Is ApologetiX making fun of Kurt Cobain in their Nirvana parodies?
ApologetiX has recorded several parodies of Nirvana songs, but none of them were ever intended to mock Nirvana or Kurt Cobain. We were shocked recently to hear that one listener thought we were mocking Kurt Cobain and even more shocked to hear that she thought we were mocking Kurt's depression. We asked our lead singer and lyricist J. Jackson to explain what the thinking was behind those parodies:
We have friends, fans and loved ones who have struggled with depression and mental illness. We also have good friends whose lives have been torn apart by suicide.
Now you need to ask yourself a question ... if we know all these people in these situations and we claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, why on earth would we make fun of somebody struggling with depression or mental illness, especially one who committed suicide? The answer is simple: I wasn't trying to make fun of Kurt Cobain, nor was I trying to make fun of his depression nor his suicide.
I have never to my knowledge mocked Kurt Cobain in our lyrics, in interviews, from the stage or in casual conversation. What happened to him was a tragedy. In fact, our song "Young As You Are" (a parody of "Come As You Are") written in 1994 and released in 1997 addresses that. It is not an anti-Cobain song or an anti-Nirvana song. It is a song that attempts to bring hope to those who are considering suicide. And I must tell you that I know at least two instances in which that specific parody being played on the radio prevented a person from committing suicide. Two different people on two different occasions (about a year apart), both in Australia, believe it or not. I know because in each case the listener contemplating suicide called the DJ and was talked out of it and given counsel and help, and the DJ contacted me. That particular parody takes the media to task for running endless videos and glamorous photos of people like Kurt, who die young and die in despair.
The "Young As You Are" parody was inspired as I watched endless reruns in 1994 of the Nirvana unplugged special and and Nirvana tributes, and I came to realize that the media was exploiting somebody else's tragedy. The media perpetuates a myth that we should all die young and stay pretty. Kurt's death wasn't pretty. Kurt was a very talented young man in a very tragic situation. By glamorizing his death and elevating it to martyrdom as many publications and programs and fans do, we do him a grave disservice. Superstars who who die young seldom die happy or glamorously, whether it be Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix. Michael Hutchence of INXS, Hillel Slovak of the Red Hot Chili Peppers or some of Kurt's fellow artists in the alternative movement like Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, Doug Hopkins of the Gin Blossoms, or Layne Staley of Alice in Chains.
Knowing what I do about Kurt Cobain, I think we can safely assume that he wasn't into hero worship and he wouldn't want somebody else trying to pattern their life after him, even when he was alive. Considering the tragic way in which he died, I'd say he most emphatically wouldn't want others to follow in his footsteps. And yet many do. Suicide is contagious. People see it, and when it gets glamorized, they copy it, especially young people. Furthermore, look at how Nirvana reacted when they became an overnight sensation. Those guys ran from that popularity. They didn't want people blindly copying them.
Our "Smells Like Thirtysomething Spirit" parody isn't a slam at Kurt, Nirvana or depression. It's a warning to ordinary people who try and take the depression of Kurt's music and so many of the other alternative songs of the 1990's and turn it into a way of life. When I bring up fellow Nirvana member Dave Grohl in the lyrics, it isn't to make fun of him. Rather, we use him as an example. We say "Look at Dave Grohl for example -- now he's cheerful like the Beatles." Every time I see that guy (and Krist, too), he's smiling. He's having a good time. He's enjoying life. My point is that if those guys who were closest to Kurt have moved on, it's time for the people who didn't know him to move on, too. It's over a decade later. I don't mean to forget about Kurt as an artist. I respect his talents, and he gets plenty of accolades from rock artists who went before him and who have come after him. I mean that kids need to realize that there is nothing glamorous about true depression and suicide.
There is only one person I know who died young and tragically who can ultimately do anything to today's youth, because there's only one who died young and came back to life. And that's the main subject of all of our parodies. We believe we have a message of hope for those who are depressed, those are contemplating suicide, and anybody in this world who feels unloved or alone. If our words are sometimes misinterpreted, that's disappointing to us. But I'm sure you know, Kurt Cobain's lyrics were often misinterpreted, too, as are virtually any other rock artist's. Some people have even committed violent acts to the music of Nirvana, a fact that I imagine you've read about, and I've read that Kurt was aware of and disturbed by. Why was he disturbed by it? Because that's not what he was trying to promote. But you can't control everybody's perceptions of and reactions to your lyrics. And that's part of my point.