When I first heard that Sir Paul McCartney was going to be standing in for Kurt Cobain at the 121212 Hurricane Sandy concert, I was among the many bewildered Nirvana fans who took to Twitter to express distress and indignation.
"Nobody could ever replace Kurt," I proclaimed. Not even one of the greatest musicians of all time. And if they could, would it be someone famous for his sweet, clean-cut face and voice and a pretty-boy persona?
No. No it wouldn’t.
But then I thought about it some more. And in a way, picking someone so un-Kurt-like was a nod to his irreplacability. Had they chosen another famous ‘90s front man like Eddie Vedder or Scott Weiland, it would have been like someone, somewhere, thought that any of them could really stand in for Kurt; that they’re all interchangeable; that maybe we wouldn’t notice the difference.
We would have.
By choosing Paul, the organizers and the band acknowledged that any attempt at approximation would be disappointing and depressing. And in going in an opposite direction, they brought in music royalty, a former Beatle. In doing so, they paid homage to Kurt by putting him on the value level with Paul, even if the two are not stylistically similar at all.
And the performers didn’t cover a Nirvana classic. Doing so would have left Nirvana fans across the country closely comparing Paul and Kurt’s voices, remembering the original, and crying ourselves to sleep over the gaping hole Kurt’s loss has left in our lives all these years.
The new lineup did a new song, again acknowledging that nobody could step into Kurt’s Converse All Stars, but that his former band mates could have some fun for a good cause with a Beatle.
And maybe I was distracted by Dave Grohl being a babe and Paul McCartney being a god, but I didn’t think their performance was all that bad.
Other suggestions I’ve heard for a better stand-in were Kurt’s wife or daughter, Courtney Love or Frances Bean Cobain. I would have been fully in favor of either of these, although Courtney and Dave Grohl famously don’t get along, and nobody knows whether or not Frances can sing. So f or now, long live Paul.