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Kurt Cobain

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Kurt Cobain

Kurt Donald Cobain (February 20, 1967April 5, 1994) was the lead singer and guitarist of the grunge band Nirvana, which also included bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl. He was the frontman and the band's "leader and spiritual center" Template:Ref. Cobain became a major national celebrity, an uncomfortable position for him; he was "ill at ease with fame and ill-equipped to handle the responsibility that accompanies success" Template:Ref.

Cobain and Nirvana were highly influential, popularizing what came to be known as grunge music. Grunge was a style that evolved in part as a reaction against the perceived superficiality of 1980s stadium rock and metal bands with glamorous images. His best known song is "Smells Like Teen Spirit", which was pushed by the music media, especially MTV to "anthem-of-a-generation status", and it has come to be seen as emblematic of both grunge and Generation X Template:Ref. Among other well known Cobain songs are "Lithium", "About a Girl", "Polly", "In Bloom", "Come As You Are", "Heart-Shaped Box", "All Apologies", and the highly controversial "Rape Me".

Contents

Early life

Cobain was born in Grays Harbor Community Hospital, Aberdeen, Washington and spent his early years in Hoquiam, Washington and Montesano, Washington, after his parents, Wendy and Donald, divorced. He moved to the Seattle area in 1985.

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 Montesano musicians The Melvins, whose music heavily influenced Nirvana's sound. He had a small "K" inside a shield 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 gay students at his school, sometimes suffering physically at the hands of homophobic students for his beliefs. Although he once claimed in an interview with The Advocate that he was arrested for spray-painting a pro-gay slogan on a bank, Aberdeen police records show the phrase he was arrested for in 1986 was actually Ain't got no how watchamacallit.

It has been rumored that Cobain was gay or bisexual; however, Cobain himself said numerous times that he was heterosexual. In a February, 1991, interview with The Advocate, Cobain admitted that he thought he was gay while in high school and stated, "I could be bisexual... If I wouldn't have found Courtney, I probably would have carried on with a bisexual lifestyle". In his journals he wrote that he was heterosexual, but wished he was gay just "to piss off homophobes" Template:Ref. Riding on the success of the recently released music video to "Teen Spirit" Nirvana appeared on Saturday Night Live in February 1992. At the end of the show when actors and guests thank the crowd and close the show, Cobain and Novoselic french kissed as the credits rolled. The video was cut from the show in syndication and never aired again.

In his youth, Cobain spent a lot of time reading in the local library, discovering such literary figures as William S. Burroughs, whose cut-up technique Cobain later utilised to write lyrics for some of Nirvana's songs. Cobain also later recorded with Burroughs a spoken word/guitar improvisation piece called The Priest They Called Him, whose words were originally one of Burroughs' short stories out of The Exterminator. Other literary works which provide illumination on Cobain's philosophy also include Perfume, by Patrick Suskind, and the SCUM Manifesto, by Valerie Solanas.

Nirvana

Before dropping out of high school in 1983, Cobain met Novoselic, a fellow devotee of punk, with whom he would form what would become Nirvana in 1987. Cobain convinced Novoselic to form a band by lending him a demo tape of Fecal Matter, Cobains former band. Nirvana played around Washington, signed with Sub Pop, and released their debut album Bleach in 1989. They exploded into the mainstream two years later with the album Nevermind.

Cobain struggled to reconcile the massive success of his band with his underground roots. He also felt persecuted by 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. Of particular distress to the feminist Cobain was an incident involving two men raping a woman while singing the Nirvana song "Polly", which itself was about rape. Cobain condemned the episode in the liner notes of the album Incesticide, calling the rapists "a waste of sperm and eggs."

Marriage

Cobain and Love are married in Hawaii
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Cobain and Love are married in Hawaii

On Monday 24 February, 1992 at a ceremony on Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, Cobain married Courtney Love, lead singer of the band Hole. Later that year the two had a daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, born on 18 August. 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, of whom Cobain was a big fan.

