Kurt Cobain
By: William Nericcio | Categories: HiLo Heroes, Popular

cobain

The musical shaman who gave birth to grunge was also youth culture’s most salient critic. Disgusted by the consumer roboticism which in the late 1980s sucked at the televisual teat of the Celine Dion — Michael Bolton — Vanilla Ice hegemony, KURT COBAIN (1967–1994) and his band Nirvana leapt out of Seattle wrapped in plaid shirts and emotive, anthemic musical existentialism. His legacy is more than musical; his journals — in which he says, of the late ’80s, “this is a subliminal example of a society that has sucked & fucked itself into a rehashing value of greed” — are also brilliant. He knew that his aura would be commodified; his signature song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” evoked the brand name of his girlfriend’s deodorant. He counts among his heirs both those who ape the Pacific Northwest’s hipster ethos and Portlandia, which mocks it. In today’s social-media miasma, where everybody is connected and no one talks to each other, Cobain’s visceral, Nietzsche-meets-Ramones presence is his lasting act of resistance.

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Rihanna, Manny Farber, Poison Ivy.

READ MORE about members of the Reconstructionist Generation (1964–73).

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Chicano public intellectual William "Memo" Nericcio runs the Cultural Studies MA program (MALAS) at San Diego State University. His book Tex[t]-Mex: Seductive Hallucinations of the "Mexican" in America (2007), is in its second printing and is prowling the corridors of academe in the guise of a traveling show, Mextasy. He also publishes the Textmex Galleryblog.