Tag Archives: Music

Kurt Cobain, RIP 23 years on; On Being Yourself and too much Empathy

Being Yourself by Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain - the Day the Music Died
Kurt Cobain – the Day the Music Died, 1994

Kurt Cobain, was born in 1967, and died 23 years ago today. He flitted between narcissism, empathy, love and pain, trying to enjoy his life and simply be himself, but not feeling it, instead feeling everything else instead. He’d have been 50 now, just a month older than me. 5 years ago, I also attempted suicide, after a lifelong struggle with identity and feeling too much.

Whilst Cobain is in nirvana now, where are we 20+ years on? Still struggling for identity, as individuals, and a generation? Cobain struggled with being seen as the voice of a generation. His band, Nirvana, was labelled “the flagship band” of Generation X, and Cobain himself proclaimed as “the spokesman of a generation”, something that did not sit well with him.

Faking it, Being Someone Else

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are.” – Kurt Cobain

Cobain was trying to work out how to be himself amidst the pressures of fame, parental divorce, love and loss, and mental health conditions including bipolar mood swings between depression and mania, as described by his cousin, a nurse, who noted his childhood diagnosis of ADHD and as an adult Bipolar (unconfirmed?). Several relatives had also committed suicide in the same way. 

He struggled to feel what he thought he was meant to feel or enjoy. He couldn’t fake the enjoyment of fame, or life itself.

“I’ve tried everything within my power to appreciate it” – Kurt Cobain, suicide note

“The worst crime is faking it.” – Kurt Cobain

Empathy and Fame

Kurt Cobain suicide note
Kurt Cobain suicide note

He mentioned empathy four times in his suicide note, and the struggle between feeling too much and yet not feeling anything – or what he thought was the right thing, at all. 

“I think I simply love people too much, so much that it makes me feel too fucking sad. The sad little, sensitive, unappreciative, Pisces, Jesus, man, ‘Why don’t you just enjoy it?’ I don’t know!” – Kurt Cobain, suicide note

Nirvana sold over 25 million albums in the US, and over 75 million worldwide, but fame and success do not fill the void. He hated the fame, and was envious of Freddie Mercury and how he seemed to relish it.

“We’re so trendy we can’t even escape ourselves…I really miss being able to blend in with people.” – Kurt Cobain

Reading, Writing & Lyrics

Cobain “occasionally took refuge in the counter-cultural writings of authors such as William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Samuel Beckett and Charles Bukowski”. Yet, described himself as having the “tongue of an experienced simpleton”, and hating the Freudian analysis that people subjected his lyrics to. Another reason, to explore him in his own words, not the interpretation of others.

“I’m not well-read, but when I read, I read well.” – Kurt Cobain

“I like to have strong opinions with nothing to back them up with besides my primal sincerity. I like sincerity. I lack sincerity.” – Kurt Cobain

Sexuality

Kurt Cobain was seemingly bisexual, though gave mixed interviews on that side of his personal life, calling himself “gay for a while” yet “more sexually attracted to women”. As a teen he was arrested and fined $180 for graffitiing “Homosex Rules” on a wall. He once said, “I started being really proud of the fact that I was gay even though I wasn’t.” It is not clear if he ever consummated this part of his persona, despite saying:

“If I wouldn’t have found Courtney, I probably would have carried on with a bisexual lifestyle.” – Kurt Cobain

Whilst Generation Y, born early 80s to 2000, followed Cobain’s Generation X, we are now on the Gen Z cohort, born since the Millennium. A group happy to be neither gay nor straight, to question gender and express it fluidly.

Women’s Rights

Cobain wrote about women’s rights in his songs, including concerning the rape of a 14yo girl after a concert (not one of his). 

“I definitely feel closer to the feminine side of the human being than I do the male – or the American idea of what a male is supposed to be.” – Kurt Cobain

“He was himself”

Canadian musician and writer, Dave Bidini, in an article for the National Post entitled “Kurt Cobain, who died 20 years ago today, wasn’t a hero, martyr or vampire. He was himself” ended with this comment:

“He looked like he didn’t care (because he didn’t) … His arms hang down and he turns sideways from the crowd, as if he’s trying not to be seen, even though 20 million people have their eyes trained on him. In a society where ‘bringing it’ and ‘all or nothing’ and ‘going for it’ are sicknesses pumped by fools who aspire to drive people apart rather than draw them together, Cobain’s sense of oblivion was, in a way, brave and confrontational, and that’s why he cracked even the hardest edifice and ate through misplaced pop culture like a creeping disease. In the end, he made an enormous impression for someone who wasn’t even there.”  – Dave Bidini, National Post

Cobain did escape, “Rather be dead than cool”, others need not take that route if they can follow his other wisdom, to be yourself and find someone you can be yourself with and talk to.

