Kurt Cobain would have turned 50 years old on February 20th, 2017.
In that brief, less-than-three-year window between Nevermind’s release in the fall of 1991 and the Nirvana frontman’s suicide on April 5th 1994, there was no one more influential in rock music than Kurt Cobain. No one.
The 22 years that have followed since his death have seen the “alternative” movement he grudgingly spearheaded slowly lose the edge it was synonymous with. No offence to Twenty One Pilots or The Lumineers, but songs like “Ho Hey” just don’t have the same angry impact as “Smells Like Teen Spirit” when the latter burst onto the scene.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s wondered aloud what Cobain would be in to if he were still around. Would Nirvana have stayed together? Dave Grohl would have left to do his own thing eventually – whether it was Foo Fighters or something else – probably even with Kurt’s blessing. Nirvana’s breakneck pace was not designed for long-term band health, although I could totally have seen them reuniting at Coachella before Iggy and the Stooges started the trend in 2003.
Anyone who’s read Journals knows that Cobain loved to make lists, such as how Raw Power was his all-time fave album. Kurt’s 2017 tastes would almost certainly lean away from the mainstream spotlight, towards artists who believe in the purity of punk as when he first learned to express himself, however loudly. Canadian Sub Pop signees METZ come screaming to mind, as do fellow countrypersons Japandroids and White Lung.
Cobain was a fervent supporter of women’s voices being heard. He would have loved St. Vincent singing “Lithium” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Sleater-Kinney bringing riot grrrl back, and Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino speaking up about sexually-harassing PR reps. There was definite disillusionment with the music industry near the end; maybe Cobain would have continued to experiment like he did in providing background guitar for William S. Burroughs’ The “Priest They Called Him. Now that I mention it, unconventional rockstars Arcade Fire would no doubt appeal greatly to him.
Then again this is all speculative, as there is only one person who truly knows why ending their life was seen as a solution to problems, no matter how overwhelming. The world would be a better place if Kurt Cobain was alive, for sure. Happy Birthday.