Cobain and Grohl: Mythic Heroes

Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl were both in Nirvana. Both musical
legends. Wizards at writing lyrics, at performing, at playing
instruments, at writing music. Gods venerated by young people for their
scorching hotness (depending on your taste) and electrifying rebellion.

And one of them is still alive. And I think their lyrics say a lot about why….



I read the most hilariously bad mini-bio of Kurt Cobain just now, on a guitar website. It summarized his childhood thus:

Cobain was a happy child, but was hyperactive. When he
was 7, his parents divorced. He took it very hard and was extremely
hard to live with, so his parents sent him to live with relatives.

I could use that story as a good example of how one effect of abuse
is the severing of cause and effect. When people haven’t recognized the
abuse they experienced and its effects on them, they tell stories like
this one: He was happy. But he was hyper. Then his parents divorced.
Then he was hard to live with. Then they sent him away. Then he became
a rock star. Then he did drugs. Then he shot himself.

Just a string of more or less unconnected events. No need to
question what effect any of those events had, or how they might have
affected each other, or how they might have affected him. Connecting
back to reality through recovery brings up a lot of questions, like:
Why state that he was happy, and then list all these reasons he wasn’t?
How much more abuse was perpetrated by the kind of parents who would
decide an upset seven-year-old was too “hard to live with” and send him
away? Was he really “hyperactive” at that early age, or was it yet
another case of a young child seeming “hyper” because their anxiety
from the dysfunction in their family is so intense? And finally, what
kind of a dumbass says “Oh, he’s taken us splitting up so hard - now
that he can’t get enough time with both of us, let’s divorce him too
and send him away entirely”?

There were other intense and clear signs of past abuse in his life, like his bipolar disorder,
fierce drug addiction, and the lyrics of many of his songs. His life
and art resonated deeply with many young abuse survivors, who saw their
feelings and experiences echoed in songs like Floyd the Barber:

Barney ties me to the chair. / I can’t see I’m really
scared. / Floyd breathes hard I hear a zip. / Beat me, pressed against
my lips. / I was shaved, / I’m ashamed, / I was shamed. / I sense
others in the room. / Opie, Aunt Bea, I presume. / They take turns to
cut me up. / I died smothered in Andy’s clutch….

Or Paper Cuts:

At my feeding time she pushes food through the door. / I
crawl towards the cracks of light - sometimes I can’t find my way. /
Newspapers spread around / Soaking all they can. / A cleaning is due
again, a good hosing down. / The lady whom I feel maternal love for /
Can not look me in the eyes, / But I see hers and they are blue / And
they cock and twist and masturbate…. /
Black windows of paint I scratch with my nails. / I see others just
like me, why do they not try to escape? / They bring out the older
ones. They point at my way. / They come with a flash of light, and take
my family away. / And very later I have learned to accept / Some
friends of ridicule. / My whole existence is for your amusement, / And
that is why I’m here with you….

The gravitational pull of the abuse was too much for Kurt. Hard
drugs tend to accelerate the downward spiral of abuse’s effects,
increasing shame and pain and dissociation, decreasing the connection
with reality and the ability to experience hope and seek help. His
songs were a beacon for others in the same stage of abuse: the stage of
merely experiencing its pain and looking for someone else who can
validate it, maybe without even being able to acknowledge that abuse
has occurred (or is still occurring).

What seems remarkable, to me, is that one of his bandmates went on
to create songs that could be seen as a joyous, rebellious response to
abuse - a call to arms to fight for recovery.


the inspirational dave grohl


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