It was 20 years ago today.
Or perhaps you’ve already read that.
I am today bemused by the rather absurd volume of tributes declaring Kurt Cobain to be either the last rock star, the last “great” rock star or the last “true” rock star. Funny, because 20 years after the tortured artist’s passing, rock and roll is still very much alive. And rock and roll continues to breed rock stars. Lady Gaga isn’t a rock star? Oh that’s right, women are not allowed to be rock stars. Well, how ’bout Kanye West? Oh, right. Well, I would suggest that Chad Kroeger (and yes, I threw up a little bit as I wrote that name) is the very essence of a rock star. True, he hasn’t blown his brains out — though millions continue to live in hope — but the man has pissed off enough people and engaged in enough drunk driving to qualify for rock god status. Can’t stand the man? He doesn’t give a shit! What’s more ‘rock star’ than that?
Indeed, I prefer to remember Cobain as anything but a rock star. And yes, many of the words of tribute spilled today have stressed that the Nirvana frontman was no mere rock star — even as they tag him with the regrettable ‘rock star’ label. But then, I’ve never much cared for ‘rock’ and the stars it breeds, as such. Rock is, after all, a bastardized adaptation of the glorious double-entendre term rock and roll, which when not treated by the press as kid-stuff (i.e., rock ‘n’ roll) is too often condensed into the monosyllabic grunt “rock” — a term that inevitably conjures images of over-the-top, microphone-swinging bandanaed narcissists.
I like to think Kurt Cobain deserves better than to be remembered as a rock star. And certainly not as the last rock star. There have been plenty of rock stars since that tragic day 20 years ago when rock and roll lost one of its best and brightest. There will be many more. And, like the true rock stars that came before them, they will provide little of value to society.
In that sense, too, Kurt Cobain was no rock star.