Kurt Donald Cobain was an American musician and artist. He was best known as the lead singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter of the grunge band Nirvana.
Kurt Donald Cobain was born on February 20, 1967, at Grays Harbor Hospital in Aberdeen, Washington, to a waitress, Wendy Elizabeth (née Fradenburg) (born 1948), and an automotive mechanic, Donald Leland Cobain (born 1946). His parents were married on July 31, 1965 in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. His ancestry included Irish, English, Scottish, and German. Cobain's Irish ancestors migrated from County Tyrone of Northern Ireland in 1875. Researchers have found them to have been shoemakers, originally named Cobane, who came from the village of Inishatieve near Pomeroy, settling in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, and then in Washington. Cobain himself believed his family came from County Cork in southern Ireland. Cobain had one younger sister named Kimberly, born on April 24, 1970.
When Cobain was seven years old, his parents divorced. Later in his life, he said the divorce had a profound effect on his life. His mother noted that his personality changed dramatically; Cobain became defiant and withdrawn.
Cobain's parents both found new partners after the divorce. His father had promised not to remarry; however, after meeting Jenny Westeby, he did, to Kurt's dismay. Kurt, his father, Westeby, and her two children Mindy and James, moved into a new household together. Cobain liked Westeby at first, who gave him the maternal attention he desired. In January 1979, Westeby gave birth to a boy, Chad Cobain. This new family, which Cobain insisted was not his real one, was in stark contrast to the attention Cobain was used to receiving as an only boy; he soon began to express resentment toward his stepmother. Kurt's mother began dating a man who was abusive. Cobain witnessed the domestic violence inflicted upon her, with one incident resulting in her being hospitalized with a broken arm. Wendy steadfastly refused to press charges, remaining completely committed to the relationship.
Kurt Cobain didn't like school at all. Kurt behaved insolently toward adults. He began bullying another boy at school. These behaviors eventually caused his father and Westeby to take him to a therapist, who concluded that Kurt would benefit in a single family environment. Both sides of the family attempted to bring his parents back together, but to no avail. On June 28, 1979, Cobain's mother granted full custody of Kurt to his father. Cobain's teenage rebellion quickly became overwhelming for his father, who placed Kurt in the care of family and friends.
Although not interested in sports, Kurt was enrolled in a junior high school wrestling team at the insistence of his father. Kurt was a skilled wrestler, yet despised the experience. Because of the ridicule he endured from his teammates and coach, he allowed himself to be pinned, in an attempt to sadden his father. Later, his father enlisted him in a little league baseball team, where Cobain would intentionally strike out to avoid playing on the team.
Cobain enjoyed creating works of art. He would often draw during school classes, including objects associated with human anatomy.
During his second year in high school, Cobain began living with his mother in Aberdeen. Two weeks prior to graduation, he dropped out of Aberdeen High School upon realizing he did not have enough credits to graduate. His mother gave him a choice: find employment or leave. After one week, Cobain found his clothes and other belongings packed away in boxes. Feeling banished from his own mother's home, Cobain stayed with friends, occasionally sneaking back into his mother's basement. Cobain also claimed during periods of homelessness to have lived under a bridge over the Wishkah River, an experience that inspired the Nevermind track "Something in the Way".
In 1985, Kurt organized a group called Fecal Matter; it consisted of bassist Dale Crover, drummer Greg Hokanson and actually Cobain - vocalist and guitarist. About a year later Fecal Matter disbanded and without firing a single disk then Kurt started to spread among friends demo Fecal Matter - he wanted to create a new group. One of the tapes got Krist Novoselic, Kurt friend. For some time he seemed to have forgotten about it, but a few months later with Cobain suddenly started talking about what it would cost to organize a rock band (he listened to the recording, and he liked the material). The newly-formed team (which soon had a third party - the drummer Chad Channing) changed several names: «Skid Row», «Ted Ed Fred», «Bliss», «Pen Cap Chew», - but in the end was chosen «Nirvana». "I was looking for a name that would be beautiful or pleasant," - explained Cobain. In 1988, the group released their first single - «Love Buzz / Big Cheese», and the following year went on sale debut album Nirvana - Bleach.
