This article is in honor of two greats. Today is my 33rd birthday, a day when I used to smoke two joints for Bradley James Nowell, the lead singer of Sublime because it is his birthday too. Two days ago, 2/20, was the birthday of another amazing musician, who also left this world early on in my youth. I’d like to mention how these men played a role in my life.
I was in 4th grade when In Utero came out and I had first heard it through a friend. I remember buying it from the local Hills department store and song number 4, rape me, had been changed to waif me. I never realized what the word waif meant back then, I thought the words were interchangeable. For those who don’t know, Rape me, was about the media metaphorically raping Kurt. Waif is either a homeless or helpless person or in law terms a piece of property thrown away by a thief that is now held in the hands of the state waiting for the owner to claim. Kurt’s deep inner anguish was something I felt inside myself even at an early age and could relate to.
Kurt hated his fame. He had said as much in his own words. Paraphrasing, He never wanted to be under that scrutiny. He actually wanted to label In Utero, I hate myself and I want to die. Kurt but I know you have found peace.
I was in about 6th or 7th grade when I heard Sublime, Sublime through a friend. Eventually, my old brother Adam bought sublime CD’s and I really got enamored with the band. I eventually got my own after my brother tired of my stealing or indefinitely borrowing them ( he never said anything that I can recall about it) So maybe it would be more accurate to say that I got tired of stealing them or borrowing them. I wrote a senior English paper on Bradley, the vanity plate on my 2007 Dodge Charger was CRZYFOO, in honor of the Sublime song Crazy Fool. I identified with so many of Brad’s lyrics.
Brad’s optimism, love and “good vibes” were something I was searching for to remove the darker Kurt Cobain emotions seething under my skin. Brad I know you are at peace and playing with the other greats.
Two greats in relation to me
Thier music shaped my life and it still has a profound impact on me. Both of them have influenced my poetry and lyric writing in ways that I may not be fully aware of. They inspired a lot of my music. About a Girl by Nirvana is one of the few songs I can play in its totality on the guitar. Kurt and Brad’s vocals shaped how I enjoy singing immensely. Not to mention we are addicts, children of divorce and clearly had some mental issues.
Two greats troubled to death
Kurt had talked about killing himself, long before he ever did. His addiction to heroin was started in his own words to cover up an immense physical pain. I can’t say specifically if he killed himself or was murdered but I do know that his life was getting better and worse for him at the same time. It is doubtful he would have liked the recognition In Utero received.
Bradley, from what I could tell from interviews and documentaries, always seemed happy and optimistic. However, in his lyrics, he hinted at darker emotions under the surface. “Saying I’m Happy, when I’m not”, “feeling depressed every day” are two examples. I believe his misery was held deep within himself and the only way he knew how to deal with it was drugs. Everything was going well in Brad’s life on the outside before he passed, He had just been married, his son had just been born, Sublime, Sublime, the album that would rocket them to fame was going to released soon and he was just finishing a tour.
I can’t specifically state that Brad was depressed or anything along those lines, but I can from being an addict myself understand that even when things are going well for an addict it can cause great stress. It is actually when things are going well for an addict that some of the greatest disasters can strike.
How two greats saved my life
Brad and Kurt were two of the musicians I looked up to the most in my early life. When I knew I had an addictive personality and I saw the destruction Heroin had caused in their lives I knew that if I did it I would die. It goes deeper than that, though. When I felt isolated, alone, good, bad or indifferent, I had the music and message of two souls I could relate to. I can’t say that had I known them personally that we could have been friends, but I think we would have understood each other.
RIP Brad and Kurt!
I wonder what a duo between to different but also similar artists would have sounded like.