Despite minor nods at success, Kurt Cobain was never one for flattery. Or fame. For years, the Nirvana frontman dispelled rumors regarding his heroin addiction and marriage to wife Courtney Love, viewing the media’s intrusion of his private life as a downside of celebrity. Similarly, Cobain’s fatalistic view of fame was also applied to his view of Aberdeen. In interviews throughout the early ’90s, the late musician often referred to the small Washington community in which he grew up as a dead zone along the Olympic Peninsula where creative suffocation and sexism were as common as logging and flannel.
But today, nearly 20 years after Cobain’s suicide, the coastal town he once loathed is honoring its greatest success, and greatest tragedy, with Kurt Cobain Day: a first annual event celebrating the birth of Cobain and the music of Nirvana. And whether Kurt would have scoffed at the idea–as many fans claim he probably would–mayor Bill Simpson’s intentions behind KCD may have proved favorable by the rock star.
“I’ve toyed with the idea of Kurt Cobain Day for the past two years,” says Simpson from his mayoral office in Aberdeen, “because I’ve been tired of people saying ‘Oh, don’t talk about Kurt Cobain. He was a druggie, he killed himself.’ I don’t look at him like that. When I listen to his music, it’s unbelievable. It’s deep, not depressing. It’s from the heart. I watched a few videos that were sent to me [about Kurt] and I see a young man who got lost somehow, who was very deep in his thoughts, very deep in his convictions.”
Announced late last month during a city council meeting, the proclamation of Kurt Cobain Day, as read by Simpson, applauded Cobain’s use of fame to advocate for the rights of women, minorities and “teen misfits like himself” and officially declared February 20 as the day of Kurt.
Following the news of the Cobain memorial, a cesspool of cyber rage erupted between Nirvana fans claiming Cobain would’ve hated the idea, and contrarians who felt memorializing addiction was wrong. And though we can easily ignore the latter group’s lack of human emotion, Simpson is quick to discount the criticism of Cobain. “Let’s face it, Jimi Hendrix was a druggie, Elvis Presley was a druggie. Even that little Bieber kid is in trouble. I look at what we’ve done to them [performers], how we put them on these pedestals and then we expect them to be everything in the world. They’re just regular people like you and I.”
Intending to preserve Cobain’s legacy, Simpson has utilized the help of local artists and volunteer’s to carry out tonight’s one-day event. Festivities include the unveiling of a 600-pound Kurt Cobain statue by local artist Randi Hubbard–who housed the life-like statue at her Aberdeen muffler shop prior to the move–and a performance from Aberdeen rock band Gebular. Also attending is Warren Masson, Cobain’s former guitar teacher, and Aaron Burckhard, Nirvana’s first drummer. “We did send out invitations to Kurt’s mother and sister,” says Simpson, “but they politely declined. And we also sent invitations to the Nirvana people who are still around [Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl]. My email to them was that I wouldn’t announce their arrival prior to Kurt Cobain Day.”
Whether Grohl or Novoselic show up is something for attendees of Kurt Cobain Day to see for themselves. But for Simpson, this honorary day represents the “true spirit” of Kurt Cobain, whom he’s learned more about within the past few weeks than he ever thought he would know. Through books and film (including Letter to Boddah by filmmaker Tommaso Vaccarella), Simpson’s intrigue with Aberdeen’s “most famous son” has evolved into a yearly celebration of the man who found his way out. “As far as I’m alive,” ends Simpson, “February 20 in Aberdeen will always be a salute to Kurt’s birthday and to Nirvana.”