Sunbeams Aren’t Made Like Kurt


You learn a little more about this guy and you might not be so disdainful of the “tortured artist” cliché. No, this post is not about me. Kurt Cobain was a wildly talented musician and lyricist, and he fought his depression and addiction demons to the death—his own—joining the “27 Club” of musicians and other artists who died at that age: Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, et al.

Nirvana is the defining band of Generation X, and their music brought alternative, grunge rock into the mainstream. They could be noisy and chaotic, but they were hugely influential. They burst on the scene in the early 1990s, recorded three studio albums in about three years, and were gone after Cobain’s death in 1994.

I don’t need to tell you about Cobain’s personal and professional life—volumes already exist. But every year around this time I listen to one of my favorite live recordings: Nirvana: Unplugged in New York.

The acoustic versions of songs like “Come as You Are” and “About a Girl” are rich and haunting. They turn some invisible knob in me. In “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam,” Cobain sings Jesus don’t want me for a sunbeam / Sunbeams are not made like me. Those lyrics belong to the Scottish band, the Vaselines, that recorded the song, but to me, they express the pain Cobain must have lived with.

Cobain was also a prodigious journal keeper and letter writer, and one of the most simple, profound, and universal lines he ever wrote was “No amount of effort can save you from oblivion.” Of course, this applies to everyone, but I think especially to artists who are driven to create what they dream will be lasting works.

I wrote above that this post isn’t about me, but I do have a personal tie-in to Kurt Cobain’s death. He died on April 5, 1994, and his body was discovered on the night of April 8 in his home. The news reached the East Coast during the early hours of April 9, 1994, and I heard about his death when I woke up that morning, my wedding day. Now I know our anniversary is approaching when I start seeing Kurt Cobain stories in the media. It reminds me to savor a marriage that has helped me survive the past thirty years and tells me it’s time to listen to my favorite Nirvana songs.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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