Today, Kurt Cobain would have celebrated his 50th birthday. The Nirvana singer, guitarist and songwriter died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in April of 1994 at the age of 27. During his lifetime, Cobain spearheaded an international phenomenon, becoming not only the most visible representative of Seattle’s grunge scene but also an icon for a whole generation of disenfranchised youth. He was the antithesis of all the rock gods who came before him, a star who seemed to loathe his own fame while serving as a vocal proponent for feminism and gay rights as well as old-school punk authenticity.
In honor of a legacy that has grown even stronger since his passing, here are 12 quotes from Cobain that encompass his wisdom and beliefs.
“I’m such a nihilistic jerk half the time. I’m so fucking sarcastic at times and then at other times I’m still vulnerable and so sincere. That’s pretty much how every song comes out — it’s like a mixture of both of them, and that’s pretty much how people my age are. I’m just as pissed off about the things that made me pissed off a few years ago. I’m pissed off about everything in general so all these songs are pretty much about my battle with the things that piss me off.” –Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana by Michael Azerrad
“Most of the music is really personal as far as the emotion and the experiences that I’ve had in my life, but most of the themes in the songs aren’t that personal. They’re more just stories from TV or books or movies or friends. But definitely the emotion and feeling is from me.” –Rolling Stone, 1992
“At this point I have a request for our fans. If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different color, or women, please do this one favor for us — leave us the fuck alone! Don’t come to our shows and don’t buy our records.” –Incesticide liner notes
“Although I listened to Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin, and I really did enjoy some of the melodies they’d written, it took me so many years to realize that a lot of it had to do with sexism. The way that they just wrote about their dicks and having sex. I was just starting to understand what really was pissing me off so much those last couple years of high school. And then punk rock was exposed and then it all came together. It just fit together like a puzzle. It expressed the way I felt socially and politically. Just everything. You know. It was the anger that I felt. The alienation.” –Blank on Blank, 1993
“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. Just watch a beer commercial and you’ll see what I mean.” –Rolling Stone, 1992
“Because I couldn’t find any friends, male friends that I felt compatible with, I ended up hanging out with girls a lot. And I just always felt that they weren’t treated with respect, especially because women are just totally oppressed. I mean, the words bitch and cunt were totally common.” –Blank on Blank, 1993
“We have this conflict between good and evil and man and woman because there are people doing evil things to other people for no reason, and I just want to beat the shit out of them. That’s the bottom line. All I can do is scream into a microphone instead.” –Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana
“I think rap music is the only vital form of music that has been introduced to music in a long time since punk rock. I would never do rap music. No. There’s just no sense in it. The people who do rap music do it just fine. I’m usually offended by people like Vanilla Ice and stuff like that. The white man ripped off the black man long enough. They should leave rap music to the African-Americans because they do it so well and it is so vital to them.” –Billboard, 1991
“I don’t think Courtney and I are that fucked up. We have lacked love all our lives, and we need it so much that if there’s any goal that we have, it’s to give Frances as much love as we can, as much support as we can. That’s the one thing that I know is not going to turn out bad.” –Rolling Stone, 1994
“I don’t even care about the band as much as I used to. I know that sounds shitty, but the band use to be the only thing that was important to me in my life, and now, I have a wife and a child. I still love the band, but it isn’t the only thing I’m living for.” –Spin, 1992
“I even thought that I was gay. I thought that might be the solution to my problem. Although I never experimented with it, I had a gay friend and then my mother wouldn’t allow me to be friends with him anymore because she’s homophobic. It was real devastating because finally I’d found a male friend who I actually hugged and was affectionate to and we talked about a lot of things.” –Blank on Blank, 1993
“I just hope I don’t become so blissful I become boring. I think I’ll always be neurotic enough to do something weird.” –Rolling Stone, 1994