Total Propaganda: From Mass Culture to Popular Culture

By Alex S. Edelstein | Go to book overview

10
ROCKPROP Alienation, Fame, and Liberation

On April 8, 1994, famed alternative rock singer and leader of the band Nirvana Kurt Cobain was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his Seattle home. As a moralist and individualist, he had expressed the complex sources of alienation of all of the generations in songs about life, but he found liberation from fame only in death.

Cobain followed the same path to eternity that was taken by another Seattle rock star, Jimi Hendrix, also a victim of fame, drugs, and alcohol. Hendrix left a legacy of unschooled genius and affability, but Cobain entangled a complex oldprop of anger and exclusion with a troubling newprop of disclosure and intimacy. Long after his death, Hendrix was to be memorialized as a favorite son by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen with the construction of a museum to harbor his memorabilia. By contrast, Cobain's widow, Courtney Love of Hole, painfully sought a resting place for her more controversial husband.

Cobain no less than Hendrix was a rock leader of enormous stature, and he possessed an unassailable integrity. Right after his death, three Seattle bands performing in New York spoke of him as the leader of their alternative rock culture: The Melvins, who had mentored Cobain in his birthplace of Aberdeen, Washington, the heralded Pearl Jam led by Eddie Vedder, and Mudhoney. Two other limelight Seattle bands, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, were touring elsewhere but also eulogized Cobain.

Their selections reflected the complex contributions that Cobain and the alternative rock movement had made to a generation. It was not just the musicianship; far more vital was the struggle against cynicism and profit, and the

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