“It’s better to burn out than to fade away” – suicide note

Remember him alive though, here’s an awesome unplugged hour-long Kurt Cobain MTV concert in NYC November 1993 just months before his suicide, my favourite line of which was “like this is my third cup of tea already” – how Rock’n’Roll!

I will remember him, as much for the angst music of a tortured soul, as the desire to find and be himself, a journey I am also on, aren’t we all to a degree?

“I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.” – Kurt Cobain

Inspirational Prince Quotes and Song Lyrics, RIP 1958-2016

Prince and the Revolution

Genderblend Love Symbol for the artist formerly known as Prince
Genderblend Love Symbol of the artist formerly known as Prince

The enigma that was Prince Rogers Nelson, whose African-American family hailed from Lousiana originally burst onto the pop scene as a 17-year-old teenager, in the late 1970s. Aged just 20, in 1979, he performed his first gig with his band, who became, ‘The Revolution‘. His death, this week, leaves behind dozens of songs, lyrics, statements, and beliefs, that not everyone understood.

His own path navigated 3 engagements, 2 marriages and divorces, and the death of his only child. In 2001, he became a Jehovah Witness and said he was turning to monogamy after prior romantic links to Kim Basinger, Madonna, Sheila E., Carmen Electra, Anna Fantastic, Sherilyn Fenn, Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles, Susan Moonsie of Vanity 6, and Vanity, herself, another singer who underwent a Christian conversion and also died this year.

Prince, the Genderbending Rule-breaker

“A strong spirit transcends rules”, Prince said in a 1999 interview.

Steven W Thrasher, writing in the Guardian, writes of Prince’s genderbending and gender-busting allure:

Prince broke all the rules about what black American men should be. The musical genius captivated both men and women with his high heels, tight butt and playful sexuality – and he refused to be anyone’s slave…

Prince - strong spirit transcendes rules

…letting go of all those rules he seemed to have dispensed with? That purple clothing, those high heels and ruffled shirts: was he proudly feminine, or so secure in his masculinity he didn’t mind others questioning it? That small frame and that tight, small butt that seemed to leave him “shaking that ass, shaking that ass” for men and women alike?

Prince was a paradox in that he expanded the concept of what it meant to be a man while also deconstructing the entire idea of gender.

It was, in retrospect, the first time I experienced someone refusing to live under the oppressive binary regime of gender, or to submit to the dominant power’s rules.”

In 1982, Prince said that “What’s missing from pop music is danger – there’s no excitement and mystery”. Well, he certainly provided that mystery, much as David Bowie did.

I wanna be your lover
Wanna be your mother and your sister too

– “I Wanna Be Your Lover” (1979)

Mick Jagger tweeted that Prince was “authentic in every way“.

“Prince brazenly blended rock, R&B, funk, pop and jazz like few artists before or since. He pushed the envelope on sexuality and androgyny in music, dared to take on the corporate music industry…” – Star Tribune

Freedom and Fascination

Prince in white frilled blouse shirt - freedom is sexy quoteFrom a rare interview in 1996 with, among others, NME, on the release of his ‘Emancipation’ triple album comes these quotes from Prince on freedom, life, experience and people:

“I find freedom sexy. I find freedom so sexy I can’t even explain it to you. You wake up every day and feel like you can do anything.”

“Everyone has their own experience. That’s why we are here, to go through our experience, to learn, to go down those paths and eventually you may have gone down so many paths and learned so much that you don’t have to come back again.”

“I’m no different to anyone. Yes, I have fame and wealth and talent, but I certainly don’t consider myself any better than anyone who has no fame, wealth or talent. People fascinate me. They’re amazing! Life fascinates me! And I’m no more fascinated by my own life than by anyone else’s.”

Prince, Mystery or Madness?

“America still believes Prince to be mildly insane…’Why does everyone think I’m mad?’ he once asked his British press person. ‘Because,’ the PR replied, ‘you do weird things and you don’t explain them.’ Prince does do weird things, but he also performs live with a stage presence and a charisma that’s unrivalled in American entertainment.” – Guardian (2006)

Prince - Everyone has their own experience

His refusal to bow to the corporate line of either the music industry or journalists meant that he came across as ‘odd’, but his response was that he didn’t care:

“I don’t really care so much what people say about me because it usually is a reflection of who they are.”

“Despite everything, no one can dictate who you are to other people.”

Being yourself and not worrying about what others thought was one of the ways he inspired others to break out.