In 1991 was released the second album Nirvana - Nevermind, the group became an unexpected breakthrough into the mainstream. Single «Smells Like Teen Spirit», to everyone's surprise, became a hit on MTV (although initially it was assumed that the lead single from the album will be «Lithium»). Nirvana sudden success on the international stage has drawn public attention to the Seattle grunge scene and spawned a wave of imitators. Media called Nirvana «flagship Generation X", and the most Cobain - "voice of a generation." Cobain himself had suddenly fallen down from head discomfort popularity: he saw himself first and foremost representative of the independent rock scene, and was irritated that he became the idol of the masses. The next album, In Utero, he deliberately made it much more difficult and gloomy to deter a wide audience and to proclaim its return to Nirvana "independent" roots (producer Steve Albini album became the leader of the noise-rock band Big Black). Nevertheless, the album, though, and did not become as successful as Nevermind, still popular with listeners and reached high in the charts.
Despite the fact that Nirvana was "apolitical" group and do not attach great importance to social issues, as did many punk bands, Cobain, however, used his fame to bring to the public their ideas.
Following a tour stop at Terminal Eins in Munich, Germany, on March 1, 1994, Cobain was diagnosed with bronchitis and severe laryngitis. He flew to Rome the next day for medical treatment, and was joined there by his wife, Courtney Love, on March 3, 1994. The next morning, Love awoke to find that Cobain had overdosed on a combination of champagne and Rohypnol. Cobain was immediately rushed to the hospital, and spent the rest of the day unconscious. After five days in the hospital, Cobain was released and returned to Seattle. Love later stated that the incident was Cobain's first suicide attempt.
On March 18, 1994, Love phoned the Seattle police informing them that Cobain was suicidal and had locked himself in a room with a gun. Police arrived and confiscated several guns and a bottle of pills from Cobain, who insisted that he was not suicidal and had locked himself in the room to hide from Love. When questioned by police, Love said that Cobain had never mentioned that he was suicidal and that she had not seen him with a gun.
On April 8, 1994, Cobain's body was discovered at his Lake Washington home by an electrician named Gary Smith who had arrived to install a security system. Apart from a minor amount of blood coming out of Cobain's ear, the electrician reported seeing no visible signs of trauma, and initially believed that Cobain was asleep until he saw the shotgun pointing at his chin. A note was found, addressed to Cobain's childhood imaginary friend "Boddah", that stated that Cobain had not "felt the excitement of listening to as well as creating music, along with really writing ... for too many years now". A high concentration of heroin and traces of diazepam were also found in his body. Cobain's body had been lying there for days; the coroner's report estimated Cobain to have died on April 5, 1994.
A public vigil was held for Cobain on April 10, 1994, at a park at Seattle Center drawing approximately seven thousand mourners. Prerecorded messages by Krist Novoselic and Courtney Love were played at the memorial. Love read portions of Cobain's suicide note to the crowd, crying and chastising Cobain. Near the end of the vigil, Love arrived at the park and distributed some of Cobain's clothing to those who still remained.
A final ceremony was arranged for Cobain by his mother on May 31, 1999, attended by both Courtney Love and Tracy Marander. As a Buddhist monk chanted, his daughter Frances Bean scattered his ashes into McLane Creek in Olympia, the city where he "had found his true artistic muse."
Cobain's artistic endeavors and struggles with heroin addiction, illness and depression, as well as the circumstances of his death have become a frequent topic of fascination, debate, and controversy throughout the world. He is one of the well known members of the 27 Club.
While living with the born-again Christian family of his friend Jesse Reed, Cobain became a devout Christian and regularly attended church services. Cobain later renounced Christianity, engaging in what would be described as "anti-God" rants. The song "Lithium" is about his experience while living with the Reed family. Religion would remain an important part of Cobain's personal life and beliefs, as he often used Christian imagery in his work and maintained a constant interest in Jainism and Buddhist philosophy.
Cobain had a very liberal, anti-establishment attitude, but really no political convictions.
“I'd rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.”
“It's better to burn out than fade away.”
“Practice makes perfect, but nobody's perfect, so why practice?”
“If you die you’re completely happy and your soul somewhere lives on. I’m not afraid of dying. Total peace after death, becoming someone else is the best hope I’ve got.”
“I don't care what you think unless it is about me.”
