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Nostalgia 101: Going out with a bang, a fading trend

By Matt Gantos
On April 7, 2013


In the life of a rock star, death can be either a side effect or a tool.

Everyone knows the legends of Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley and John Bonham because they are dead and they went out on top. Had they not died, perhaps trickling off the charts or eventually publishing some mediocre album tarnishing their flawless records, they may not be who we remember them as today.

This is a tradition that seems to fade after the '90s. My theory is that Nirvana's Kurt Cobain stole the show. His death is rivaled only by the concurrent deaths of Bradley Nowell of Sublime and Tupac Shakur.

The concept here is that each musician met their end in the prime of their career. Cobain died the year after the release of Nirvana's third album, "In Utero," in 1993. 

During the European tour in 1994 supporting "Utero," Cobain fell back into a serious drug binge and at one point was rushed into rehabilitation. Soon after being released from rehab Cobain was found dead in his house with a shotgun in his lap.

Aside from a pattern of depression and mental instability in his family, Cobain's death is pinned largely on his attitude toward the popularity of his music.

 Cobain's band members were excited about their popularity, but Kurt found it shameful to be a part of the mainstream.

This was not the case for Bradley Nowell. Nowell loved the spotlight. He also loved heroin.

Cemented forever in the song "Pool Shark," Nowell sang, "Now I've got the needle and I can shake, but I can't breathe. I take it away but I want more and more. One day I'm gonna lose the war."

After a long battle, Nowell did lose the war in 1996, after the recording but before the release of the self-titled album "Sublime." 

This album was by far one of the most relevant of the band's discography, containing "Santeria," "What I Got," "Wrong Way" and "Caress Me Down." Unfortunately, Nowell never got to tour more than five days with any of these songs. He was found dead on the first day of the tour by his bandmate Bud Gaugh.

After Nowell's death, the sales of the new album would eventually reach five-times platinum, which still pales in comparison to Nirvana's album "Nevermind" which sold over 30 million copies. "Sublime" still compares to "In Utero," which also went five-times platinum.

Of course, Tupac, beat them both, as he sold over 13 million records of albums produced while he was alive. Including album compilations after his death, Tupac has sold over 75 million records.

Tupac's murder, for those of you who are not familiar, took place in Las Vegas. It was a drive-by shooting while he was in his own limousine and for unknown reasons not wearing his bulletproof vest as he normally would. Though Tupac paid a heavy price for his music's legacy, it stands today; conspiracy theorists still claim he's vacationing somewhere in the Caribbean.

My point here is: young kids thinking they are rock stars today are doing it all wrong. I'm not saying that dying makes you cool, but heavy drug use and violence is not going to propel anyone anywhere unless they plan on dying in the process. Cobain, Newell and Tupac were all lionized after their deaths, but all three left large, unfinished legacies in their wake.

Of the famous deaths, I think the most significant that of Kurt Cobain, the original hipster. He thought he was so far better than the mainstream that he had to kill himself. Now anyone else who would attempt the same thing is just an imitation. 

Let me hear what you think. Tweet at me @MidEggWizard

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