It has been 20 years since the other left-handed guitar and rock legend from Seattle, Kurt Cobain, fell victim to the curse of fame. Like Jimi Hendrix before him, this young, talented musician decided to call it quits, and leave the world wondering what could have been. There have been all too many great musicians who, in their brief existence, left a mark of genius on their craft, and changed music forever. What is it about early success, if anything, that deprives the world of decades of such raw talent?
In the entertainment business, reaching those dreamed-of heights requires extraordinary skills. Kurt Cobain was the 90s rock band Nirvana’s lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter, considered by many to be the best of his generation. In just three years after starting the band in 1988, he landed a recording contract with Geffen Records.
His talents were apparent from a very young age. By the time he was in kindergarten, he had already started playing piano, without ever taking a class. His childhood was not a happy one however. His parents often yelled and fought with each other, and finally, by the time Cobain turned nine, his parents had divorced. It was during this time, when he lived with his father and his stepmother, that he picked up a guitar. Drugs started soon after, and his life was in turmoil as he wandered from place to place, with no place to call home.
Leaving the curse of not fitting anywhere, Kurt Cobain somehow managed to find fame and led his band Nirvana to stardom with the release of their second album Nevermind. Success came at a price as he delved deeper into heroin. In 1994, he overdosed with intention, but was saved. However, his second attempt later that year was successful.
There were other young entertainers who ended their lives, just as they were beginning to establish themselves. Ian Curtis from English rock band Joy Division hung himself at age 23. Jimi Hendrix died at age 27 from overdosing on sleeping pills. Janis Joplin overdosed on heroin at age 27. Frankie Lymon, an American blues singer and songwriter with the band The Teenagers, died of heroin overdose at age 27. Jim Morrison of The Doors also dies under mysterious circumstances at age 27.
Not all these musicians had a troubled childhood like Cobain, though their lives were also not “normal” in almost all of the cases. Neither did they share any particular addiction to drugs. According to a study done in 2011 to find whether age had something to do with it, researchers found that among UK population, musicians were at risk in their 20s and 30s. They also found that there were more deaths among musicians in their 20s to 40s during 1970s and early 1980s. Because the death rate dropped in the late 1980s, there is some evidence to suggest that it was due to better overdose treatment, and also because the music scene changed from hard rock to pop.
Musicians like Kurt Cobain leave an unfulfilled task of giving the world the gift of their music, but still reach out to us and show that beneath the outer covering, is a soul that was meant to sing for the gods, and no amount of curse or fame could change what was written in the stars.
Opinion by Amit Singh