20 Years Ago: The Day Kurt Cobain Died

by Bill Brenner on April 5, 2014

I remember exactly where I was 20 years ago today, when I saw the news flash about Kurt Cobain’s suicide. I was lying in bed, depressed and reclusive because of frequent fear.

Mood music: 

I was living in Lynnfield, Mass., at the time. I had a room in the basement, just like I had in Revere. But this space was much smaller — a jail cell with a nice blue carpet. But I did have my own bathroom, which I never cleaned.

Erin and I had been going out for less than a year, and I was waiting for her to come by after she finished work. I had been sleeping after a food and smoking binge and I still had a few hours to kill, so I turned on MTV, which still played music videos at the time.

There was MTV news anchor Kurt Loder and Rolling Stones editor David Fricke, holding court like Walter Cronkite following JFK’s assassination in 1963. Fricke expressed concern that depressed teens who listen to Nirvana might view suicide as the heroic thing to do; the only answer. “This is about your kids. You need to talk to them,” he said.

Erin arrived, we expressed our mutual shock, then we went out to dinner.

Though I was given to depression at that point, it wasn’t the suicidal kind, and would never become that. I’ve always been the type to hide in a room for long stretches, staring blankly at a TV screen, when depressed. Suicide was something I never really thought about at that point. It was an alien concept.

Then, a couple months later, a close friend attempted suicide. Two years later, he tried again and succeeded. In the 15 years since then, I’ve worked hard to gain the proper perspective of such things.

When Cobain died, I assumed he went straight to hell. I never gave it a second thought. Suicide is one of the unacceptable sins, like murder, the kind that gets you sent to the fire pit.

Today, I’m not so sure.

Kurt Cobain was unprepared for the crazy fame and publicity that came his way. He dove into heroin for solace. You could say the whole thing literally scared him to death.

Fortunately, he left behind a strong body of work.

When I listen to Nirvana, I don’t think of Kurt Cobain stuffing the tip of a rifle up his nose and pulling the trigger.

I think of how anxiety, fear and depression are universal things, how the sufferer is never, ever truly alone, and how we never have to be beaten.

I don’t need drugs to feel like Sunday morning is every day, though two anti-depressant prescriptions do help.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ren April 28, 2012 at 2:53 PM

I hear you Bill. Thanks to you, I finally went to a doctor and was diagnosed with severe depression. I’ve been off work for 3 weeks now while adjusting to meds. I am finally beginning to feel “normal” again.

Frank Anthony Polito April 5, 2013 at 11:38 AM

Thanks for sharing! To honor the memory of Kurt’s passing I wrote a novel called LOST IN THE ’90s. The story begins on 4/7/12 and is about a ’90s-obsessed teen named Kurt (after Cobain, of course!) who plays in a ’90s cover band. His parents were both seniors in high school in 1994 when Cobain died, so he’s learned all about the ’90s, Cobain, grunge etc. from his mom and dad. Then when his band is playing at a school “Lost in the ’90s” dance, he decides to stage dive — but he falls and hits his head, and when he wakes up… He’s traveled back in time to April 1994. You can check it out on Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/ZksZwu

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