big blue eyes.
Kurt in particular fascinated me. “Kurt Cobain” the entertainer/performer and Kurt – the regular joe who so clearly struggled with finding his way in the harsh reality of fame. I remember buying the biography of Kurts life, “Heavier Than Heaven” by Charles R Cross and forewent a family BBQ to sit in bed and lose myself completely in everything Kurt. Success, fortune and fame turned out to be far too much for this small town boy to handle and as seen over the years and in pop culture today, drink and drugs fuelled his self detonation. The “overnight success” of Nirvana was too much for Kurt who wasn’t interested in the fame and fortune that it brought, he just wanted to make awesome music. And awesome music he did make.
Often when I’m in a Nirvana mood, I’ll pull up the albums on iTunes and have an evening engrossed in the simplistic beauty of Polly or rock out to the Live at Reading version of Drain You. Behind the music, the lyrical content of most of Nirvana’s songs are both weird but wonderful and really do showcase Kurt’s flair for songwriting.
Unplugged in New York strips back a number of the Nirvana back catalogue. Recorded on November 18th 1993 (just 4 months before Cobain’s death) at Sony Music Studios in New York. There’s something so personal and unnervingly beautiful about hearing these less main stream Nirvana songs stripped back and played acoustically. After performing the final song of the show (Lead Belly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”) Kurt argued with the shows producers when they asked for an encore as he felt they could not top the performance of that song. The howl in Kurt’s voice in the final “the whole night through” where he looks up from his guitar gives me goosebumps (on the video at 4:47) – absolutely epic.
I leave you with the unplugged performance of Where Did You Sleep Last Night… Happy Birthday Kurt.