7 Things You Never Knew About Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain, lead singer and guitarist for the band Nirvana, was the face of 1990’s grunge for a time and a legend in his own rite. Despite the popular reception of his music, Cobain led a tormented life, struggling with depression and drug addiction until his suicide in 1994.
Decades after his death, Cobain’s music is still loved by millions of fans, and his band Nirvana has helped to reshape the landscape of American rock ‘n’ roll forever. In honor of one of the greatest minds in alternative rock, here are seven facts you didn’t know about Kurt Cobain.
1. He was born in a small logging town to a musical family.
Cobain was born in a small logging community, Aberdeen, in western Washington State. He developed an early aptitude for artistic expression, excelling most at drawing and music. He loved to draw some of his favorite characters from movies and cartoons, and he learned to play the piano by ear at a very early age. His artistic abilities were encouraged by his family members, some of which had musical backgrounds themselves.
One of Cobain’s uncles played in a band called the Beachcombers, while one of his aunts played guitar and performed with different bands in and around Aberdeen. Even his great uncle Delbert was a singer and musician, singing in the 1930 film “King of Jazz.”
2. His parents divorced when he was 9.
Cobain’s parents often fought as their relationship became increasingly strained. Eventually, they filed for divorce when Cobain was only 9 years old. His parents’ divorce would affect Cobain for the rest of his life. As a child, he felt ashamed that he didn’t have the idyllic home with a married mother and father who loved each other.
Both of his parents eventually found new partners. His father married a woman and had children with her, while his mother dated a man who was both physically and emotionally abusive.
Cobain’s tumultuous family life growing up had a profound effect on music he would later write as well as the overall direction his life would later take.
3. He was once a devout Christian.
In the wake of his tumultuous family life, Cobain found refuge for a while living at the home of his friend Jesse Reed, whose family were born-again Christians. During that time, Cobain regularly attended church and found solace in the escape from his family troubles that his religion gave him; he wrote the song “Lithium” in memory of his days spent with the Reed family.
Later in life, Cobain would renounce his Christianity; he was known to go on anti-God rants. He sympathized greatly with the discrimination experienced by gay people, and took issue with homophobes who used religion as a justification for their hatred. Despite his conflicts with religion, it remained a very influential topic on his life and his music, made evident by naming his band after the Buddhist principle of the escape from pain.
4. He struggled with multiple health problems.
Throughout his life, Cobain contended with chronic bronchitis as well as an undiagnosed stomach condition that caused him severe pain. These health issues, along with the childhood traumas he experienced, would later contribute to his habitual drug use, experimenting with marijuana as early as middle school and eventually developing the full-fledged alcoholism and heroin addiction he suffered as an adult.
As his addiction worsened, so too did his mental state, to the point that he developed severe suicidal tendencies that would ultimately claim his life. He overdosed on multiple occasions, once on heroin, and again with a mix of alcohol and Rohypnol. He attempted to get clean with rehab multiple times, but failed.
5. He loved the Pixies.
Cobain had many musical influences, everything from the classic songs by the Beatles and Led Zeppelin to the punk rock powerhouses of the Clash and the Velvet Underground. But it was perhaps the Pixies that most helped Cobain to develop his own musical style. Cobain described “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the hit song from Nirvana’s album Nevermind that launched the band into the mainstream spotlight, as his attempt to emulate the sound of the Pixies.
6. He hated success.
After Nevermind, Nirvana became the poster child for the grunge alternative rock subgenre. The media hailed them as the Generation X’s flagship band and Cobain the generation’s de facto spokesman. Cobain struggled to reconcile his success with Nirvana’s underground roots, and he found himself at odds with inspiring other musicians as well as his many fans.
Over time, this inner conflict developed into resentment that he harbored for anyone claiming to be a fan of Nirvana when they didn’t, in Cobain’s opinion, understand the influence or the intention of Nirvana’s music.
7. He died at 27.
Cobain’s relationship with fellow musician Courtney Love had always been rocky. The couple’s habitual drug use had been a cornerstone of their time together, and despite multiple attempts to get clean, Cobain never curbed his heroin use.
After an intervention that Love staged with Cobain’s friends, Cobain agreed once again to detox. Shortly after arriving at a recovery center in Los Angeles, Cobain escaped the facility, flew back to Seattle, and soon disappeared. A week later, on April 8th 1994, Cobain was found in his Seattle home with heroin in his system and a shotgun pointed at his chin. He was only 27, and is survived by his daughter Frances.
Despite Kurt Cobain’s troubled life, he remains a source of inspiration for many, with his music still adored by millions of fans worldwide. To learn more about his early life and career, check out “Kurt Cobain: Early Life of a Legend” on Geeker.