Kurt Cobain

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Kurt Cobain during an interview with the radio station WFNX (1991)
Chart positions
Explanation of the data
Montage of Heck - The Home Recordings
  CH 47 11/22/2015 (1 week)
  UK 59 
11/26/2015 (1 week)
  US 121 05.12.2015 (1 week)

Kurt Donald Cobain (born February 20, 1967 in Aberdeen , Washington , † April 5, 1994 in Seattle , Washington) was an American rock musician. He became famous as the singer and guitarist of the band Nirvana , for which he wrote almost all the songs.


1967–1986: childhood and youth

The son of Donald Leland Cobain (* 1946) and his wife, Wendy Elizabeth Fradenburg (* 1948) and brother of Kimberly Dawn Cobain (* April 24, 1970), Kurt Cobain spent his childhood in Aberdeen, 140 kilometers southwest of Seattle. When Cobain was nine years old, his parents divorced. As a child he was hyperactive and took drugs, including Ritalin . In an interview with the punk magazine Flipside, he later suspected the nervous disease narcolepsy behind these symptoms, which continued into adulthood . Apparently, he had never obtained a medical diagnosis for this.

Soon afterwards he moved in with his father, as he did not get along with his mother's new partner. When his father Donald later married a new partner with two children, the relationship with Cobain's caregiver deteriorated. In the song Serve the Servants (1993, In Utero ) there are hints of his relationship with his father:

“I tried hard to have a father, but instead I had a dad. I just want you to know that I don't hate you anymore. There is nothing I could say that I haven't thought before. "

“I always wanted a father, but I got a dad instead. I just want to let you know that I don't hate you anymore. There is nothing I can say that I haven't already thought about. "

- Text excerpts from the song Serve The Servants (1993, In Utero )

Cobain was confronted for the first time with the death in adolescence, as two of his great-uncle suicide committed.

For his 14th birthday, Cobain received his first guitar from his uncle Chuck . At the age of 15 he met Krist Novoselić in 1982 , with whom he did not make music until some time later. In the years that followed, Cobain also befriended Buzz Osborne (singer / guitarist) and Dale Crover (drummer), both from the band The Melvins . He and Crover also played together on Fecal Matter , Cobain's first music project. Even if the later music style had little to do with that of the Melvins, Buzz had a decisive influence on him, who introduced him to indie and punk rock .

After several violent arguments with both parents' homes, Cobain changed residence several times during this period and in the following years and in the meantime lived with his grandparents, one of his uncles, with the parents of his friend Jesse Reed - a total of ten different families in four years.

At 18, Cobain dropped out of school and moved to Olympia , Washington. He lived there with his girlfriend Tracy Marander. When Cobain couldn't find work, the relationship fell into a crisis. It was at this point that he wrote the song " About a Girl, " which referred to Tracy. In the line “I can't see you every night. Free ”he alludes to the fact that he often had to move out and sleep in his car because she couldn't cope with his lack of drive. Still, he never admitted to her that the song was about her.

1987–1994: Success with Nirvana

From 1986 Cobain appeared with Novoselić in various bands, which in 1987 finally resulted in Nirvana. With Nirvana he released three studio albums and a B-side compilation as well as numerous singles and EPs and was involved as a solo artist in other publications by befriended or related bands and artists.

On April 11, 1989, Cobain was on tour with his band at the Satyricon Club in Portland . There he met Courtney Love , the singer of the band Hole . Love and Cobain were married on February 24, 1992 in Waikīkī , Hawaii .

Their daughter Frances Bean was born on August 18, 1992. Her first name is based on the band The Vaselines , which Kurt adored , especially the singer Frances McKee. Some of the songs of the Vaselines of Nirvana have also been covered, for example Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam , Son of a Gun and Molly's Lips .

1994: Dissolution of nirvana and death

Cobain suffered from stomach problems. Doctors could not accurately diagnose the cause, which made targeted treatment impossible. He himself therefore called his illness "Cobain's Disease" (in German Cobain's disease ).

During the touring, Cobain's stomach problems increased. The brief renunciation of alcohol and cigarettes showed no improvement. Through his first experience with drugs, he discovered them as a means of pain relief.

From 1990 onwards, Cobain injected himself with the drug heroin more and more often . After the release of the album Nevermind in September 1991, his drug abuse became more excessive. All subsequent attempts by Cobain to get rid of the drug were unsuccessful despite a total of six attempts at therapy. Later, a bipolar disorder is also diagnosed.

At the beginning of March 1994 the in-utero tour was interrupted due to Cobain's stomach problems. Cobain and wife Courtney Love flew to Rome on March 2nd. There Cobain was hospitalized two days later - lying in a coma . The medics confirmed a suicide attempt by taking sedatives . A short time later, however, Kurt Cobain contradicted this statement and informed the public that this was just an accident because he had taken sedatives and then drank too much alcohol. At the urging of those around him, Cobain underwent drug withdrawal at the Exodus Recovery Center in Marina del Rey .

However, on April 1, Cobain fled from there and went into hiding. At this point the band had already broken up, but Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselić only confirmed this years later.

Four days later, on April 5, Cobain died at his Seattle home. He was charged with a overdose of heroin and shot in the head from his Browning Auto-5 - shotgun found. He left a suicide note that ended with a quote from the Neil Young song My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue) :

"It's better to burn out than to fade away."

"Better to burn out than to fade."

- Kurt Cobain in April 1994, last words in his suicide note

Despite Kurt's wife, Courtney Love, filing a missing person report on April 3, a domestic electrician did not find his body in the room above his garage until three days after his death.


