I was 10 years old and had absolutely no idea who Kurt Cobain was when he killed himself in 1994. By 13, his music and lyrics would shape every single thought I had. At 30, I can only hope HBO properly nails the first authorized documentary of his life.
There’s something about a fandom that makes fans feel like they own a piece of their coveted actor or musician. It’s obsessive and controlling and wildly unhealthy, but often strangely cathartic… at least, for the fan. For the ones on the pedestal, it’s most certainly a burden. And, while many people thrive off the limelight, Cobain would always be uncomfortable, always bristle at the thought of being the voice of a generation… despite the fact that he most certainly was.
Over the two decades that have followed his death, fans have seen no short supply of documentaries, biopics and books detailing Cobain’s life. However, very few have offered much along the way of credibility. HBO, along with filmmaker, Brett Morgen, is hoping to change that. Coming in 2015, HBO is set to release the first official and authorized look at Cobain’s life. Just how “authorized” will it get? Cobain’s daughter, Frances Bean, served as executive producer on the doc, which explores everything in Cobain’s archives of art, music, journals and photography.
As excited as I am, I have a few stipulations that must be met before I’m willing to accept this as the documentary we’ve been waiting for.
1. We must see more of his art
According to Morgen, much of Cobain’s archive is made up of drawings, paintings and sculptures done by the singer. In the past, biographers and family have touched on Cobain’s drawing ability. It’s time we saw it. (Moreover, it’d be great to see a more in-depth scrapbook of sorts become available with copies of his art and writing.)
2. They need to touch more on his parents’ divorce
Somewhere in those journals, Cobain had to have written about his parents’ divorce. He previously mentioned it in a few interviews, but given how much he disliked the attention, it seems his journals might shine more light on why he was so greatly affected.
3. What did he think of being a dad?
Frances Bean wasn’t even 2 years old when her dad died, so she didn’t have much time to properly enjoy him. Still, from what little we saw of Cobain and his daughter, he seemed genuinely happy to be a dad. Of course, Frances was hardly born into a functional family or nourishing environment. What do Cobain’s journals say about news of her existence? Was he worried about being a good father? Did his drug addiction or mood swings factor into his feelings at all?
4. Why’d he play the guitar the wrong way?
Kurt Cobain was actually right-handed, but he chose to play a left-handed guitar. Was he just being stubborn? Was he trying to prove something?
Speaking of that left-handed guitar, it’s been suggested that if Cobain had played the right-handed guitar with the strap on the other shoulder, it may not have exacerbated his scoliosis as much and may not have driven him to turn to heroin for pain relief.
6. Kurt Cobain’s stomach issues
Cobain had one seriously messed up gut and he talked about it often. Doctors continually told him it was IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and there was nothing they could do about it. In the last 20 years, doctors and allergists have begun taking gut issues far more seriously. It’s nerdy, but it’d be cool to see a doctor look over his journals where he talks about his issues and we see them diagnose him with something, so it’s no longer just a claim he made.
7. All the drummers Nirvana went through before Dave Grohl
Before Grohl, Nirvana went through a series of drummers. It’d be interesting to see what Cobain had to say about each of them and the reasons they left. Furthermore, what made Dave Grohl stick? Why did they finally mesh?
8. What happened to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “About a Girl”
Ever look at the lyrics to the original versions of some of Nirvana’s biggest hits? The words were pretty different. As a matter of fact, the original lyrics to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” were downright bloody. What changed them? Are there transitional lyrics between the drafts we’ve seen in his formally published journals and the final product on the published songs?
9. MTV Unplugged
Four months before his death, Cobain and the rest of Nirvana loaded into Sony Hell’s Kitchen to play what is now unarguably the best MTV Unplugged performance in the show’s history and an unmatched moment for the band. When Kurt Cobain played, eyes closed and alone, through “Penny Royal Tea” his discomfort was unmistakable. Did he write about that moment? Are there more moments like that that we just haven’t seen?