Splayed across the greenhouse floor of his Lake Washington, Seattle home, Kurt Cobain was found dead on this day in 1994. Close to his body a purported suicide note was found referencing his daughter, the music business, his wife Courtney Love and in the final line, before a closing “I love you” sentiment, the third line from the first verse of Neil Young‘s “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue);” [LISTEN] – “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.”
Contentious even before then for its seemingly fleeting, idol-worshipping tones – John Lennon said he ‘hated‘ it in 1980 – Young has always preached the positive “rock ‘n’ roll will never die” angle of it, replying to Lennon’s comments two years later, “The rock’n’roll spirit is not survival. Of course the people who play rock’n’roll should survive. But the essence of the rock ‘n’ roll spirit to me, is that it’s better to burn out really bright than to sort of decay off into infinity.”
Recently Young also revealed in his autobiography he attempted to contact Cobain before his death to “tell him to play only when he felt like it,” among other things, how the note deeply “fucked with [him],” and how he has since emphasized the third verse’s “once you’re gone, you can’t come back” in concert.
Mental states aside, the song, and its electric counterpart, “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” have always been fist-in-the-air staples of an inexplicable spirit that attempts to bind us, not separate us, whether alive or dead. But what’s your take on the infamous lyric?
My my, hey hey
Rock ‘n’ roll is here to stay
It’s better to burn out than to fade away
My my, hey hey