Steven J. Bernstein was grunge-era Seattle’s favorite literary rebel, a skin-and-bones misfit with Coke-bottle eyeglasses whose raw and jaggedly hilarious poems were recorded by Sub-Pop, winning attention even as his bipolar disorder led him to take his own life in 1991. He was 41, but as this detailed biography reveals, he’d lived with hard-core intensity, whether as an adolescent mental-institution resident, a New York street musician, a self-medicating heroin user, or a teenage runaway on Ken Kesey’s magic bus.
I Am Secretly An Important Man, a hard-edged but compassionate documentary about the life and death of songwriter, poet and performance artist, takes its title from a line in Bernstein’s most famous poem, “Come Out Tonight.’’
His angry, surprisingly fresh, lyrical writings are about sensitive souls, drifters and drug addicts; people alienated by a society that refuses to understand them. He peeled back the ugliness and the darkness of life on the fringe to expose tender and not so tender human feeling. His unique rhythms, filled with humor and pain, were especially exciting when read in his own gravely voice. People packed into theaters, bars and cafes to hear him read and sing. Unfortunately much of Jesse’s work has not yet found the audience it deserves outside of the Pacific Northwest. Following is the theatrical trailer.
Being in the minority was a way of life for Bernstein. Known as the godfather of grunge, he didn’t live to hear the term and undoubtedly would have disdained it. He not only liked the naked elegance of the music, he helped shape it, opening for the bands (Nirvana, Big Black, Soundgarden, U-Men, the Crows) who went on to the big time, and working the crowd into a ecstatic heat. He liked to cause a stir. When in the mood, he added to his legend. When not, he complained about it.“All the stories about me are true,” he said.
In the following video, Bernstein reads his story ‘Face’ as we are guided through the illustrations by Triangle Slash. This is one of the best things I have ever heard and watch. Please allow the narrator to make you suffer through the whole video.