Love was somewhat unpopular with Nirvana fans. Her harshest critics cited Cobain's total devotion to her, combined with what they saw as her domineering personality and inferior musical talent, as evidence that she was merely using him as a vehicle to make herself famous; Critics who compared Cobain to John Lennon were also fond of comparing Love to Yoko Ono. Rumors persist to this day that Cobain wrote most of the songs on Hole's breakthrough album Live Through This, although they remain unproven. It's worth noting that, until Nirvana's stratospheric success with Nevermind, both bands had virtually the same commercial stature. In fact, Hole was becoming more popular on the club circuit until "Smells Like Teen Spirit" suddenly reached #1 hit status on the Billboard charts.

A 1992 article in Vanity Fair in which Love admitted to using heroin while (unknowingly) pregnant worsened her image; while Cobain and Love's romance had been something of a media attraction before the article was published, they were now constantly hounded by tabloid reporters wanting to know if Frances was addicted to drugs from birth. The notoriety of the article even resulted in Child Welfare Services launching an (eventually dismissed) investigation into the couple's fitness as parents. Love, along with Cobain, claimed that Vanity Fair took her words out of context. It is believed that this trauma worsened Cobain's depression and alienation from the music industry.

Musical influences

Music Samples
"Come As You Are"
"Smells Like Teen Spirit"

Cobain was a devoted champion of alternative rock acts. He would often make reference to his favourite bands in interviews, more often than not placing a greater importance on the bands that influenced him than on his own music. Making references to obscure performers like The Vaselines, Daniel Johnston, The Meat Puppets, the Pixies, Young Marble Giants, The Wipers (which Nirvana recorded two tribute songs: "Return of the Rat" and "D-7") and The Raincoats as well as sharing a split single with The Jesus Lizard, proved beneficial to both parties in that the bands found a larger audience and Cobain cemented his indie rock credibility. Both The Raincoats and The Vaselines records were reissued by Nirvana's record company Geffen Records.

Curt and Cris Kirkwood from the Meat Puppets appeared with Nirvana on Nirvana's MTV Unplugged special, playing on three Meat Puppets covers. The set also featured cover versions of songs by the aforementioned Vaselines, David Bowie and legendary bluesman Leadbelly. One of Cobain's favorite musicians, Pat Smear of the L.A. punk legends The Germs, briefly joined the band in 1994, most notably playing guitar on the MTV Unplugged album.

Addiction and death

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Throughout most of his life, Cobain had battled depression, as well as intense physical pain due to a chronic stomach condition, and chronic bronchitis. To dull the stomach pain he blamed on the stresses of performing, he self-medicated with heroin, which he had used casually since Nirvana's early days. By 1993 (at latest), his use developed into an addiction, which he battled unsuccessfully for the better part of a year. He attempted suicide by overdosing on Rohypnol in Rome while on tour. He was revived and hospitalized. He headed home and did nothing but shoot herion. A group of close faimly and friends finally came to him to tell him to get help. He finally agreed and headed to the clinic in California. While there he told the nurses he was going out for a smoke break, and jumped over the 4 foot wall, then caught the next flight back to Seattle and disappeared. On April 8, Cobain's body was discovered in his home, with one gunshot wound to the head, by an electrician who had been commissioned to install security lighting. He had been dead for two days.

Cobain is believed and legally recognized to have committed suicide with a shotgun his best friend Dylan Carlson bought for him, though a growing group is now claiming he was murdered. Private investigator Tom Grant is the most vocal of a group that claims Cobain's death was not a suicide, but rather murder. Grant cites as physical evidence the level of heroin in his bloodstream, which he claims was enough to incapacitate him enough that it would have been impossible to shoot himself once, as well as contending the apparent suicide note that he claims was actually a letter to announce his intent to leave Courtney Love, Seattle and the music business; Grant also claims that a number of handwriting experts have questioned the authenticity of a crucial section of the note. In addition, the shotgun Cobain used was too long for him to use with his fingers to cause the angle of the wound. He would have had to pull the trigger with his toe to cause the angle described in the report; he was found with both shoes still in place. Grant's conclusion is that Cobain was murdered by resident nanny Michael DeWitt on the instruction of Love Template:Ref Template:Ref. Filmmaker Nick Broomfield made a documentary film on this theory entitled Kurt & Courtney.

