Gary James' Interview With
The Mayor of Aberdeen, Washington
On February 20th, 2014, the city of Aberdeen, Washington will declare that day Kurt Cobain Day. Kurt was born in Aberdeen and had he lived would have celebrated his 47th birthday on February 20th. Leading the way in celebration of that day is Aberdeen's mayor, Mr. Bill Simpson. Mr. Simpson spoke with us about Kurt Cobain and how Kurt Cobain Day came about.
Q - Mayor Simpson, this is a very nice gesture on your part and the city of Aberdeen to recognize Kurt Cobain on his birthday. It's sad that Kurt couldn't be around to see it.
A - You know? Me also. One thing that's sad about living in a small community is that Kurt Cobain and Nirvana were a great group, but they used drugs. So, that's kind of pushed people down in this community. I just kept looking at this and looking at this. I said this doesn't make much sense to me. We are celebrating his music. I'm not celebrating that he was a "druggie." A very artistic young man. I just took it by the seat of my pants and met with a couple of people and we are going to put it together.
Q - Would that have been City Council members?
A - No. City Council doesn't even have anything to do with this. I am going to read a proclamation for his birthday, celebrated on the 20th (of February). The one person I have been dealing with is a lady by the name of Randi Hubbard, who made a bigger than life statue of Kurt Cobain. We are getting ready to move that into our city Museum and that'll be part of the museum now.
Q - Initially, Kurt Cobain Day will last one day. You'd like to make it an annual event, would you, lasting for one week?
A - That's the plan coming up. The first one is going to be a birthday party for him at our Museum as his statue is put up. We'll have birthday cake and also a celebration of Nirvana. In fact, his first guitar teacher is going to be in attendance, which is going to be kind of exciting just to have somebody like that here.
Q - Will any of Kurt's family be there? Will his mother or father?
A - We have tried to reach out to them, but we haven't gotten any response back. I did get a response back from another party who said they politely decline, the mother and sister.
Q - They "politely decline."
A - Yeah. I don't know the family that well, but as I understand, there's always been problems in the family.
Q - How about the father?
A - I haven't been able to reach him at all.
Q - How about Kurt's bandmates?
A - We sent feelers out to every one of them and were hoping to get information back from them.
Q - You have sent out information to Courtney and heard nothing?
A - Yes, and nothing back.
Q - And nothing from Kurt's daughter?
A - No.
Q - On February 20th, will you have 'live' entertainment? Will you have a Nirvana tribute band?
A - That's one of the plans. The guitar teacher seems to think he has some kids who would like to do it. It's hard finding bands around here that aren't making money someplace else.
Q - Hopefully, it will all come together.
A - As I said earlier, it's not the fact that he was a "druggie" or anything else, it's a matter that he changed the culture of music. I put him with The Beatles. I put him with Elvis. All those bands and singers that have changed the music.
Q - I don't know what Kurt Cobain's drug preference was, but a lot of musicians who get into trouble with drugs, and I'm not making excuses for any of them, a lot of times the pressures of the business take its toll.
A - Oh, yeah.
Q - In the beginning it's fun. As time goes on, it becomes a business, and they find they are involved with something they had no idea about and they don't know how to cope.
A - Right. They don't know where to go. They rely on other people. People say, "Try this. This will make you feel better. This will make you feel like you want to go out on the stage." That's the sad part. Look at this Bieber kid. What's going on there? There was a nice, sweet kid. All of a sudden he's caught into this thing.
Q - I have this feeling, a lot of Justin Bieber's antics are being staged. He was a Teen Idol who is trying to make the transition to the next step. So, what can you do to launch your career? He's doing it! It used to be to get attention, it was based on your creativity. That's no longer true.
A - Right. That's the sad part. I feel sorry they get into that situation all the way through life.
Q - What did you know about Kurt Cobain before Kurt Cobain Day?
A - I've always known the popularity of his music. I've always known the way he lived down here. Up until about seven, he was a sweet kid. He was a great artist. I've heard from the teachers at his school what a great artist he was. That was very important in his life.
Q - Did you ever see Kurt in concert?
A - You know, they used to practice down here at the Poor House Tavern. I was in there a couple of times and heard that. I've never been to a concert. I've heard him practice.
Q - Did you ask who the band was at the time?
A - I didn't ask. I didn't know until about two or three weeks later. We were talking and somebody said, "Oh, yeah, Nirvana was down here. Do you remember the other night when you were in here?" I said, "That was Nirvana?" It wasn't advertised outside. It was just a place they liked to practice.
Q - What year would that have been?
A - '86 maybe. It was just a crappy little bar then. It was quite interesting.
Q - Shortly after Kurt died, Rush Limbaugh went on his TV show and said the following about Kurt: "He sing songs no one can understand. He was trying to kill himself for twelve years. The guy was simply not there. He achieved some level of fame he doesn't deserve. He looks filthy and rotten, and I do not believe he was a spokesman for his generation." No one ever said he was. He was a spokesman to his generation. Big difference.
A - Right.
Q - He looks "filthy and rotten"? That hairstyle of Kurt's probably cost a couple hundred dollars. His hair was styled. "He sing songs no one can understand." I can say that about Taylor Swift! Those comments of Limbaugh's were so unfair.
A - I go along with you on that one. If you really listen to the music, it's very deep, and actually read the words that are there. There's a lot more to it. If you stop and actually read the words to the songs, it makes a lot of difference. I'm not a follower of his because of the drugs, but I do appreciate his music.
Q - Paul McCartney called Kurt Cobain a genius. He doesn't hand out compliments like that every day.
A - For Nirvana to be put in the Hall Of Fame (Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Cleveland, Ohio), the first time out; it wasn't like they tried it 15 or 20 different times, the first time out they received this notoriety. I'm very pleased with that.
Q - I hope that the celebration of Kurt's birthday goes over, that you have a lot of success with it and that it does in fact become an annual event.
A - The theatre that we have in town is trying to put together three groups of bands to play over a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night to the band (Nirvana). They are also trying to stream into the Hall Of Fame thing, to have that honored here. I've gotten a lot of flack off people. "Oh, you are just honoring a druggie. You are honoring somebody that sells drugs." I said, "No. I'm honoring his music. That's what I'm honoring and him as an individual and we are all individuals." I don't know about you, but I can't walk on water. I'm not perfect. I just see a lot of good in him. I wish I had known him. I really do.-
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