(left: Yes, that’s Kurt Cobain in a Converse ad.)
Some of you may remember the old Nike commercial where Michael Jordan, from various locations on the court, slam dunks a basketball at will. His small sidekick, Mars Blackman (played by a then relatively unknown Spike Lee), was so impressed with his buddy’s incomparable skills, that he came to the only logical conclusion he could think of, “It’s gotta be the shoes.” Cause c’mon, how could somebody be that good? He must be getting a little help from somewhere else, and that somewhere else is–aha–his Air Jordan sneakers.
Kurt Cobain, in many ways, could be considered the musical equivalent of Michael Jordan. In the same way Jordan was rejected from his 10th grade basketball team, Cobain, was rejected from–well–he was just a reject in general. Instead of finding janitorial work and sleeping on the job (wait, Cobain actually did that too), he went on to become one of the most influential recording artists of the last 20 years (much like Mike’s impact on basketball).
Cobain always had one up on Jordan though–he never needed extra help from “the shoes.” Yesterday, however, I learned differently when I saw the late Kurt Cobain gracing a current Converse advertisement. It then hit me like a movie montage, in many of Cobain’s greatest moments (and even in his final hour) he was wearing a pair of Converse sneakers. Perhaps, just like Jordan, “It’s gotta be the shoes.”
Converse now has The Kurt Cobain Inspired Collection, featuring high-top and low-top Chuck Taylor shoes with scribbled lyrics and sketches of guitars and infants on them (cause we all know Cobain was a big fan of fetus art). Thankfully, Converse didn’t take it one step further by releasing a special edition of the Converse One-Star (the particular pair of shoes Kurt Cobain was found dead in).
Now it’s no secret that many-a-musician have worn the classic Converse Chuck Taylor sneaker. How many pairs of Chucks do you think made their way through the doorway of CBGB’s back in its (gabba gabba) heyday? The cool thing though, was that Chuck Taylor sneakers sold themselves. Seeing a grainy black-and-white picture of your favorite punk rock artist in a pair of Converse was the advertisement. Keep in mind the image of Cobain in the Converse ad is a very popular photograph taken during Nirvana’s now legendary show at the Motor Sports International Garage in Seattle (1990), before Nirvana signed to a major label, even before Dave Grohl entered their ranks. This image has been seen a zillion times and will be seen a zillion more–and yes, Cobain is wearing a pair of Converse.
So why take it any further than that?
Any devote Kurt Cobain and Nirvana fan should be insulted by the Kurt Cobain Inspired Collection. Let us not forget that Nirvana made such a huge impact on music in the early 90’s because they went against the corporate grain. They brought punk rock ethos to the mainstream public while unseating chart toppers like Michael Jackson, who liked to drink Pepsi, and MC Hammer, who loved wearing his British Knight sneakers.
(right: It’s gotta be the shoes.)
Yes, as a dead rock star, you have little say in how your legacy will be remembered. There is money to be made for the living. It just bums me out that certain memories from hallowed punk rock venues and small college radio stations will soon be replaced (at least in the eyes of today’s youth) by sneaker collections and murals found in Hard Rock Cafes across the world. Move over Jimi Hendrix, here comes Air Cobain.