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From the Archives: Dallas Taylor: I Knew Kurt Cobain’s sickness; once, I was Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain and Dallas Taylor

Kurt Cobain, left, in 1993 and Dallas Taylor, right, at a 1990 performance by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at Santa Monica Civic Center.

(Associated Press and Los Angeles Times)

Dallas Taylor, the former drummer of Crosby, Stills & Nash, died Jan. 15, 2015, at a Los Angeles hospital at the age of 66. He wrote this essay for The Times in 1994, shortly before the release of his autobiography “Prisoner of Woodstock.”

I understand what it is like to be an angry, depressed addict who needs so badly to be liked that he gets on stage and sweats and bleeds and hopes that people will somehow connect.

But as addicts whose only real happiness is being high--whether it’s on dope or music, writing, acting or painting--success becomes our worst enemy. When self-hatred runs so deep, it is never alleviated by fame or wealth.

Ironically, the void that was there at the beginning grows even larger when applause only rings hollow to the ear, and fortune is as meaningless to an empty soul as is one coin dropped into a bottomless well.

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So inevitably, the addict must destroy what he is convinced he doesn’t deserve--and he must do so before it is taken away from him. Self-destruction appears to the last measure of control the addict has over his own life--and this is the most vicious lie of all.

I was one of the lucky ones. I managed to destroy my music, but none of my suicide attempts worked. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Keith Moon, Jim Morrison, John Belushi--and now Kurt Cobain--were, in the end, all addicts who couldn’t get sober and whose luck ran out.

It’s not about being smarter, more talented, weak or strong. It’s a disease that can’t be cured, only arrested. Like a diabetic needs insulin, addicts need mental, physical and spiritual healing. The 12-step programs work, and there are hundreds of thousands of recovering addicts who are luckier than Kurt Cobain because they found that out in time.

Last December, I celebrated nine years of sobriety. April 17 was the four-year anniversary of my liver transplant. The nightmare has ended for me.

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I’m sorry that Kurt Cobain could not live to see his nightmare end. In the brief time I knew him, I found him to be a kind and loving man. It was so hard to look into those eyes--sad, hopeless. They were a mirror of my past and a window into his terrible pain.

I can only hope that the millions of his fans who loved him and his music will see that he was, finally, an addict who suffered too much to see what we all saw: someone worth loving, with a life worth living.

I hope that his baby daughter--and my grandson--will know that truth all the days of their lives.


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