Where's my flannel?
I owe Nirvana a debt of gratitude I'll never be able to repay. Until they came along in 1991, I thought hair metal was good music. Well, I liked it. A lot. In my defense, I was in high school. Nirvana came along at just the right time, sweeping aside the cartoonish silliness of glam rock excess.
At least that's what the music history books tell us. A few years later, the overwrought seriousness of grunge would be swept aside as commercialization and imitation muted the power of a moment that once seemed so pure.
When all the headlines were written and the casualties were counted, all that was left was the music. I think I enjoyed Nirvana more in 1998 and 1999 when I was in college, several years after Cobain's tragic suicide death and years after the band was fashionable. Oh, sure, people still knew who Nirvana was but you didn't get cool points for listening to them anymore. When all the hype ended, all that was left was the music.
Quite by accident, I dusted off Nevermind and In Utero and I was struck by how great they sounded. In my experience, very little of what receives massive worldwide acclaim deserves it, and even less of it holds up when that all dies down. The great grunge movement of the early '90s was one of those rare kinetic moments. Nirvana held up. They still do.
Every generation thinks they've discovered something memorable and special and that their contribution will last. Most of them right, to one degree or another. Other bands have and will come along that will speak to the alienation and apathy of youth, and future generations will champion those bands. They'll also discover Kurt Cobain and Nirvana just as I discovered the music that came before. They'll live in different times and face different challenges, but the power, the passion, and the message in the music will still resonate. Not a bad legacy for a band who came to such a tragic end.