Kurt Cobain: Rock’s Harbinger of Death?

Recently, my friends and I sat down around a fire and discussed how rock music has changed over the decades. We talked about how we are distancing ourselves from current rock music because it is lacking some of the things we have come to love about the genre. We also discussed who we think is responsible for the lack of enthusiastic, pound your fist, shake your head, driving kind of music currently played on today’s radio stations.

It’s not like there isn’t any good music out there today. Of course there is, but not much of it is “radio friendly”. They are either “never heard of” or just never “played”. And as I change the stations in my car, I am reminded that things are different now.

Several people come to my mind when I think of who has changed the landscape of rock music, but no one stands out like Kurt Cobain. You know, the guy that killed hair-metal and all other pretentious glam acts of the early 90’s. Or how about “the guy that was just keeping it real?”

Let me make something very clear. I respect the guy. I respect the fact that he was able to not sing in key and make everyone love him for his craft. I respect the fact that his songs were the most depressing songs of the era, yet he was able to overturn the genre from freewheelin’, funlovin’, sex-riddled hair-glam to honest, and pure artistry. I also respect the fact that he exposed those glam acts for the posers they were and halted many of their careers. (At least until the Summer Concert Series began)

All joking aside, I do believe the grunge era was important and I still like a couple of Nirvana tunes.

As I look at the last two decades of rock music, I think the grunge era really thinned the herd as far as who really stood out as torch bearers for good ol’ rock’n’roll. If you look at the ’50’s, ’60’s, ’70’s and ’80’s, I bet you can pick out several bands that stood out among the rest. Now, look at the ’90’s and ’00’s. How many bands stand out as great or really good? I can think of a couple, but it’s harder than thinking of the ’70’s, Isn’t it?

Oh the ’70’s!!! I truly believe it was the greatest era of music! Period! Dot! Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, and the list goes on and on. Music was so alive in that era. Okay, so, let’s get back to my point…

My point of this whole thing is I don’t believe Kurt Cobain is the harbinger of death for rock’n’roll, but I do believe he changed it.

Did I like the change? No! Was it necessary? Yes!

Like I said before, the glam acts had to end at some point. But did the guitar solo? No. I don’t mean the Kirk Hammett hammer-ons, spinning out of control and not serving the song at all type of solos. I mean the ones like David Gilmore of Pink Floyd, or Alex Lifeson of Rush, or Mark Knoppfler of Dire Straights could pull off. Why have we been missing this great tool of music since the early ’90’s?

I do see a glimmer of hope in some new stars like Jack White of The White Stripes and the Raconteurs. I also see some more up and coming bands that have given me something to look forward to and something to savor when they come out with new albums. But I sure hope we are seeing the second bookend to the non-soloing, let’s sing off key just cause we can, retro-rip-off music. (Not that Kurt’s music was like any of that)

Feel free to tell me what you think. I think after 20 years, we should move on. I also think Rock is layin’ down some bluegrass roots…let’s check it out!