“Cool means being able to hang with yourself. All you have to ask yourself is ‘Is there anybody I’m afraid of? Is there anybody who if I walked into a room and saw, I’d get nervous?’ If not, then you’re cool.” – Rolling Stone Magazine

Prince, Song Lyrics

Stand up everybody/This is your life
Let me take you to another world, let me take you tonight
You don’t need no money, you don’t need no clothes
The second coming, anything goes
Sexuality is all you’ll ever need
Sexuality, let your body be free…
I’m talking about a revolution we gotta organize
We don’t need no segregation, we don’t need no race
New age revelation, I think we got a case…
No child is bad from the beginning, they only imitate their atmosphere…
Stand up, organize
We need a new breed, leaders, stand up, organize

– “Sexuality” (1981)

Whenever I feel like givin’ up
Whenever my sunshine turns to rain
Whenever my hopes and dreams
Are aimed in the wrong direction
She’s always there
Tellin’ me how much she cares
She’s always in my hair

– “She’s Always in My Hair” (1985)

Lemmy of Motorhead and Hawkwind draws Dead Man’s Hand Ace of Spades

Motorhead’s Lemmy, dies at 70

Lemmy Motorhead
Lemmy by MarkMarek Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

After the death of Motörhead drummer Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor last month at 61 and amidst rumours of the passing of guitarist Phil Campbell this month, frontman and founder Lemmy has lost life’s last gamble to cancer, aged 70. Over 50 years playing in bands, nearly 40 with Motörhead, he’d played alongside Jimi Hendrix and the Hollies, with the latter his “drummer succeeded in being a complete cunt and destroyed the stage under himself and fell into the hole!”

Asked just weeks ago when he was going to die, Lemmy said he was sick of the question:

“Death is an inevitability, isn’t it? You become more aware of that when you get to my age. I don’t worry about it. I’m ready for it. When I go, I want to go doing what I do best. If I died tomorrow, I couldn’t complain. It’s been good.” – Classic Rock

Motorhead logoHe lived life full throttle, at speed, at times on speed or acid. He argued for the legalising of heroin to get the dealers off the street. He was “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll” incarnate, for he never saw Motörhead as a Metal band, but a full-on Rock band.

“Very basic music – loud, fast, city, raucous, arrogant, paranoid, speed-freak rock n roll. It will be so loud that if we move in next door to you, your lawn will die“.

He played and sang in Hawkwind splitting over “pharmaceutical differences”! He then formed his own band so that “no-one can fire me again”, calling it Bastard before renaming to Motörhead – “US slang for someone who takes speed and also the title of the last song he had penned for Hawkwind.”

Motorhead, The Ace of Spades

Playing, touring and recording to the end, the band produced 21 albums including their most famous – Ace of Spades, in 1980.

Poker’s Dead Man’s Hand is reputed to have contained the Ace of Spades, Ace of Clubs and a pair of Eights, Wild Bill Hickok’s last hand as he died from gunshots. He was once described himself as “unchanging, unflinching- a gunslinger surrounded by mice“. The lyrics of the title song included the words:

Motorhead Ace of Spades
Motorhead – Ace of Spades

“If you like to gamble, I tell you I’m your man,
You win some, lose some, all the same to me,
The pleasure is to play, makes no difference what you say,
I don’t share your greed, the only card I need is
The Ace Of Spades

Playing for the high one, dancing with the devil,
Going with the flow, it’s all the game to me,…

You know I’m born to lose, and gambling’s for fools,
But that’s the way I like it baby,
I don’t wanna live for ever,…

Lemmy played hard and fast with life, after drawing the cancer diagnosis card on Boxing Day he was dead two days later.

Lemmy Quotes on Religion

Lemmy first performed in a band called The Motown Sect in Manchester then Reverend Black and The Rocking Vicars dressed as a cleric, his biological father had been an RAF Chaplain and vicar, but he had no time for religion himself, indeed:

“the way [his father] behaved put me off religion for life. He ran off and left my mother and I didn’t see him for 25 years…[he was] kicked out of the church”.

He didn’t hold back on telling people the truth as he saw it, even if it upset people.

“The only interesting thing about religion is how many people it’s slaughtered. Communism and Nazism are religions as well, make no mistake about it.” – interview with Louder Than War

“Religion is stupid anyway. I mean, a virgin gets pregnant by a ghost! You would never get away with that in a divorce court, would you?” – interview with Radio Metal

Lemmy might have agreed with Kurgan in Highlander (1986), speaking to a priest and church congregation:

“I have something to say! It’s better to burn out than to fade away!”

