“You know, I don’t know any of his music,” she told Rolling Stone in 2000. “And I don’t know how I was impacted; I only know I woke up one morning and Courtney Love was reading his suicide note on MTV, and I just felt bad. I didn’t even know him. I remember my son was really upset about his death, and just something about his suicide note made me feel bad for him. I just thought it was a weird thing that she was reading the note, which was something that was really private, over the TV.”
So she wrote a poem, something she had been doing for years, and brought it to a songwriters’ workshop at Miles Copeland III’s castle in France. The poem turned into a song, a grunge-pop power ballad titled “The Fall (Kurt’s Blues)” that pairs Cher’s emotional tribute to the late star with a hollow, rainy guitar riff reminiscent of Nirvana’s “Come as You Are.” During the workshop, she penned seven more songs that wouldn’t come out until 2000, on the internet-only release not.com.mercial, named so because when she originally presented the material to her label, they declined to release it for exactly reason.
The lyrics are a careful meditation on idolatry and isolation, with Cher writing from her own experience as a star. “But my heart has run on empty/Since I heard the fuckin’ news/We’re a heartless, godless culture/We’d walk nowhere in your shoes,” she belts toward the end of the song. “Well the good news if there’s any/Is you ever lived at all/But our country kills its heroes/We just raise them for the fall.”
In an odd twist, Cobain had paid his own tribute to Cher years prior when he sampled “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” in “Montage of Heck,” a 1988 collage of songs he recorded on cassette that wouldn’t be released until 2014.
Of course, in the six years between Cher writing “The Fall” and finally releasing it, she staged one of pop’s most historic comebacks with the 1998 LP Believe and single of the same name. The album brought her to new heights, so it was odd for her to even release not.com.mercial, but Cher did it for her loyal fans and never considered it to be an official follow-up to Believe (that would come in 2001 with Living Proof). Let’s hope Cher has checked out at least a couple Nirvana songs in the time since.