Kurt Donald Cobain
Birthday: 20 February 1967
Birthplace: Hoquiam, Washington
Date of death: April 5, 1994 (age 27)
Kurt Donald Cobain was the lead singer and guitarist of the grunge band Nirvana, which also included bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl.
Cobain was born in Hoquiam, Washington, USA and spent his early years in Aberdeen, Washington after his parents divorced. He moved to the Seattle area in 1985.
Cobain was highly influential in creating and popularizing what came to be termed grunge music - a style that evolved as a reaction against the perceived superficiality of 1980s stadium rock and over-the-top metal bands with preened images and elaborate stage shows.
His best known song is "Smells Like Teen Spirit", which became somewhat of an anthem for Generation X. He also wrote a song, "Lithium", about the medication lithium carbonate, which is used to treat bipolar disorder. He said that this song is about religion as well.
As a teenager with a chaotic home life growing up in small town Washington, Cobain took part in the thriving Pacific Northwest alternative culture, going to punk rock shows in Seattle and forming a lifelong friendship with fellow Aberdeen musicians the Melvins, whose music heavily influenced Nirvana‘s sound. He had a small “K” tattooed on his forearm, the insignia of Olympia, Washington label K Records, largely chosen for the coincidental ellipsis of his name.
At school Cobain didn't take much interest in academics or sports, mostly focusing on his art courses. He was an outspoken supporter of homosexual students at his school, sometimes suffering physically at the hands of homophobes for his beliefs. As a reaction to the conservative attitudes that were pervasive in the town he was an active vandal, spray painting numerous antagonistic phrases all over town.
Cobain spent a lot of time reading in the local library, discovering such literary avatars as William S. Burroughs, whose cut-up technique Cobain later utilized to write lyrics for Nirvana‘s songs.
Before dropping out of high school Cobain met fellow punk rock devotee Krist Novoselic, with whom he would later form what would become Nirvana. After years of playing in the band Nirvana exploded into the mainstream, seemingly changing the music industry overnight.
Cobain struggled to reconcile the success of his band with his punk rock roots. He also felt persecuted by people, especially the media, comparing himself to Frances Farmer, and harbored no small amount of resentment for people who claimed to be fans of the band but believed in nothing that Nirvana stood for or what it came from.
In a 1992 ceremony in Hawaii, Cobain married Courtney Love lead singer of the band Hole. Later that year the two had a daughter, Frances Bean Cobain. The unusual middle name was given to her because Cobain thought she looked like a bean on the first sonogram he saw of her. Her namesake is Frances McKee of the Vaselines, whom Cobain was a close friend of.
Throughout most of his adolescent life, Cobain had battled depression and pain due to a chronic stomach condition. Because of his stomach problems he self-medicated by use of heroin, a powerful narcotic. This use developed into an addiction, which he battled until his death on April 5, 1994, at the age of. His body was discovered three days later in his home by an electrician.
Toxicology experts have stated that even though Cobain's tolerance level was extremely high, the amount of heroin injected into his body would have been enough to kill him (three times the lethal dosage for an addict, 75 times the lethal dosage for a non-user). His death triggered several copycat suicides, and the unclear circumstances surrounding it inspired a multitude of conspiracy theories, many of which centered around his wife, Courtney Love. Filmmaker Nick Broomfield made a documentary film on this theory entitled Kurt and Courtney.
In what some claim was his suicide note Cobain quoted a lyric from Neil Young’s song "My My, Hey Hey": "It's better to burn out than to fade away." Cobain's use of the lyric had a profound impact on Young, who recorded portions of the Sleeps With Angels album in Cobain's memory.
Kurt Cobain was cremated; one third of his ashes were scattered in a Buddhist temple in New York, another third were scattered in the Wishkah River, Washington State, and the rest are in the possession of Courtney Love.
Writer Charles R. Cross published a biography of Cobain titled "Heavier Than Heaven" in 2001. A year later, a collection of Cobain's journal excerpts was released. Years after his passing, the musician continues to intrigue and inspire fans, most recently with the release of a new track "You Know You're Right" in the fall of 2002, along with a greatest hits album, called simply, Nirvana. The release of both had been held up by legal wrangling between Love, who didn't want the album to be released, and the remaining members of the band.