Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Pained expression: metaphors of sickness and signs of ‘authenticity’ in Kurt Cobain's Journals

  • Jessica L. Wood (a1)

This article investigates the relationship between biography and authenticity within the aesthetics of grunge musician Kurt Cobain, using the 2002 Riverhead Press volume of his journals as a primary source. Focusing on Cobain's fascination with the human form and with bodily fluids, I argue that his idea of the ‘sick body’ functioned as a central metaphor that shaped his approach to various media (prose, lyrics, drawing and singing) such that there was a homology between these different forms. I draw on excerpts from the Journals to show the meanings that he associated with the ‘sick body’, including the ways in which it indexed his own biography of physical pain and social marginalisation. Using the Nirvana song ‘Hairspray Queen’ as a case study, I then show the interactions between musical and linguistic signs of the sick body and how these interactions reveal Cobain's ideas on music's meaning. Ultimately, I argue that in song lyrics and performance, Cobain prized scatological imagery, eviscerating vocals and unintelligible lyrics as a means to signal the ‘authenticity’ of his art.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

D Brackett . 2000. Interpreting Popular Music (Berkeley, University of California Press)

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Popular Music
  • ISSN: 0261-1430
  • EISSN: 1474-0095
  • URL: /core/journals/popular-music
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 19
Total number of PDF views: 87 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 402 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.