Of Lithium and Grace

I have a new post at the OnFaith site about the new Kurt Cobain documentary Montage of Heck and a recent Sufjan Stevens show at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.

I remember the first time I heard Nirvana’s genre-defining album Nevermind. A friend and I had skipped class during what would become my first of two senior years (due to a school transfer later that year).

We were parked in front of the music store, she in the passenger seat, a surfer girl with a nose ring and a tattoo, which wasn’t altogether common for high school girls in those days, this being before grunge really became a thing and Goth’s ascendancy was a thing of the past.

The now familiar naked baby album cover on the dash of my ’81 Volvo station wagon, the cassette clicked, and those power chords of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” assaulted my ear canal for the first time.

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As a teenager, I knew little about the childhood of Nirvana’s lead singer Kurt Cobain that is chronicled in new documentary Montage of Heck, which premiered May 4 on HBO. The film makes a point of highlighting the multiple afflictions that led to his angry genius and ultimately his final tragedy by his own hand.

We learn of his parents’ divorce, followed by his mother sending him to live with his father, stepmother, and their new family who soon learned they couldn’t handle this hyperactive and anti-social young man, his father’s struggle with the son he didn’t understand, his nomadic existence moving between the homes of relatives who tolerated him as long as they could, his abdominal condition that caused him to vomit and experience unbearable pain, and ultimately his early secret flirtation with heroine that turned into a lifestyle.

Cobain’s response to all of this mess was authentic and understandable. He pondered death in those teen years and loathed the fake, cool-guy acts of his peers at school and the hypocrisy of his parents whom he claimed to love despite opposing everything they stood for.

Read the rest here.


4 thoughts on “Of Lithium and Grace

    1. Oh, Andy Rooney. Thanks, West, for the link and the diversion of watching the Pearl Jam documentary. Glad to see that Kurt and Eddie made up. I never could get into PJ though, sorry to say.

  1. Thanks for writing this. As a former Nirvana fan who recently watched and was disappointed by Montage of Heck, this contrast between Cobain and Stevens was helpful in understanding what pain and a broken childhood can lead to apart from an experience of God’s grace and also what it can lead to after an encounters that grace. While my childhood was nowhere near as broken as Cobain’s, I was on a similar trajectory of angst, anger, bitterness, and substance abuse minus the creative genius. Thankfully, God powerfully intervened with the the good news of Jesus Christ and changed all that… still minus the creative genius though. Also, as a W&M grad, I especially appreciated the artifact from the 1993 show!

    1. Garrett, it is good to meet a fellow tribesman. Thank you for your comments as well. It’s remarkable how many of us have similar stories though, like you, the turmoil of my youth was tame by comparison. Grace still tastes sweet, no matter the depth of the despair one finds oneself in.

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