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Protests or Prophecies? The songs of Kurt Cobain

On April 5 1994, Kurt Cobain – lead singer of the iconic grunge band Nirvana & spokesperson for a generation of disaffected young people – blew out his brains with a shotgun. His suicide devastated millions but, far from being the tortured rock star – a glorifying cliché applied to all artists who end their own lives – Cobain’s genetic predisposition (several of his ancestors had shot & killed themselves) & a childhood filled with trauma & violence had left him with a lingering misery that not even worldwide adoration could counter.

His tranquilliser-and-champagne suicide attempt in Rome a month earlier was proof enough that he was severely depressed & lacked the emotional resources to fight his way out of it. Turning the gun on himself signified his hopelessness & highlights the plight of so many other artists who would quite possibly still be with us if their mental illness had been recognised & responded to. Thinly wrapped inside the clamour of Cobain’s music was a desperate plea for redemption: a healing connection with a human being that, tragically, never materialised.

Been a son
‘Been a Son’

One of a limited edition of five prints, printed on Hahnemühle Rag Paper, 36cm x 36cm (Framed) £200

A semi-autobiographical account of Cobain’s father’s disappointment that Kurt’s sister was not a boy &, in a wider context, his protest at how patriarchy sees women as second-class citizens.
Come as you are
‘Come as you are’

One of a limited edition of five prints, printed on Hahnemühle Rag Paper, 34cm x 39cm (Framed) £200

Cobain’s invitation to a generation of youths to retain their individuality whilst also expressing his personal resistance to a recording company desperate to re-market the band to increase its fan base. Whilst the most contentious line ‘And I swear that I don’t have a gun’ gives the song an unintentional edge, it may well be a veiled nod & his own ‘killing joke’ towards the band of that name, who believed that Cobain had lifted the main riff from their own song, ‘Eighties’.
In Bloom
‘In Bloom’

One of a limited edition of five prints, printed on Hahnemühle Rag Paper, 32cm x 40cm (Framed) £200

A protest on how the youth of his day, particularly girls, were objectified, disrespected & used in order to meet the needs of their abusers.
‘Lithium’

One of a limited edition of five prints, printed on Hahnemühle Rag Paper, 32cm x 40cm (Framed) £200

Lithium is a mood stabilising drug prescribed to people diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Like many other mind-altering drugs it masks the reality of what actually is by numbing the brain & blanking out emotional pain. Religion, Cobain suggests, provides a similar escape through the interventions of an imaginary saviour – yet all these coping mechanisms are illusory, he claims, & the only true saviour we have resides within us.
‘Heart-shaped box’

One of a limited edition of five prints, printed on Hahnemühle Rag Paper, 32cm x 39cm (Framed) £200

A meditation on the excesses of love & Cobain’s own unstable romance with Courtney Love, his brooding obsession with her & his resentment of how she took advantage of his emotional weakness.
You know you’re right
‘You know you’re right’

One of a limited edition of five prints, printed on Hahnemühle Rag Paper, 33cm x 40cm (Framed) £200

This was the last song Nirvana recorded before Cobain’s suicide &, whilst it seems to address his faltering relationship with Courtney, it can also be interpreted as a chilling premonition of what was to come.

If you would like to purchase the complete set of six framed prints, the collective price is £1,000. Please contact me

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