In 1994, a few months after Kurt Cobain was found dead April 8 at his Seattle, Washington home, I penned a letter to the music magazine Top 40 in South Africa, where I lived. I was 10 years old.
It revealed the extreme love I had for Cobain and Nirvana. “It was not a surprise when on the day Kurt eliminated himself, teenagers all over the world were sobbing and weeping and feeling as if the world had concerned an end,” I composed. “However, it had not, and Kurt had actually desired his fans to bring on.” I ended, rather considerably, with a quote from the tune “Smells Like Teen Spirit”:
I’m even worse at what I do best, and for this gift, I feel blessed … I found it hard, it’s hard to find. Oh well, whatever, never ever mind.
What I wrote wasn’t particularly extensive, however what happened after was, for me. My letter was published.
In the age of social media and self-publishing, it’s difficult to envision, however I found seeing my words in print extremely affecting. It was the very first time I understood that you could have a feeling, thought, or idea about something– a story to inform– and put it out worldwide for others to read, think about, and react to. It was a revolutionary thing for a little woman in Johannesburg, a world far from Cobain’s Seattle. And it set me on my course to being a journalist.
It wasn’t simply the diva of Nirvana’s unforeseen death that influenced me; it was likewise his efficiency of life, as wonderfully encapsulated in the rock band’s iconic November 1993 live efficiency on MTV Unplugged I strongly remember seeing a video of the show with my sibling in Johannesburg, and being captivated by the purple shade of the phase; the abundance of lilies positioned in between the band members; Dave Grohl, slouched and tapping the drums in a painfully contained method; and naturally Cobain in his fluffy extra-large cardigan, looking uncomfortable as he poured out his heart onstage.
I fell in love viewing that performance– with the music, the intimacy of a live program, and a singer who could express some of the most challenging and dark parts of being human in his soul-piercing tunes. I could not think that he was gone. It was a time of intense anxiety and modification in my house nation, which had simply had its first democratic elections. Sometimes violence seemed like part of whatever around us, even as I was fortunate enough to be safeguarded from it.
Nirvana had actually only released 3 albums by the time Cobain died. The recording of Nirvana’s Unplugged program, launched after his death in November 1994, would debut at No. 1 on the Signboard 200 and sell 300,000 records in its first week. The band’s fan base was and continues to be adoring, something the 27- year-old vocalist had conflicted sensations about. I became part of that crowd– someone who knew absolutely nothing about Cobain, but felt intensely linked to him through his music.
But beyond that, Nirvana’s music, and the level of vulnerability Cobain revealed performing, demonstrated to the world that there was worth– possibly even a release– in expressing unpleasant and difficult sensations. Individuals may even enjoy you for it.
My feelings about the band and the performance moved me sufficient to discover my future profession, ultimately leading me to journalism school in Johannesburg and then New York City, and a career at Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and now, as Europe news editor for Quartz.
I hope that Cobain knew the really extensive methods he altered individuals’s lives. He definitely altered mine.
Angie Ronson is Editor-in-Chief at THRS. She covers the transformative impact of new technology on all sectors.