My Rating ~ Four stars
RELEASED: 9 April 2019
In early 1991, top music manager Danny Goldberg agreed to take on Nirvana, a critically acclaimed new band from the underground music scene in Seattle. He had no idea that the band’s leader, Kurt Cobain, would become a pop-culture icon with a legacy arguably at the level of John Lennon, Michael Jackson, or Elvis Presley. Danny worked with Kurt from 1990 to 1994, the most impactful period of Kurt’s life. This key time saw the stratospheric success of Nevermind turn Nirvana into the most successful rock band in the world and make punk and grunge household names; Kurt met and married the brilliant but mercurial Courtney Love and their relationship became a lightning rod for critics; their daughter Frances Bean was born; and, finally, Kurt’s public struggles with addiction ended in a devastating suicide that would alter the course of rock history. Throughout, Danny stood by Kurt’s side as manager, and close friend.
Drawing on Danny’s own memories of Kurt, files which previously have not been made public, and interviews with, among others, Kurt’s close family, friends and former bandmates, Serving the Servant sheds an entirely new light on these critical years. Casting aside the common obsession with the angst and depression that seemingly drove Kurt, Serving the Servant is an exploration of his brilliance in every aspect of rock and roll, his compassion, his ambition, and the legacy he wrought – one that has lasted decades longer than his career did. Danny Goldberg explores what it is about Kurt Cobain that still resonates today, even with a generation who wasn’t alive until after Kurt’s death. In the process, he provides a portrait of an icon unlike any that have come before.
Many thanks to Hachette Australia for providing me with a copy of Serving the Servant, in exchange for an honest review.
I was fifteen years old when Kurt Cobain died. I still remember exactly where I was, who I was with and what we were doing the very moment the news came over the radio. In a short time, Nirvana had shaped much of the music I adored in my teenage years, and still love today, so when I received Serving the Servant: Remembering Kurt Cobain from Hachette Australia for review, to say I was excited would be an understatement.
I found a lot of the intricate ins and outs Danny Goldberg laid down about the music industry a little tedious at first, but once I got into the swing of the stories and heartfelt descriptions of Kurt’s personality, I was hooked. There was so much about Kurt Cobain that I didn’t know, and I thought I knew a lot. As a fifteen year old in the early nineties, I didn’t take much notice of the fact that he was a feminist and a supporter of gay rights – it just wasn’t something on most teenagers radar then (although nowadays teens seem much more worldly and outspoken about important issues). I loved reading about his views and the way he rejected other rock stars who showed racist, sexist and homophobic viewpoints in their lives and music. If I thought I couldn’t love Kurt any more than I already did, this alone proved me wrong.
The explanations surrounding Kurt’s viewpoints on ‘reverse snobbery’ in the underground indi music industry really resonated with me too. That’s something that certainly still goes on today but Nirvana were instrumental in bridging that gap between so many different music lovers.
Danny Goldberg writes about Kurt in such an endearing way, almost like an older brother would lovingly describe his rascally younger sibling. He admits on several occasions in the book that he is biased when it comes to thoughts about Kurt, because he loved him so much and his pain when discussing Kurt’s addiction is obvious. He doesn’t hold back on talking about the sadder parts of Kurt’s life and personality, but he does such a great job of celebrating the intelligent, incredible music genius that resided inside him.
Danny’s description of Kurt as a quiet, funny person, who could switch to depressive episodes so quickly, showed the obvious mental health challenges he faced. It was devastating to read how the pressures of instant stardom and media witch-hunts took such a toll on both Kurt and Courtney and inconceivable that it was only 3 years from the time Nevermind was released to Kurt’s death. The ripples Nirvana made in the music world have lasted well into the current day and I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who loves their music.
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