Musical artists offer commentary on the late Kurt Cobain

Edna Gundersen - Gannett News Service

The life and death of Kurt Cobain have yet to fade from memory. The grunge pioneer, found dead at 27 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound a year ago today, remains a powerful, if haunting, presence in rock. The discovery of his body on April 8, 1994, staggered millions of fans and ended the rise of Seattle trio Nirvana, though it still holds three spots on Billboard's album chart.

During the past year, several of pop's biggest stars have talked about their reactions to the suicide of rock's troubled revolutionary.

Bruce Springsteen: "I think he had a connection to his audience that was very, very deep. His music is powerful, very intense. That sort of power is rare. You hate to lose somebody like that, someone who keeps the music alive and moving ahead. Not many guys like him come along."

Don Was: "The entertainment business can be so unsympathetic," said the producer of Bonnie Raitt and the Rolling Stones. "No one's really advising these guys. We leave them out there and rape them. We leave them vulnerable to some deeply disturbing things. It's an ugly business. I don't find the transaction of business to be unsavory, but the way we treat artists, who are sensitive human beings, is. We regard them the same as shoes in a retail outlet. There was no difference between Kurt Cobain and Air Jordans."

Liz Phair: "Maybe he always felt (suicidal), but I suspect his success exacerbated it," said the fast-rising alternative rocker. "He lost his connection with his real life. I wondered why the hell they were still working him, how you could get to the point of suicide and still be functioning. Anybody that near death should not have been working."

John Mellencamp: Rock 'n' roll "is like any other job. ...You have to get a new perspective and see the merits of what you're doing. (Cobain) felt it necessary to blow his head off to try and solve his problems. I can understand where he was at, but he probably wouldn't have done it if drugs weren't involved."

Peter Buck: "It affected me a lot," said the R.E.M. guitarist, who lives in Seattle. "I think about it every day, and it's something I want to think about for the next five years. ... I knew him, but I wasn't his best friend. ... I don't think I could have done anything. It made me realize I'm not going to ever do anything I don't want to do. I don't have enough time in my life to do things I don't feel strong about."

Marianne Faithfull: "I loved his music very much," said the British singer, whose rocky past includes a suicide attempt and heroin addiction. "I was upset because I have so many friends that age who were upset. Those of us from the '60s have had losses like that. It's terribly sad."

Tom Petty: The members of Nirvana "were miles in front of the rest, and they kicked the door open again. It was some of the most incredible music I've heard in decades. (Cobain's death) made me feel bad. I wouldn't venture to speculate why. I didn't know Kurt. ...Such a beautiful flame never burns very long. The really brilliant flames seem to consume themselves, and then they're gone. Maybe Kurt was meant to be here long enough to put us on the right path."

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails: "I've hit lows in my life, but fortunately it hasn't involved putting a needle in my arm and bottoming out. I didn't know Kurt. He had a million times the fame we had. But even at the level we're at, it becomes unbearable at times. It's a paparazzi kind of world, and he played into the tabloid lifestyle.

"If he'd had clarity, he would have realized you can stop. You can go away for a few years, people will forget about you and later you can remember how terrible it was to be famous."

Keith Richards: The Rolling Stones guitarist, who kicked a years-long heroin habit, said, "I figured he was in the wrong business. What's so tough about being lead singer in one of the biggest rock 'n' roll bands in the world? You just deal with it. ...After the cat tried to off himself in Rome, I was surprised that the people who were supposed to be taking care of him let him buy a shotgun and mope around for days. They knew he barely escaped doing himself in already."

Had his handlers successfully intervened, Cobain probably would have killed himself down the line, Richards said.

"He was determined. There was a certain inevitability.

    
  • "Kurt is ...I don't know if I'd want to call him a genius. He's a great songwriter. He's a great guy. He's a quiet person. A lot of the time you can take his quietness as unnerving. Sometimes it seems as if he's really pissed off, but he's really not. He's sort of hard to understand. Kurt, I've never met anyone else like him ...He has this way of writing songs, really simple, almost childlike songs, that stick in your head. Kurt can write songs that are so simple that you will never get them out of your head ...A lot of bands think that they have to prove their musicianship by twiddling a million notes per second, but with Kurt it's a less is more thing." -Dave Grohl
  • "I thought he was one of the more beautiful, quiet people. I always sensed this really intense sense of fantasy around him, through his music and really intense sense of atmosphere." -Curt Kirkwood, Meat Puppets
  • "Remember Kurt for what he was: caring, generous and sweet." -Krist Novoselic
  • "Nevermind was the soundtrack for a period of emotional upheaval in my life and the lives of all my closest friends. I've never seen anything happen like this in my life." -Lou Barlow, Sebadoh
  • "He loved Krist and Dave and Nirvana. He really loved those guys. His death is a profound loss, and I just don't think I can say anything else right now." -Michael Stipe
  • "I don't think any of us would be in this room tonight if it weren't for Kurt Cobain." -Eddie Vedder
  • "He was an amazing guy, he was a complete gentleman... I still believe to this day that [Nirvana is] the best fucking band I've ever seen. And I miss the guy more than I could ever express." -Mark Lanegan, Screaming Trees
  • "Nirvana's success drew attention to a marketing demographic previously ignored by the mainstream, and inadvertently started a gold rush with advertising executives, product manufacturers, merchandise distributors, fashion coordinators, and rock imitators, the latter of whom have yet to equal the sincerity, power and wit of Nirvana." -Kim Thayil, Soundgarden
  • "[My husband, Fred "Sonic" Smith] also really liked Nirvana; he really suffered and we wept like parents when [Kurt died]... Nirvana was the first band in years that I really loved... They were the band I felt a lot of hope for, for the whole music scene." -Patti Smith

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