Generation What?

My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me…

tell me where did you sleep last night…

in the pines, in the pines, where sun don’t ever shine…

i would shiver the whole night through…

I wandered across The Nineties special on Netflix this past weekend and took a few minutes to relive some moments from my adolescence that I don’t often think about.

I was a weird kid. I can admit that freely. A black girl who by day conformed and listened to R&B, Gospel and the tiny bit of rap that got past my parents (thank you, Fresh Prince) but by night listened to alternative rock and grunge bands and all kinds of things I wasn’t supposed to like. My study music throughout school was performed by Alice In Chains, Green Day, Soundgarden and Radiohead (thank you to my many pairs of headphones through the years).

But it was Nirvana that I always turned to when the world just felt like too much and I needed to slip into a space where I felt belonging was possible.

Nirvana was an awakening to me.

So was Cobain’s suicide.

Maybe it had something to do with me feeling very “other” growing up as a teenager in the bread basket of America. I related far more to the lyrics of this music than I did to the smooth crooning of Luther Vandross or Regina Belle who my parents listened to and who I’ve come to appreciate in my adult life.

I remember watching MTV Unplugged – New York that was released after Cobain’s death and everyone who heard that performance left it changed. The way Cobain sang that song reached waaaay back the the original lyricist Huddie William Ledbetter and the folk/blues tradition that birthed that haunting narrative. That was one of the rare moments where all of the nonsense that separates us melted away and what was left was simple, human and relatable emotion.

I live for those rare moments and music has always been a vehicle that brought me to that special place of oneness. In the wake of processing the loss of Kurt Cobain there were other voices that began to speak to me like Alanis Morissette, Gwen Stefani, Sheryl Crow, Tracy Chapman… the 90s really was a time of amazing musical innovation and advancement of narratives that previously had been largely ignored.

It felt really good to go back and commune with MY music. This was the soundtrack of my first heartache, my identity crisis, my wonder years. This music is the friend you don’t see or talk to for years but when you bump into each other it’s like no time has passed.

I suppose every generation says something like this about a music period that coincided with their development cycle but I maintain that the 90s were and continue to be something special.

Marta C. Youngblood is a writer, education and social entrepreneur based in Hot Springs, Arkansas. For more information on her current projects visit https://about.me/MCyoungblood.

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