Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain

April 4, 2011 marks the 17th anniversary of the day Kurt Cobain, lead singer of the band Nirvana, killed himself with a shotgun in his Washington home. For one generation, while probably much less of a surprise, Cobain's death was just as powerful as John Lennon's. His music put into words and sound the emotions of many teens and young adults coming of age in the early '90s.

Where were you when you heard the news that Kurt Cobain was dead? I remember exactly where I was and what it meant for me.

In 1994, I was living in Switzerland with my aunt and uncle, working as the "nanny" for my baby cousin. Mostly, I watched a lot of British MTV because it was one of only two English-language channels available. So in March of 1994, when Kurt Cobain attempted suicide by overdosing while in Rome, just over the Alps from where I was living, I was glued to the television and so relieved that he came out the other side.

Nirvana's music marked a huge change in the music scene during a very transitional period in my life. You know how some music just marks deeply some periods in your life? Nirvana marked an extra difficult one for me. I had graduated from college without any real plans for my future and broken up with my on-again/off-again boyfriend of several years. I loved him intensely, but he struggled with severe depression, which overshadowed our relationship. I didn't know where my life was going to end up. I didn't know what choices I needed to make or which choices were going to choose me, and frankly, I didn't want to deal with any of it.

Kurt Cobain came with his own struggles, some of which we were privy to at the time: chronic pain, depression, and heroin addiction atop a marriage to a fame junkie and addict with her own struggles, new fatherhood to his daughter Francis Bean, and deep disillusionment with his stardom. But none of this bothered his fans. His lyrics made just the kind of perfect nonsensical sense we needed at the time, and his gravelly voice cut right to the heart of things. He felt real, intensity, angst, emotional struggles, and all.

Just over a month after his first suicide attempt, I was at an American friend's apartment, still in Switzerland, about to eat dinner when he just said it, "Kurt Cobain is dead." I hadn't been watching TV that day. He wasn't one to care. Definitely not a Nirvana fan. He even cruelly tossed out a bunch of "Yeah, we knew this was coming" type comments.

I, on the other hand, was floored. Had trouble concentrating. Couldn't stop thinking and worrying about my ex-boyfriend back home. About the future. About death. It was the end of an era. Strangely, I think, if I have to put it into words, one that meant for me -- moving from inaction into action in my life and trusting that I would end up where I was supposed to be headed.

Where were you when you heard the news about Kurt Cobain and what was your reaction?



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