Mark Seliger (born 1959)
Platinum palladium print, 1993
In the song “Stay Away” from Nirvana’s 1991 album Nevermind, the band’s front man, Kurt Cobain, sings, “Monkey see, monkey do / . . . I’d rather be dead than cool.” Led by Cobain’s wailing voice and his explosive guitar chords, Nevermind was arguably the most influential album of its time, selling more than ten million copies during the band’s short life. Yet Cobain, like Bob Dylan, was a reluctant rock star who felt much ambivalence about the band’s success and great discomfort with the attention of fans and the media. A product of the Pacific Northwest punk scene, he wore thrift-store plaid shirts and torn jeans and sought to distance himself from the packaged stadium rockers of the previous decade. Louder, faster, and often darker, Seattle grunge, as exemplified by Nirvana, also proved widely popular. Three years after Nevermind’s release, at the age of twenty-seven, Cobain—now addicted to heroin—killed himself with a shotgun.