Kurt Cobain’s childhood friend, author Jeff Burlingame, reflects on the ways in which Kurt changed his life.
Typically, I’m not a fan of those who proclaim a certain person — or anything, for that matter — “changed” their lives. Everything and everyone you come across changes your life because change is life.
Chose to enroll in college instead of settling for that minimum-wage job at the local burger bar?
You changed your life.
Boom! You changed your life, too.
For a few moments today, just long enough to write this, I’ve decided to hit the pause button on literal. It’s a difficult one for me to push. Sure, there are ways I could, literally, describe the impact Kurt Cobain has had on my life. I could say I’ve gained countless days of enjoyment cranking his five-minute masterpiece, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and the rest of the tunes that follow on Nirvana’s overproduced, yet still-brilliant second studio album, “Nevermind.”
I could describe the exhilaration I felt the moment I realized the author of those songs was a childhood friend, or the emotional breakdown I had less than three years later when that friend killed himself because he believed it would be better to burn out at age 27 than it would be to fade away at age unknown.
I could talk about how Kurt’s success enabled me to start a nonprofit organization in an attempt to help kids in mine and Kurt’s hometown, and I could talk about the poor high school student or even-poorer vagrant, both who teared up when I opened the doors to a sold-out rock concert organized by my group, gave them a nod and a smile, and let them walk through without any money being exchanged.
Then I could talk about how I published my first book, again thanks to Kurt being who he was, and the favorable reviews and sales of said book that catapulted me into a career field I had longed to join since I was a young child stealing Stephen King novels from a moldy cardboard box in a trailer park laundromat in Aberdeen, Wash. I could talk about how that career field helped transport me to the heights of Celebrity Hollywood to walk red carpets with mortals elevated to status of “star” by millions of those who are by all means their all-around equals and in many, many ways their superiors.
I could talk about every positive, and negative, career-related thing that’s happened to me in at least the last dozen years.
Or I could just annoy myself and say Kurt Cobain changed my life. Because he did and still does.
And so did, and does, everything.
Happy birthday, Kurt.