In the alleged suicide note, Cobain quoted a lyric from Neil Young's song "Hey, Hey, My, My": "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.

Cobain was cremated, with one third of his ashes scattered in a Buddhist temple in New York, another third in the Wishkah River, and the rest in Love's possession.

After Cobain's death

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, Cobain 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. After legal battles a Nirvana Box Set, "With The Lights Out" was released in 2004 including previously unreleased material. Cobain's bandmates went on to form new bands: Novoselic formed the commercially unsuccessful Sweet 75, then formed an equally unsuccessful supergroup with ex-members of The Meat Puppets and Sublime by the name of Eyes Adrift; when not playing music, he often goes on speaking tours as a political activist. Grohl, meanwhile, went on to form the hugely successful Foo Fighters.

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Sign_after.jpg
Tribute to Kurt Cobain in Aberdeen

In 2005, a sign was put up in Aberdeen, Washington that reads "Welcome to Aberdeen- Come As You Are" as a tribute to Cobain. The sign was paid for and created by the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee, a non-profit organization created in May 2004 to honor Cobain. The Committee also plans to create a Kurt Cobain Memorial Park and a youth center in Aberdeen.

The movie Last Days is loosely based on the final hours of Cobain's life. It is directed by Gus Van Sant and stars Michael Pitt as a drug-addicted, depressed rock star modeled on Cobain. The movie will be released in on July 22, 2005.

Sample Lyrics

  • I'm a negative creep and I'm stoned ("Negative Creep")
  • She keeps it pumpin' straight to my heart ("Aneurysm")
  • And I forget just why I taste/Oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile/I found it hard, it was hard to find/Oh well, whatever, nevermind ("Smells Like Teen Spirit")
  • Take your time, hurry up, the choice is yours, don't be late ("Come as You Are")
  • I'll keep fighting jealousy/Until it's fucking gone ("Lounge Act")
  • The animals I've trapped/Have all become my pets ("Someting in the Way")
  • My heart is broke, but I have some glue/Help me inhale and mend it with you/We'll float around and hang out on clouds/Then we'll come down and have a hangover ("Dumb")
  • Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld/So I can sigh eternally ("Pennyroyal Tea")
  • All in all is all we all are ("All Apologies")
  • Things have never been so swell, I have never failed to feel pain ("You Know You're Right")

See also

References

Notes

  1. Template:Note Garofalo, pg. 448
  2. Template:Note Garofalo, pg. 448
  3. Template:Note Garofalo, pg. 447
  4. Template:Note Allman
  5. Template:Note The Kurt Cobain Murder Investigation
  6. Template:Note Justice For Kurt Cobain

External links

Template:Wikiquote

Nirvana
Kurt Cobain | Dave Grohl | Krist Novoselic
Chad Channing | Dale Crover | Jason Everman | Pat Smear
Discography
Bleach | Blew | Nevermind | Hormoaning | Incesticide | In Utero
MTV Unplugged in New York | From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah | Nirvana | With the Lights Out
Popular Songs
"Smells Like Teen Spirit" | "About a Girl" | "All Apologies" | "Aneurysm" | "Come As You Are" | "Drain You" | "Dumb" | "Heart-Shaped Box" | "In Bloom" | "Lithium" | "Love Buzz" | "Milk It" | "On a Plain" | "Pennyroyal Tea" | "Polly" | "Rape Me" | "Sliver" | "Something In The Way" | "You Know You're Right"
Other Related Articles
Grunge music | Generation X | Courtney Love | Heavier Than Heaven | Kurt & Courtney | Tom Grant

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