By Cobain’s own account, he had a happy childhood until his parents divorced when he was eight years old. For the first year he stayed with his mother, followed by a couple of years with his father, Don Cobain. After Kurt’s rebellious teenage spirits reared its ugly head his life turned transient, as he was forced to live with various friends and family members until they could no longer deal with his negativity and tantrums. Don Cobain changed the course of his son’s life when he gave Kurt a guitar for his 14th birthday.
Kurt didn’t find many people to jam with in high school, but he set out creating songs and improving his chops. One of his first bands was named Fecal Matter, fittingly named by Kurt who loved anything gross & perverted. Nirvana’s first incarnation came to life in 1987 after Cobain convinced Krist Novoselic to start a band with him. The two friends went through seemingly more drummers than Spinal Tap until they settled with Chad Channing. The trio recorded Bleach in 1988, which Sub Pop released the following year to great underground acclaim. Cobain still wasn’t completely happy with Channing’s skills on the skins, so the latter was casually replaced when Dave Grohl was available for a new gig.
With Grohl behind the drums, Nirvana gelled better than any power trio since Cream or the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and with the music industry finally looking for something else besides hard glam rock, divas, and pop posers, Nirvana seemed to fit the bill. In 1991, Nirvana’s major label debut, Nevermind, crushed the charts with a vengeance. The press jumped on the “Seattle—Grunge City” bandwagon and Cobain became an involuntarily spokesperson and tastemaker for Gen X.
Kurt Cobain first met Courtney Love after a show in Portland, Oregon, but it remained a casual encounter until Dave Grohl introduced the two during the Nevermind recordings in the summer of ’91. The two quickly developed mutual crushes, which evolved to a cross-country courtship during the fall. They didn’t bond strictly through romance, however, both claim that heroin and pills were an important part of the mix too.
The following year, in early 1992, Courtney Love was pregnant, so Kurt Cobain soon proposed they get married. The ceremony took place on Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach and photos show Kurt smiling, but his eyes are sedated from shooting up that afternoon. It didn’t take long for the press to catch on, and Courtney Love was often lambasted as a new Yoko Ono. Kurt & Courtney preferred to be compared to punk’s dreaded couple, Sid and Nancy. Following a highly publicized magazine article in Vogue where Love was quoted as saying she’d been using drugs during her pregnancy, Frances Bean Cobain came to the world August 18, 1992, as a normal healthy baby.
Although the becoming a father turned Kurt Cobain’s life into something positive, the dichotomy of mainstream success and underground cred became sort of an existential struggle for Cobain, and he chose to self-medicate with copious amounts of heroin. Cobain overdosed on heroin in July 1993 before a concert in New York City, and again from a combination of champagne and Rohypnol in March 1994 at a hospital in Rome, Italy. Cobain’s last week included a failed intervention, followed by a heroin binge, before Kurt bought a shotgun, and flew to LA where he checked himself in to rehab. Unfortunately, the stay was cut short when he jumped the fence and went back Seattle. During the first week of April Cobain’s wife, family, and friends searched for him in vain.
April 8, 1994, an electrician found Kurt Cobain with a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head. According to the coroner’s report, Cobain died April 5, 1994. He was 27 years old. For those interested in learning more about the conspiracy theories surrounding Kurt Cobain’s death, be sure to read Love and Death: The Murder of Kurt Cobain.