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‘Kurt Cobain and his Sideways Stance’ by Dr. Conor Hogan

​’Kurt Cobain and his Sideways Stance’ by Dr. Conor Hogan

I had minor scoliosis in junior high, and since I’ve been playing guitar ever since, the weight of the guitar has made my back grow in this curvature. So when I stand, everything is sideways. It’s weird.”  -Kurt Cobain in taking with Jon Savage in Weddle, N. Dr. (2018)

Kurt Cobain was a famous musician and the lead singer with the incredibly popular band ‘Nirvana’. Still, he died by suicide in 1994 at only 27 years of age. Cobain was a deeply unhappy individual and, sadly, was found in his home in Seattle, Washington after ending his own life with a shotgun wound to his head.

Some solace to the millions of followers around the world that adored his musical talent and lyrics was given when a suicide note was made public following his death. In the note, Cobain articulated his final feelings to those who cared to read. He stated that he found it impossible to appreciate the throngs of thousands who came to watch his live performances in the way that even the great Queen front man, Freddie Mercury, did. Of course, Mercury died prematurely as well, but not from suicide rather, from something that at that time seemed (out of all those that suffered like him) outside of their control. See, Freddie Mercury died of AIDS related symptoms and although people with it were stigmatised in ways, at that time, those that suffered death by suicide were also widely negated too.

Referring to his young daughter, Frances and his wife Courtney, Cobain thanked them for their love in his life and for his wife`s showing of much empathy towards him. He acknowledged that he did not want his child to grow up into the type of ‘miserable, self destructive death rocker‘ that he then saw himself as becoming. He admitted he once had been a joyful human being when he was a child just like his daughter too, by admitting that when he was younger than seven years of age, he was actually ‘happy’ in life. Over time, as he entered into his teens and young adulthood, he had become hateful to people in general.

What can be said, though, is that Kurt Cobain was not a well man. He had skeletons in the closet and was unhappy from an early age. His lyrics often symbolised this. Indeed, iIn his legendary song ‘ Smells Like Teen Spirit’ he wrote and bellowed:

“Hello, hello, hello, how low? With the lights out it`s less dangerous.. I feel stupid and contagious… a mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido…”

Perhaps these words mirrored the inner feelings of discomfort and pain that he was experiencing from his physical manifestations of scoliosis that he had when he, himself, was a teenager. If so, then it further illustrates that physical curvature can have profound emotional and even mental health implications. We will never know the full extent of this and can only surmise.

It seemed from the same song that he did appreciate his musical talent within himself as he later wrote ‘ I`m worse at what I do best, and for this gift I feel blessed’ while at the same time appreciating that he was disapproving in his level of ability for some reason or another.

When someone dies from suicide, and especially someone who appears to have had the world at their feet, it is bewildering to many. But, what is for sure is that within Cobain`s last words he used one word more than most and that word was ‘empathy.’ He surely did so to portray much of his final feelings on life. Opinions on whether his words mattered much then, or now, will be divided, but perhaps within that final note there is a clue to everyone`s well being in that ‘empathy’ is required to sustain human life and to offset the twists and turns of those that most suffer within themselves.

By us all being aware of showing more empathy to one another, there will be a more balanced outlook for those with mental health issues.