Music History

Kurt’s Now Been Gone 21 Years. Time to Admit He Was Not a “Tortured Artist”

The ever-popular tortured artist effect: that romantic notion that someone felt too much, had a depth of emotion that was too great for him/her continue in this world. That’s one way to put it. The other is to make the diagnosis of mental illness.

But we can’t do that, right? Mental illness still carries that awful stigma that signifies a person is crazy, batshit, weak, defective or some combination thereof. The truth is that mental illness is like any other malady; it is an affliction of the body and mind that can be usually be treated, but it through drugs or therapy.

I’m convinced that Kurt Cobain was both physically (his stomach issues of unknown origin) and mentally (also undiagnosed) ill.  The Telegraph takes it further.

On April 5 1994, 21 very short years ago, Kurt Cobain took his own life. I was a teenager at the time and can remember news of the Nirvana frontman’s death had a devastating impact, but I was also culturally aware enough to know it fit a kind of template.

Rock stars were troubled. They died young, often at their own hands. In my immaturity, I thought there was something cool about it. Tragic, yes, sure, but I didn’t really feel that tragedy. Rock and roll was youth. It resisted the world of safe compromises that getting old entails. Getting old meant mortgages and proper jobs and marriage and responsibilities. When I was 18, I had no real understanding of the pain Cobain must have been going through to get to that end-point. I just bought into the myth. The troubled-artist-too-pure-for-this-world idea.

Continue reading. Meanwhile, Loudwire offers this side-by-side comparison of the deaths of Kurt Cobain (21 years ago) and Layne Stayley from Alice in Chains (13 years ago).


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37921 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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