Showing posts with label nirvana. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nirvana. Show all posts

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Heavier Than Heaven

The fact that I can still vividly remember where-I-was-and-what-I-was-doing the first time I heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (and also where-I-was-and-what-I-was-doing when I learned of Kurt Cobain's suicide) is a measure of how powerfully the music of Nirvana moved me.  I may be a "baby boomer," but I've always identified, culturally at least, with the Generation Xers.

I've been observing the twentieth anniversary of Cobain's death by reading Charles Cross's "definitive" 2001 biography of Cobain, Heavier Than Heaven.  And trust me, this book is "heavy" in every sense of the word. 

There are no great revelations here:  Cobain was a sweet, sensitive child with artistic inclinations who grew into an incorrigible, depressed adolescent who was a complete pain in the ass to everyone who cared about him.  What ultimately (and narrowly) saved him from becoming a professional homeless person was his commitment to his music.  Cobain was, in fact, extraordinarily ambitious and driven.  He was cunning, manipulative, conflict-avoidant, self-mythologizing, and had no qualms about taking advantage of anyone who lent him a hand. 

None of which diminishes his musical legacy of course, or even makes this reader dislike him personally.  In fact, I am in admiration of his monomaniacal quest to achieve popular success.  The fact that this success did not, in the end, make him happy is the most tragic aspect of his life ("answered prayers" and all that).

Part of the reason I am finding the book an interesting, albeit predictable, read is that I have spent a lot of time in the places Cross describes.  In the early nineties, I even considered moving to Aberdeen -- probably because the rents were so incredibly cheap there and I briefly fancied the romance of living in a modern ruin.

Anyway, I'm developing a lesson built around Nirvana for one of my classes next week.  One of the perks of being a teacher is that I get to inflict my musical and literary tastes on my students (most of whom have never heard of Cobain, but all of whom will recognize the opening bars of "Smells Like Teen Spirit").