Music: R.E.M. Kurt Cobain Tribute

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R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe’s tribute to friend Kurt Cobain in 1994 gem “Let Me In” from the Monster album remains one of my personal favorites. 

Truly great music comes in all art forms. No matter the category or style, it can blow your mind. Lately, I’ve been listening to classical in the car. Sometimes, it just helps soothe me when I’m overthinking. I just had a nice get together with one of my closest personal friends who is home for Christmas and then back on a flight Monday to California.

For some reason, these hangouts in South River, New Jersey get my juices flowing. I can’t explain why. As I drove what was probably the easiest and most peaceful 20-minute ride minus traffic, I opted for classical over classic rock. Q 104.3 was playing all the hits of the bands that are going into the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame. I was bored. So, I decided for classical instead.

It was that kind of mood. I just wanted peace and quiet. Classical gives you that. Normally, I would never listen to it. I’d jam out to something hard that I identify with. But I guess I was a bit anxious to see my friend along with our core who go back two decades. That was Friday. Today’s different.

As we celebrate the first night of Chanukah and enjoy Christmas Day with the Knicks and Celtics at noon before another anxiety driven visit to Mom for more birthday and holiday fun, I was listening to Q 104.3 most of the first part of the day. I put in a few hours at work early and then was tired. Maybe the combination of seeing my buddies last night caught up to me. I am in the process of getting a new car. And that can weigh on you. We should’ve just closed on the silver Honda Accord I wanted. I regret it. But things have a way of working out.

Anyway, they played a lot of good music. Of course, you had your combination of Christmas hits from U2, Springsteen, Bryan Adams along with classic throwbacks like Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” and Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation.” Christmas songs rock. The one performed by many of music’s biggest stars in 1985 for Band Aid’s memorable “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” remains my favorite due to its significant meaning.

Feed the world. Let them know it’s Christmas time!

That is truly what the Christmas spirit is all about. Sticking with that theme, I randomly decided to go to Barnes & Noble and see what they had. So, after careful thought and consideration, I wound up getting my father a cool 1967 magazine on the great music scene with personal fave Jimi Hendrix on the cover. I knew he’d love it. I then stumbled upon a Rolling Stone commemorative issue on Guns N’ Roses. As I glanced through a couple of parts, I knew it would make the perfect gift for my brother. You better believe I’ll also read it. 😉

It’s already 12:27 in the morning here on an overcast mid-40’s night in Staten Island, New York. There will not be a white Christmas in New York City. Instead, the temps will be mild. These days, you never know what you’ll get. Sometimes, it can be bitter cold as it was all of last week. Now, we just had some rain. Gone are the days where you could wake up to snow on a Christmas in the city that never sleeps. It’s not as common.

So, why tell all this before I get to the topic of my post? Because it’s the holiday season for believing and dreaming. It’s where and hopes and dreams float through the sky and leave you feeling high. Anything’s possible. That is my vision for this time and what follows in 2017.

I was on You Tube because where else would I be. I watched M83’s fancy “Midnight City” because I really dig it. It’s such a different and unique sound. Plus the video’s interesting. I then took a listen to another one of their songs which I came away impressed with.

Then I punched in R.E.M. and Kurt Cobain because “Let Me In” from the memorable 1994 Monster album remains a personal favorite. I always loved that song. Back then, I was a wide eyed student at Fairleigh Dickinson in the beautiful surroundings of the Madison, New Jersey campus in Morristown. A 17-year old freshman who even took a crack at being a radio deejay from 8-10 for a night. That was my paradise. My chance to experience college radio. Cue up music and read PSA’s.

I was big into Hendrix, The Beatles and most of the new stuff. You had your Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day, Nirvana, Weezer, Smashing Pumpkins and R.E.M. I also loved rap but there wasn’t as much of a selection. Of course, I preferred Dr. Dre’s The Chronic with Snoop Dogg and Tupac even though most of his great stuff came afterwards.

It is interesting to note that R.E.M. had recorded most of the Monster album live and without much trouble. But they added the special tribute to Cobain, who committed suicide. Interestingly, frontman Michael Stipe had spoken with Kurt about Nirvana’s next album and they were supposed to team up for a trial run of the album.

“Let Me In” is one of those songs that takes you into a different dimension beyond comprehension. The song is played in a high emotional pitch and tempo. It just feels different and more important. The way Stipe sings it is powerful. You can tell this was personal for him. He noted that it was supposed to be him on the phone with Cobain trying to help him. What if he had saved him? We’ll never know.

Kurt’s legend grows along with the infamous 27 Club which features Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Brian Jones, who all passed between 1969-71. Amy Winehouse also passed at 27 in 2011. She actually was afraid she would die at that age. The list is long and also includes 2Pac contributor Stretch and rising actor Anton Yelchin. Someone I remember most for his performance in Alpha Dog. Most of the list is made up of musicians. It’s bizarre.

Getting back to the song, it’s not the longest but doesn’t have to be. If you listen to it, you get the message right away. It’s high energy and an emotional tribute to Kurt Cobain. I have enough Nirvana stuff including their famed Unplugged in cassette. I also have a cassette of the Weezer debut blue album. I lost The Chronic twice. It’s amazing some of the stuff I had. Some of it disappeared. Now, cassettes are extinct. It’s either CD or i-tunes.

Here is the memorable “Let Me In” with a nice video tribute to Cobain:

The back drop is pretty cool. It’s almost like he’s singing through emotional tears instead of rain drops. The blue color and the random images of Kurt are perfect.

Whatever holiday you celebrate, Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas!

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Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.

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