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Author Charles Cross debuts book in Kurt Cobain's home town, 'Here We Are Now'

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Charles R. Cross, author of many best-selling biographies on Seattle’s biggest rock stars, made an appearance at Aberdeen Public Library last night, March 20, 2014, to talk about his latest book about Kurt Cobain, “Here We Are Now: The Lasting Impact of Kurt Cobain”, just released this week. He said, “For both ‘Heavier Than Heaven’ and ‘Here We Are Now’ I've held the first readings in a town that doesn't even have a bookstore, but has more connection to Kurt Cobain and Nirvana than any other.” Charles conducted an enjoyable and interesting book reading with an informal Q&A afterwards, and signed books while chatting with fans. Shelley Germeaux, the Seattle Rock Music Examiner attended the event and spoke with the author. (see our slideshow of photos.)

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Addressing the intimate group that had gathered at the library where Kurt Cobain used to hang out, Charles made it clear that unlike his prior biographies, “Here We Are Now” is more of a personal reflection on Cobain's lasting impact on Aberdeen as well as society, saying "The book is addressing where we are twenty years after Kurt's death, and how we remember him." He gives his own take on the question “Why does Kurt Cobain still matter 20 years after his death?”

Cross was the editor for Seattle’s music publication, The Rocket, for fifteen years. During that time, he got to know Cobain, as well as wife Courtney Love. Within hours after learning the shocking news on April 8, 1994 that Kurt had been found dead from a self-inflicted shotgun wound in his Lake Washington home, Cross received an urgent phone call from broadcaster Larry King and found himself live, on-the-air with no prior warning. King’s gruff questions, “Why Kurt Cobain? Why does it matter? What’s grunge?” blasted into Cross’s ear. The questions have burned in his mind all these years. And this book, he says, answers that question.

Oddly, Charles recalled that after months of trying to get a new interview with Courtney Love, for their cover feature on The Rocket, it was finally going to press that very night. But now Kurt was found dead. Dead..and the whole magazine had to be changed, with a photo of Kurt on the cover instead---before 5:00 p.m. And now in the midst of that chaos, he found himself on the radio on a live national broadcast with no preparation. But that was how fast things happened the day Kurt was found dead.

Charles recounts many incidents such as this one in the book, some funny, some very tragic. He makes it clear that he didn’t approve of many of the choices Kurt made in his short life, calling him “sometimes cruel, and very narcissistic,” but that society, and especially his hometown of Aberdeen, Washington, should recognize the creative genius and artistry that Kurt left behind. Saying that they should not just focus on his heroin addiction and suicide, he added, “He was this little kid that lived in this tiny house over here,” pointing down the street, “and he had all kinds of problems. But he got up off his ass and created this music, and artistry that changed not only Aberdeen, but the world.”

He humorously pointed out that Kurt’s impact on society even extended beyond music—unwittingly--to fashion: From the book: “His tousled hairstyle, for example, was due partially to the fact he couldn't afford shampoo, and therefore washed his hair with body soap.” But this suddenly became the new style, coined “grunge”, for kids in the 90’s, along with flannel shirts that Kurt only wore because he couldn’t afford anything else. “Kurt shopped at thrift shops out of necessity,” Cross said, but “suddenly the Army/Navy surplus shops in Seattle became the place to get your clothes because of Kurt’s style.”

"No one needed to kill Kurt:"

Cross is adamant that Kurt was not murdered. Pointing out that Kurt was “trying to kill himself for a long time, becoming a very heavy heroin user in the last six months of his life, even talking about suicide from the time he was a kid,” he said, “Believe me, no one needed to kill Kurt. And to suggest that someone else did this to him would be to rob him of the final choice he made in his life.”

In breaking news yesterday, a Seattle Police detective reviewed Kurt Cobain’s death investigation, including several rolls of previously undeveloped film from the death scene, even releasing two of the photos yesterday to the public. But after all that, no new findings developed from the review, and the conclusion officially remains as a suicide. Seattle Rock Music Examiner Shelley Germeaux brought this new investigation up during the book talk, to which Cross replied, “It was definitely suicide. To the conspiracy theorists out there, come on, are you saying that twenty-five police officers on the scene are going to be either wrong, or all comply with some cover up??”

Conspiracy theories rebutted:

Taking on the many conspiracy theories that remain today, he rejects the view that Kurt had injected far too high a dose of heroin to be able to shoot a gun, and that Courtney was the one who wanted him dead. “Many of you don’t like Courtney Love, but that has nothing to do with Kurt’s death.” Cross talked about a 1999 conference called “Preventing Heroin Overdose” where the point was made that with frequent heroin use, the body’s tolerance increases greatly, making it possible for the user to be perfectly functional.

Sitting in the very library where Kurt frequented as a teen, usually because he was homeless and had nowhere else to go for shelter, was surreal. One person said, “I remember seeing Kurt sitting right over there in a bean-bag chair reading a book about John Lennon.” There was no mistaking that this small gathering of fans held love for Kurt.

Aberdeen should embrace Kurt's legacy

Several monuments and memorials that have been erected in Aberdeen, in honor of Kurt’s memory—including Kurt Cobain Landing under the bridge Kurt used to sit (created by Tori Kovach and others), and the recent declaration of “Kurt Cobain Day” on his birthday, February 20, with a concrete statue of Cobain weeping, at the Aberdeen Museum of History. There is also a brass colored “walk of fame” style star on a street where mostly homeless people lean against old buildings.

But Cross maintains this isn’t enough, joking that no one can ever find the bridge when they come to town. “Where’s the sign?” He said. One person said there is now a new sign that points visitors to the right direction now. Cross said “Well that’s progress. But Aberdeen should have a big plaque or something….why isn’t there a big sign that says ‘Birthplace of Grunge?’ As everyone clapped and cheered, he continued, “Kurt spent two thirds of his life here. This city, Aberdeen, is where Grunge was born, and where Kurt developed his creativity.”

Aberdeen residents have been slow to embrace Kurt’s legacy, due to his heroin addiction and suicide. “They see it as a moral issue. But society, here and elsewhere , is in denial.”

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