Today, April 5, 2013, marks the 19th death anniversary of the legendary singer Kurt Cobain (NIRVANA). Cobain was born on February 20, 1967 in Aberdeen, Washington, U.S. and died on April 5, 1994 in Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Cobain was born at Grays Harbor Hospital to a waitress, Wendy Elizabeth (née Fradenburg), and an automotive mechanic, Donald Leland Cobain. His ancestry included Irish, English, Scottish, and German. Cobain had one younger sister named Kimberly, born in 1970.
His family had a musical background. His uncle Chuck Fradenburg starred in a band called The Beachcombers, his Aunt Mari Earle played guitar and performed in bands throughout Grays Harbor County, and his great-uncle Delbert had a career as an Irish tenor; making an appearance in the 1930 film King of Jazz.
Cobain's talent as an artist was evident from an early age. His bedroom was described as having taken on the appearance of an art studio, where he would accurately draw his favorite characters from films and cartoons such as Aquaman, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Disney characters like Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Pluto. Cobain began developing an interest in music early in his life. According to his Aunt Mari, he began singing at two years old. At age four, Cobain started playing the piano and singing, writing a song about their trip to a local park. He listened to artists like the Ramonesand would sing songs like Arlo Guthrie's "Motorcycle Song," The Beatles' "Hey Jude", Terry Jacks' "Seasons in the Sun" and the theme song to The Monkees television show at a young age.
When Cobain was seven, 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 His mother noted that his personality changed dramatically; Cobain became defiant and withdrawn. In a 1993 interview, he elaborated:
"I remember feeling ashamed, for some reason. I was ashamed of my parents. I couldn't face some of my friends at school anymore, because I desperately wanted to have the classic, you know, typical family. Mother, father. I wanted that security, so I resented my parents for quite a few years because of that."
Music quickly became the perfect outlet for Cobain. Cobain began learning guitar with a few covers, including "Louie Louie" and The Cars' "My Best Friend's Girl", and soon began working on his own songs. During high school, Cobain rarely found anyone with whom he could play music. While hanging out at the Melvins' practice space, he met Krist Novoselic, a fellow devotee of Punk Rock. Novoselic's mother owned a hair salon. Cobain and Novoselic would occasionally practice in the upstairs room of the salon. A few years later, Cobain tried to convince Novoselic to form a band with him by lending him a copy of a home demo recorded by Cobain's earlier band, Fecal Matter. After months of asking, Novoselic finally agreed to join Cobain, forming the beginnings of Nirvana.
Cobain was disenchanted after early touring, due to the band's inability to draw substantial crowds and the apparent difficulty in sustaining themselves. During their first few years playing together, Novoselic and Cobain were hosts to a rotating list of drummers. Eventually, the band settled on Chad Channing, with whom Nirvana recorded their debut album 'Bleach', released on Sub Pop Records in 1989. Cobain, however, became dissatisfied with Channing's style, leading the band to find a NEW drummer, eventually settling on Dave Grohl. With Grohl, the band found their greatest success via their 1991 major-label debut, 'Nevermind'.
With the lead single "Smells Like Teen Spirit" from Nirvana's second album 'Nevermind' (1991), Nirvana entered the mainstream, popularizing a subgenre of Alternative Rock called Grunge. Since their debut, Nirvana, with Cobain as a songwriter, have sold over 25 million albums in the United States alone, and over 50 million worldwide.
'Nevermind's' success provided numerous Seattle bands such as Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden to wider audiences, and as a result, Alternative Rock became a dominant genre on radio and MTV in the United States during the early-to-middle 1990s. Nirvana was considered the "flagship band of Generation X", and frontman Cobain found himself reluctantly anointed by the media as the generation's "spokesman." Cobain's discomfort with the media attention prompted him to focus on the band's music and, believing their message and artistic vision to have been misinterpreted by the public, challenged the band's audience with its third and last studio album 'In Utero' (1993).
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 April 8, 1994, Cobain's body was discovered at his Lake Washington home (pictured above) by an electrician 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 suicide note was found, addressed to Cobain's childhood imaginary friend "Boddah", that said, paraphrasing, "I haven't 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.
Kurt, you are deeply missed by an entire generation of music fans! Crank up some NIRVANA and put your Horns way Up for Kurt Cobain!
Pictures courtesy of SeattlePI (click to see more pics)