RIP Lemmy Kilmister, and Motorhead?

Lemmy lived loud like Motörhead’s sound, “born to lose but lived to win” according to his bandmates. He had no regrets.

“If I have to die and be on my deathbed regretting decisions I made, I’m not interested in that…I don’t do regrets. Regrets are pointless. It’s too late for regrets. You’ve already done it, haven’t you? You’ve lived your life. No point wishing you could change it.”

During a Motörhead tour of Finland in 1988, he was asked by a  journalist why he had kept going for so long, even back then: “We’re still here,” he replied, “because we should have died a long time ago but we didn’t.” He,  and more than likely Motörhead, now have.

 

Former My Chemical Romance guitarist Ray Toro dedicates latest song to Leelah Alcorn

Ray Toro, former My Chemical Romance lead guitarist, and now solo artist since last year, has released his latest track for free and dedicated it to Leelah Alcorn, the Ohio transgender teen who took her own life last week in a suicide that has rocked the world.

Approaching 300,000 people have signed a Change.org petition to end the conversion therapy that Leelah was subjected to rather than the gender therapy and transition she requested.

Although the song, “For The Lost And Brave”, was written “about a year ago”, there are many lyrics that are spot on for Leelah and other trans and LGB youth who feel forced to hide and deny who they are:

“Something in my head
Tells me I’m nothing…
Always been afraid
Of who I am
Forced to hide away”

Toro writes on his blog that there were “many times that I’ve almost put it out, but have always found a reason to hold it back.” He continues:

“lately there seems to be so much hate and misunderstanding in this world. As I’m sure many of you felt after reading the news of young Leelah Alcorn taking her own life, my heart sank. I felt sick. Yet another young life gone because of not being heard, not being understood, and not being unconditionally loved for who they truly were. After hearing her story, and reading her final Tumblr post, I finally felt it was time to share this song. It is time we learn to accept each other for who we truly are. Being seen, heard, and truly loved as our authentic selves is something we all want, and something we all deserve.”

Leelah’s final Tumblr post has been deleted along with her social media account at her parents request, but can be viewed here:

The song also signals an awareness of those lost, those who continue to face life and all its sometimes brutal challenges, and those who are left behind in grief – something that various commentators have found hard to balance amidst all the highly-charged emotions of the last week:

“For the lost and brave
For the ones who stayed
For the ones we left behind”

On Soundcloud the track has already prompted 160+ comments and led some to tears, many from appreciative LGBTQ+ youth.

A poignant comment under a Youtube upload of the song said:

“This song has given me hope where I was sure all was lost. There is not enough acceptance in the world, and since I heard about Leelah, being buried in a suit under a headstone engraved with ‘Joshua’, her mother stating that she “loved her son”, I thought there never would be. But seeing so much outrage, so many people speaking out, and now hearing this, I think there could be. There might be a way we could fix this, just as she said, “Fix society. Please.” I think we can. So thank you, Ray. And Leelah, Rest In Power, you beautiful girl.”

“The song is absolutely beautiful”, writes Under the Gun Review, “giving assurance and comfort to those that need someone. It’s really freaking good.”

Gigwise reporter, Andy Morris, says that “Toro’s lyrics perfectly articulate an alienated teenager’s perspective”.

‘For the Lost and Brave’ Lyrics

The lyrics of “For the Lost and Brave”, by Ray Toro, in full:

Walking in the rain
The feeling comes again
Something in my head
Tells me I’m nothing

Sorry and ashamed
All the lies I couldn’t face
Always been afraid
Of who I am

Forced to hide away
Nothing is wrong
They say
Leave it alone
And it will go away

For the lost and brave
For the lonely strays
For the ones we left behind
Far away
Don’t ask me why

For the lost and brave
For the ones who stayed
For the ones we left behind
Far away from you we run
Do not ask why

The choice I didn’t make
This isn’t a mistake
The man beyond the glasses
Girl you’re something

The sun will rise again
All the clouds inside my head
Clear away
I know just who I am

I won’t hide away
Overcome your hate
Shield it alone
Let the people say

For the lost and brave
For the lonely strays
For the ones we left behind
Far away
Don’t ask me why

For the lost and brave
For the ones who stayed
For the ones we left behind
Far away from you we run
Do not ask why

Why we hate
A different state of mind and heart
It’s gone on far too long
We are here to say

For the lost and Brave
For the lonely strays
For the ones we left behind
Far away
Don’t ask me why

For the lost and brave
For the ones who stayed
For the ones we left behind
Far away from you we run
Do not ask why

Why
We learn to not ask why
Why
We learn to not ask why
Why
We don’t ask why