Published to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of Cobain's death, a biographical portrait by Nirvana's manager shares insights into the meteoric success of Nevermind, Cobain's marriage to Courtney Love, and his industry-changing suicide.
Goldberg drops no bombshells, but Serving the Servant, which features recollections from Courtney Love, Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and others in Cobain’s orbit, enlisted mostly to fill in gaps in the author’s memory, is empathetic and absorbing, illuminating but not gossipy ... For die-hard Nirvana fans, Cobain’s life is already a dog-eared book, but Goldberg provides a fresh, eyewitness account of otherwise familiar tales ... Serving the Servant, in its own understated, overprotective way, effectively conveys the frustration, the to-the-bone grief, that comes from losing a loved one who was fundamentally unknowable in the first place. It’s the closest thing we have to a survivor’s account, at least until Love finally releases her memoir, currently six years overdue.
Goldberg’s version, though it lacks much in the way of new information, at least approaches its subject from a more earth-bound place ... The prose is mostly simple and conversational in Serving The Servant (and the less said about that dumb title, including its explanation, the better), but that’s mitigated by the fact that Goldberg brings some new perspective to Cobain’s story ... He knew Cobain intimately, but admits, too, that 'Sometimes I felt as close to him as a brother and other times he seemed a galaxy removed, barely perceptible.' Goldberg conveys that split nicely—and, perhaps more importantly, humanely—in his telling of the Cobain story.
Goldberg paints Cobain as a sweet and generous soul. However, that feels a little strained in places, as when the singer unilaterally renegotiates royalty contracts that deprive his fellow Nirvana members of huge payments, or leaves violent threats on the answerphones of dirt-digging journalists ... Disdainfully sidestepping the 'Talmudic arguments' of punk purists, Goldberg protests too much about this indie/major divide, refighting ancient battles long rendered irrelevant in the era of online streaming ... Perhaps because of his generational distaste for punk, Goldberg is at his weakest on analysing Nirvana’s music ... A well-meaning, but slight addition to the growing canon of Cobain books, Serving the Servant reveals little that most Nirvana fans will not already know.