When Kurt Cobain took his own life in April of 1994, its one of those moments that I still remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I found out. Looking back on it, its pretty odd to have that memory about a 27 year old musician. Its not like it was the President being killed or something like the space shuttle explosion. That said, there was something about Cobain that still resonates with many people from my generation. The first time I heard ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, I knew it was way different than the hair bands of the 80s and music was transitioning into a new era. That it did, not only did it a new genre of music come about, but a fashion and more so even a lifestyle which took the name of grunge.
I finally found the time to watch the amazing HBO documentary, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck over the weekend. It was great, confusing, sad, scary, and something in between. I’m a big fan of biographies, and I’ve probably read eight to ten books on Nirvana or Cobain specifically over the years. Whether it was Michael Azerrad’s awesome book about the arc of the band or even books claiming that his wife, Courtney Love killed Cobain rather than him dying of an overdose.
Therefore I went into the film thinking the majority of it would be rehashed things I’ve read in the past. Not to mention, we are talking about someone who took his own life over 21 years ago, how much much are you going to learn from a documentary in 2015? Boy was I wrong. While the film was outstanding, and I would recommend anyone see it whether or not you are a fan of Cobain or not, I took away something else from watching it. It felt like I was watching something that I would never see again. The film’s director Brett Morgen had access to a treasure drove of old notebooks containing writings as well as drawings. Not only that, he was handed private home movies from Cobain’s birth all the way right up to his death. There were also loads of cassette tapes where Cobain recorded his thoughts, songs, and musings.
The way the film was put together was nothing short of amazing, but with the technology of today, I’m not sure we will ever have a chance again to look at someone in this light. To see the images in Cobain’s notebook as he goes through potential band names and scratches one out for the next was powerful. Today, someone would just type it into the computer. It made me reminisce about a simpler time, not that long ago, where we sat with our own thoughts and drew, or wrote in a journal. Today, kids are glued to their phone or buried in their laptop. Times change of course, but for the sake of this complex young man who tragically decided to leave a wife and daughter behind, they story was one hundred times more intimate because of his writings, artwork, and audio tapes. To tell this same story with YouTube videos and tweets just wouldn’t be nearly the same.