Is Cobain's Memorial Soiled By The F-Word?
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
As you drive into the city of Aberdeen, Washington, the welcome sign reads, "Come as you are." That slogan traces back to the city's most famous son.
Mr. KURT COBAIN (Lead Singer, Nirvana): (Singing) Come as you are, as you were…
BLOCK: That song from the late Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of Nirvana and an Aberdeen native.
Recently in Aberdeen, one of Cobain's words has stirred up controversy, as Vanessa Romo reports.
VANESSA ROMO: Even Aberdeen mayor, Bill Simpson, pillar of the community that he is, says it.
Mayor BILL SIMPSON (Aberdeen, Washington): My life, anyway, I've said it, you know, the F-word. And I always feel sorry that I have said it.
ROMO: But it's another thing when the F-word is literally written in stone. And that's why the small, desolate city of Aberdeen has been at the center of a minor media blitz recently. The F-bomb was included in a quote attributed to Kurt Cobain on a new granite stone honoring him in his hometown.
Mayor WILSON: Basically, stay away from drugs, it…
(Soundbite of clearing throat)
Mayor WILSON: …yup.
ROMO: Actually, the exact line is, drugs are bad for you. They will (beep) you up, and it really (beep) some people off.
The idea for the quote came from Tori Kovach. He's the founder of the unofficial Kurt Cobain Park on the banks of the Wishkah River. It was here that Cobain is said to have written lyrics to many of his early songs.
Sixty-six-year-old Kovach, though, is not much of a Nirvana fan. But he is something of a contrarian and he wasn't about to let the man tell him what to do. That would be very un-Rock and Roll.
Mr. TORI KOVACH (Founder, Unofficial Kurt Cobain Park): I saw nothing wrong with quoting that verbatim, because that was Kurt. And if I'm going to quote somebody, if you're going to quote somebody, you do it verbatim
ROMO: But almost immediately, articles appeared in the local paper, TV station KOMO showed up, and the pressure was on. It took about a week before Kovach gave in and the city called Jason Duval(ph).
(Soundbite of machinery)
Mr. JASON DUVAL: I'm going to use a sandblaster, air compressor, and just get rid of the U-C-K part of it.
ROMO: Duval has been assigned the job of blasting out the expletive. But before he does, he makes a rubbing of the original marker. Duval says he can play every Nirvana song on guitar. The whole thing takes about 15 minutes.
Mr. DUVAL: There it is.
Unidentified Woman: Thank you.
Mr. DUVAL: Everybody's happy.
ROMO: Well, not everybody. It's no surprise that there's a generational divide on the issue. In fact, Mayor Simpson and his 21-year-old daughter, Jillian(ph), don't see eye-to-eye. Before the blasting, she was hoping the F-word would stay.
Ms. JILLIAN WILSON: I mean, if anyone gets offended by it then they obviously don't like Kurt Cobain that much.
(Soundbite of laughter)
ROMO: Those that do know that throughout his short life, Cobain struggles with drug addiction received almost as much attention as his musical career. And profane or not, there's no arguing that an anti-drug message is more than just a platitude in this region. The Pacific Northwest continues to grapple with some of the highest levels of substance abuse in the country.
For NPR News, I'm Vanessa Romo.
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