Kurt took drugs. His first drug experience was with marijuana in 1980, at age 13. He regularly used the drug during adulthood. Cobain also had a period of consuming "notable" amounts of LSD, as observed by Marander, and was "really into getting fucked up: drugs, acid, any kind of drug", observed Krist Novoselic; Cobain was also prone to alcoholism and solvent abuse.
Throughout most of his life, Cobain suffered from chronic bronchitis and intense physical pain due to an undiagnosed chronic stomach condition.
Quotes from others about the person
“Steve Albini: "Genius is a weird and inappropriate word, and hard work is underrated, but Kurt Cobain had a distinct and personal take on the world, and generally, when someone strikes a chord with his audience, that’s what people respond to...I have to admit that I wasn’t particularly a fan of Nirvana when I was asked to work on In Utero, but during the course of making the record I came to appreciate that they were genuine about their band and their music, that Kurt was capable of sophisticated thinking, and that they and their music were unique."
Lou Barlow: "Nirvana were like...power-chord music with the occasional Sonic Youth-y flip-out in it. But the power of that band is Kurt Cobain's voice, which is just fucking caramel–a beautiful rock voice."
Chuck Berry: "He had a touch most guitarists would kill for."
Frank Black: "People were trying to call me to do interviews on the anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death. They want me to say some poignant shit about some poor guy who blew his head off. It's just like, "Give me a fuckin' break, man"...Just say the guy made some good records, and let's get on with it."
Bono: "I remember watching Kurt come through and thinking, "God, this music is nuclear," This is really splitting the atom. They raised the temperature for everybody. Manufactured pop never looked so cold as when that heat was around. Nirvana made everything else look silly."
David Bowie: "I was simply blown away when I found out that Kurt Cobain liked my work, and I always wanted to talk to him about his reasons for covering "Man Who Sold The World." It was a good straightforward rendition and sounded somehow very honest. It would have been nice to have worked with him, but just talking would have been real cool."
Katherine Turman: "Kurt's got a literary bent, and jokes that he likes "anything that starts with a B. I think I like Burroughs best, and I'm into Bukowski and Beckett."
Leonard Cohen: "I'm sorry I couldn't have spoken to the young man. I see a lot of people at the Zen Center, who have gone through drugs and found a way out that is not just Sunday school. There are always alternatives, and I might have been able to lay something on him. Or maybe not."
Bob Dylan: "That kid has heart."
Allen Ginsberg: "A couple weeks ago, one of my students gave me a mixed tape of Kurt Cobain and there was a version of "Black Girl" of great artistry. Great vocal control and subtlety, it's almost as good as Leadbelly's."
Dave Grohl: "I still dream about Kurt. Every time I see him in a dream, I’ll be amazed and I get this feeling that everyone else thinks he’s dead. It always feels totally real, probably because I’m a very vivid dreamer. But, in my dreams, Kurt’s usually been hiding - we’ll get together and I’ll end up asking him, "God, where have you been""
Thurston Moore: "Rage and aggression were elements for Kurt to play with as an artist, but he was profoundly gentle and intelligent."
Patti Smith: "In Kurt’s voice I could hear his love of bluegrass music, of Bill Monroe and Leadbelly. It’s in the twang of his voice."
Steven Tyler: "Kurt's wounds were so deep that when the music floated to the surface after being filtered through his soul, it was incorporeal."
Chris Cornell: "We came offstage and were about to go on for the encore, and I think the bass player of Tad came in and told us [about Cobain's death]. He just kind of barged in and was emotional, and started talking about the reports that they had found Kurt but they weren't sure if it was him or not, but it was. We all got very emotional; it was very surreal. We weren't home; we weren't around any people we knew. I guess, in a sense, we could all take solace in the fact that — especially Soundgarden - that we were born from this idea that we played kind of dark, moody music. Our identity … kind of was a band that created a soundtrack for that type of weird, awful scenario."”
Patrick Suskind, Leo Tolstoy, Laura Wilder, Jerome D. Salinger and Laurens van der Post
Music & Bands
The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Aerosmith, Queen, and Kiss, Black Flag, Bad Brains, Millions of Dead Cops and Flipper by Buzz Osbourne, Pixies
On February 24, 1992, Cobain married Courtney Love were married on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii.