“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.” -Bono of U2 is quoted in Lorraine Ali’s, ”Cries From The Heart,” a Newsweek article published on October 28, 2002. Today I would like to tell you the story of my favorite artist Kurt Cobain the lead singer of Nirvana. I’ll be covering his early life, his struggle with the fame of his band, and his death.
The story of Kurt Cobain is a story of great talent, hardship and tragedy. But it is a story that needs to be heard and one i think we can all relate to in some way. Kurt was born in 1967 200 miles away from Seattle in the small up state logging town of Aberdeen. He lived there with his parents and sister and was introduced to music at a very young age, by his aunt. At seven years of age his life took a drastic change. His parents divorced and he was forced to look at the world in a different light. As the home situation became more unbearable for Kurt he was ferried between houses, staying with different relatives and friends. He spent many nights sleeping under the bridge at the end of his street (the bridge immortalized by his song Something In The Way) here he would spend the time alone writing his first lyrics. Kurt had by this time become very alienated from other people and life, he was very detached and emotionally unstable. He didn’t have any real friends at school to talk to and all the other guys he knew didn’t want anything to do with him cause they thought he was weird or gay.
He would use most of his time in high school to cut class and go to the library and read whatever he could lay his hands on. He would listen to various types of music including The Beatles, but, living in a small town he could never get the chance to listen to the music that really interested him. Eventually he got a tape of some Punk Rock music sent from a friend in Seattle. He then knew that this type of music was going to be his escape, a way out from the life he hated to point of despair. By this time Kurt had turned 15 he had already learned to play guitar so the process of forming a band, with the help of his Aunt, was a natural progression, Nirvana was born. Kurt did not really like the music of the bigger rock bands like the Sex Pistols, Rolling Stones, and Aerosmith; he felt there lyrics were sexist and pointless with no meaning. Kurt moved to Seattle to live with his only true love, before he was famous, Tracy Merander, immortalized in his song “About a Girl”. He stayed with her for three years,happily, and at the time was working on songs for the Bleach album. He was also a very talented artist and would enjoy spending time painting or sculpting, giving much of the work he produced to Tracy. Although his life was now fairly stable he had many troubles with himself and his life. He did not feel emotionally secure and this was often portrayed in his art work especially his sketches, drawings, and paintings. He found it hard to hold down a job and work on the band, he spent most of his time living with Tracy working as a janitor though. Life was becoming a downward spiral in the eyes of Kurt.
Then came fame and all the troubles seemed to double. Kurt’s band, Nirvana, began to reach a local audience, as it’s cult following grew across America and the world Kurt started to feel more and more isolated. He very rarely got to spend time with the people that had come to mean something to him as he had grown up though those troubled early years. As his fame grew and the band became even more famous the pressure mounted; Kurt’s body guards were always with him and his friends became more cut off, to a point where they could not get to talk to him at all. Kurt hated the fame, he felt so embarrassed by it all, riding in big expensive cars and staying in luxurious hotels embarrassed him to a point of despair, he was a humble person, and he felt that the lifestyle he was being forced to lead went against everything he believed in and stood for. One time Kurt was riding in a limo to play at a gig in Seattle, his friend Amy was in the car with him and she has reported, that he explained to her, that usually they would take a van to gigs and that the limo was not a decision he had made. She says that he made a point of stressing this to her the whole way, that was the last time she saw him. Kurt felt a lot of resentment for his past and the way in which he grew up, not toward his parents, but more aimed at the world and the way that society was constructed. In Television and radio interviews he would often talk about how screwed up the world was. That he didn’t see how anybody could possibly consider bringing a child into the world the way it was. Kurt spent most of his life in depression, with the exception of a few years in the early 90’s, this is reflected in the music he wrote, but Kurt had reason to feel this way, the life he had was never close to what he wanted. The only thing that kept Kurt going through all the pressure and embarrassment he felt towards fame, was the music he was producing and playing the world over. However his passion was slowly diminishing. All the touring and pressure got to him in the end, Kurt became ill. His mother had suffered with stomach problems in her early 20’s and Kurt had began to suffer the same illness. The doctors could not determine what was the cause, they put it down to stress. Kurt tried to treat it with everything, but nothing would work. Often he would feel too ill to play, and this went on for a few years. Kurt was sick of feeling ill all the time and took the only thing left that would stop the pain. Kurt became an addict, another casualty of Heroin. In interviews he would stress that it was more for the “pain” than the “fame” being the reason for his heroin use, and that he hated and was continually making an effort to control his habit and get off it completely.
Then, Kurt met Courtney. Courtney Love became a big part of Kurt’s life in a relatively short space of time. Kurt’s life took a drastic, sudden change. They got a place together in Seattle, got married and had a child,Frances Bean Cobain. There relationship looked perfect from the outside, but most of the people that knew them said it was very turbulent and that Courtney was using Kurt, playing on his sensitivity. She had a very bad up bringing with heroin use going back to when she was 15 years old. She was an extremely violent person, ruthless and crazy in some of her actions towards other people, Kurt and fame gave her power and the stepping stone she needed to get to the top. Courtney is quoted as saying that they had a “pharmaceuticaly suited relationship”. Although now Courtney has transformed her image and become a rock star and movie actress nominated, she will not talk about her past or time and involvement with Kurt Cobain. But like many others I think it is indisputable that Courtney was the “route of the cause” behind Kurt’s death. Her own father claims she killed Kurt, and he has written several books about it.
The book “Kurt Cobain, beyond Nirvana” was written, ironically, by Courtney’s father and in it he declares overwhelming evidence supporting the murder theory. However the facts are that even if Courtney didn’t pull the trigger she was the one that wanted Kurt dead. When Nirvana were doing their world tour 1993, the last tour they would ever do, Kurt was interviewed back stage by Guitar World magazine. He didn’t know it at the time, but this would become one of the most famous interviews in history. Later haled as “The lost Interview” it was published nearly 4 years after his death. The Interview showed a different Kurt to what we expected, he was happy and content with life. He is quoted as saying he hadn’t been this happy since when he was 7, before his family break up. He spoke wisely about his “past” battle with heroin addiction and how he viewed life differently once in love. Where he had said in the past he didn’t believe in bringing a child into the world, he corrected himself and said “it ain’t all really that bad”. He speaks about meeting up with his dad and his childhood in Aberdeen. It is an honest and in depth interview covering his whole life in his own words. However, shortly after that interview, Kurt’s life would turn around again and this time he hit an all time low. Kurt was in Rome for his birthday and he was supposed to meet with Courtney there, she did not go to show up however. She was in London with the lead singer from the band Smashing Pumpkins, it is said that they were having an affair. She then flew to Paris and Kurt was left totally alone, in Rome, without even seeing his daughter which he wanted so bad. Things had worsened in their marriage and there was talk of divorce. Courtney tried to pay a hit-man known as “El Ducho” (who was mysteriously killed later in 1996 after talking to the media about it) $50,000 to kill Kurt. Still in Rome Kurt was becoming desperately depressed and over dosed on heroin. It was said, by the media, to be a suicide attempt. Kurt was flown to a rehabilitation clinic in California to recover and quit his addiction.
Courtney was still in Paris and did not comment on the news of her husbands over dose. Kurt got in touch with his best friend Dillon and asked him to purchase a shot-gun. On April 2nd 1994 Kurt escaped from the clinic and flew back to Seattle and on April 8th, just six days later Kurt was found dead in his home from a shotgun blow to the head. Despite the official ruling of suicide, several theories have arisen offering alternate explanations for Cobain’s death. Tom Grant, a private investigator hired by Cobain’s wife, Courtney Love, to find Cobain after his departure from rehab, put forth his belief that Cobain was murdered. I don’t think that Kurt asked his friend Dillon (whom he also had immortalized in a song called “in bloom”) to get him the shot-gun with the intention of killing himself. I think Kurt had been thinking about his relationship with Courtney and knowing her violent nature, bought the gun a a precautionary measure. Dillon said that he would not have bought the gun for his best friend if he thought in any way he was suicidal.
Today we have spoken about Kurt’s early life, his struggle with the fame, and his death. It seems only fitting to leave you with words that Kurt himself said, that seems almost haunting now. “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.”