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Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes

The day the music died

Nineteen years ago Friday, Kurt Cobain killed himself by self-inflicted gunshot at his home in Seattle.

For an entire generation of music fans, his band Nirvana spoke to them through its energy, lyrics and attitude.

As a kid working in radio, the influence of Nirvana was immediate and profound. Almost overnight, the “hair bands” that dominated rock music disappeared from the charts and the radio. Bands that spent more time on make-up and costumes than they did writing and performing good music went from playing stadiums to dive bars.

I remember when the lead singer of one of those leather pants wearing/blonde hair flowing bands, upon seeing the Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video for the first time, remarked; “It’s over boys.”

Nirvana, through Kurt’s lyrics, sang about the angst, troubles and social issues that mattered to the youth, especially the group that felt nobody listened to or even cared about them. Suddenly, being an outsider, quiet and unsure of yourself, was more acceptable because of Nirvana.

Sadly, Kurt’s struggles with his own demons cut short a musical career and deprived us of a voice that that ran counter to today’s celebrity culture. His inability to deal with the pressures of fame, star worship and the sudden fact that he was now speaking for millions of people were just too much.


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