In all likelihood, you’ve never heard of Jason Everman. But he holds a unique position in music history: kicked out of both Nirvana and Soundgarden in the early 1990s before either band ascended to superstardom. Instead, as this week’s lengthy New York Times magazine profile by Clay Tarver shows, he traded in musical aspirations to enlist in the U.S. Army, eventually becoming a member of the Special Forces so revered by other soldiers.
The profile is a riveting portrait of an insular guy—who ended up being a lot stronger than anyone gave him credit for—struggling for years to find that his place wasn’t in the spotlight. Getting dropped not once, but twice by bands on the cusp of stardom would have crushed many others. As Tarver puts it: “At 26, he wasn’t just Pete Best, the guy the Beatles left behind. He was Pete Best twice.”
Everman was brought in as the second guitarist for Nirvana after Bleach—and actually paid the remaining studio fees for that album. But out on tour, Everman drew away from the band, and that stoicism and closed-off personality led to him being fired. Tarver’s account of Everman’s dismissal from Nirvana features one of the greatest mic-drops against the grain of the Kurt Cobain narrative: “[Cobain] boasted about not paying Everman back for Bleach, claiming it was payment for ‘mental damages.’ In Nirvana—a band with a lead singer so famously tortured that he would commit suicide—Jason Everman was kicked out for being a head case.”
The details of Everman’s tumultuous time in Soundgarden is even more heartbreaking, but the limited accounts of his redemptive time serving with the Army Rangers and Special Forces makes this an absolute must-read feature.