Like many that were in high school and college in the early and mid-'90s, Nirvana was a major band. Granted, I'm not a "Nirvana changed everything" guy like some in my generation (I was more into Pearl Jam and found Nirvana to be merely one of a number of great rock bands of the era), but it was still a pretty big deal when it heard the news on April 5, 1994 that Kurt Cobain had blown his head off.
Of course, a couple of major differences between April 2014 and April 1994 is that because the Internet was in its infancy and cell phones were considered a luxury item (with no texting) I remember finding out about Kurt's suicide because I was watching videos on MTV at the time. And also, being the 19-year-old mostly drunk college sophomore I was, I sort of rolled it off at the time, not understanding that this was the end of major band. In fact, I had a sarcastic ritual at parties the rest of that year where I'd remove my hat and try to look depressed every time someone played a Nirvana song (again, being a 19-year-old drunk dipshit).
Nowadays, I realize what a big deal this was. Having the leader of one of the most popular bands out there end himself MATTERS, especially in a time when music seemed to have a lot more importance than it does in the fragmented, YouTube/iPod world that exists today (but maybe that's just me beong 39 instead of 19). It also makes it somewhat hard for me to listen to Nirvana's 1993 release In Utero , because there are a whole lot of angry cries for help from Kurt in that album if you look for them, and it takes away from some of the enjoyment of a really good album. With that in mind, here's one of my favorites from In Utero "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle," a song that seems to reference all these bands from Seattle getting signed in the early '90s as Nirvana and "grunge" exploded into the consciousness of a recession-plagued country.
I do wonder how things end up if Kurt doesn't end up as a member of the 27 club , and instead decides to get help for his problems, comes out the other side still living, and is performing 20 years later. My guess is that Nirvana wouldn't be around (Kurt was too headstrong, kind of a Jim Morrison/Axl Rose "driven beyond everthing else"), and he might be doing solo tours and could still be critically acclaimed. Former Stone Temple Pilots' and Velvet Revolver front man Scott Weiland is touring and playing in Madison next month- would this have been what a 47-year-old Kurt would be in 2014? My guess is he'd be slightly better off than that (Nirvana had a lot more devoted fans than STP), but his music would be quite different off the smack.
We certainly know what happened after Kurt's suicide. Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl found an outlet for his grief by booking a studio in Seattle for a week, playing a number of instruments, and what came out were songs like this.
And nearly 20 years later, Foo Fighters is one of the biggest and most respected rock bands in the world, and Dave Grohl has got to be on top 10 lists of "coolest people out there." It's doubtful that Foo Fighters becomes this huge entity if Nirvana puts together 2 or 3 more albums and/or Dave does this as a side project in the late '90s. So if there's a positive from the demise of Kurt Cobain, it is that.
But it doesn't mean we're better off. Like a lot of things compared to where we were in the mid-'90s, we aren't necessarily better off.