Kurt Cobain was cremated on April 14, 1994. Courtney Love scattered a small part of the remains in different places. They buried part of a tree on their last shared property and scattered the ashes in the Wishkah River and in a Buddhist temple in New York. In an interview with the music broadcaster MTV , Courtney Love claimed that most of it was in a safe deposit box. Even ten years after Cobain's death, the Seattle authorities still refused to give him an official burial site on the grounds that they did not want a rush of admirers, as at the Paris grave of the Doors singer Jim Morrison . In his birthplace Aberdeen in the US state Washington a memorial was established with the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park .

On June 3, 2008, it was announced that Cobain's ashes had been stolen from his widow Courtney Love's home in May 2008. She had kept the ashes in a pocket in her closet for years.

Kurt Cobain Memorial Park / Aberdeen WA


Today, the artist's still growing fortune is estimated at well over $ 100 million. All rights to the artist's estate are exercised by the widow Courtney Love and daughter Frances Bean. In 1997 Love agreed with the band members Grohl and Novoselić on a partnership-based management of the artistic heritage, which makes up a large part of the entire Nirvana repertoire .

In late 2005, Courtney Love sold a quarter of the rights she had bequeathed to Martha Stewart for £ 70million . On a list published by Forbes magazine in 2006, Cobain was ranked number one among the “best-paid dead”.

Kurt Cobain is assigned to Club 27 .


Numerous books, pictures and recordings have been published by and with Cobain.

Publications during his lifetime

With Nirvana himself, Cobain released the three albums Bleach (1989), Nevermind (1991) and In Utero (1993) as well as the compilation of rarities Incesticide (1992). In addition, two EPs ( Blew 1989 and Hormoaning 1992) and 13 singles were released. The most famous singles are Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991), Come As You Are (1992) and Heart-Shaped Box (1993).

As a solo artist, he released a record with the writer William S. Burroughs , whose story "Priest They Called Him" ​​was played by Cobain. In addition, there were numerous pieces together with Courtney Love (including 1993 Live Through This ).

As a painter and draftsman, Cobain left behind many self-made comics, paintings and drawings, as well as sculptural works, one of which can be seen on the back of the album In Utero . This shows a 3-D collage colored pink by Cobain. Here fetuses and adult babies lie heaped in a pulp of flowers, bones and innards. Various symbols related to Greek mythology are lined up around the picture.

Fender Jagstang

Fender Jagstang

Cobain designed his own signature guitar together with the guitar company Fender at the end of 1993 : the Fender Jagstang . This is a hybrid of the two Fender models Mustang and Jaguar . Cobain didn't play the guitar very often, however.

Posthumously published material

After Kurt Cobain's death, the recording of Nirvana's performance on MTV Unplugged in New York as a very special concert in his career and that of his band is an obituary for the artist. It was released in October 1994 as a live album. For this purpose, the single About a Girl (Unplugged) (originally 1989, Bleach ) was released and other video clips from the concert were released for advertising purposes.

From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah ( English From the muddy banks of the Wishkah ) is the second live album, which was released in 1996. It was compiled by bassist Krist Novoselić in memory of Kurt Cobain. The band was formed in 1987 in Aberdeen, where the Wishkah River meets the sandbanks of the Pacific Ocean. This is where Nirvana began to process her expressionist impressions with music.

In 2002 the compilation Nirvana was released, on which many songs were digitally remastered. This record also contained a new song (" You Know You're Right "). This was a foretaste of the most extensive compilation of the musician's estate to date: With the Lights Out was released on November 19, 2004 in the USA and on November 22 in Germany as a box set consisting of three CDs with mostly unreleased demo recordings and Raw recordings of the band's hits and a DVD of mostly unreleased material.

Courtney Love also published the Journals - Kurt Cobain's Diaries (2002). These contain photographed excerpts from his notes, drafts and diaries.

“Don't read my diary when I'm gone. OK, I'm going to work now. If you wake up this morning, please read my diary. Rummage through my things and get a picture of me. "

- Kurt Cobain : Foreword to the Journals , undated.

Gus Van Sant filmed the last few days of Kurt Cobain in the film Last Days , which premiered at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival . However, Van Sant leaves the viewer a lot of room for interpretation. Blake, played by Michael Pitt , is modeled on Kurt Cobain. Asia Argento plays the musician's girlfriend. Drug consumption, actual death and Nirvana songs can neither be seen nor heard in the film.

Nick Broomfield published the documentary Kurt and Courtney in 1997 , which tries to illuminate death from the point of view of an alleged contract murder.

In 2004, on the tenth anniversary of Cobain's death, the comic biography Godspeed by the artists Barnaby Legg, Jim McCarthy and Flameboy was published. This book portrays Cobain as a tragic hero.

At the beginning of November 2005 the CD "Sliver" was released with the subtitle "The Best of the Box". It contains a few selected songs from the "With the Lights Out" box as well as three previously unreleased demo versions of well-known tracks (Spank Thru, Sappy, Come As You Are). The version of Spank Thru comes from the “ Fecal Matter Tape”, which is the first recording of Kurt Cobain's songs, recorded in December 1985 by Cobain's aunt Mari Earl.

In 2015, the documentary " Cobain: Montage of Heck " (director: Brett Morgen ) was released.

The Rolling Stone chose Cobain is ranked 45 of the 100 best singers and ranked 73 of the 100 best guitarists and 54th of the 100 best songwriters of all time .



radio play

  • Agnieszka Lessmann: Cobain's ashes . In: Deutschlandfunk . Biographical radio play on the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death, April 1, 2014.


  • The Simpsons , Season 19, Episode 11: "That 90's Show". Homer Simpson forms the band "Sadgasm" . Further allusions can be found in the songs of this band, which parody the band and in Homer's alleged drug problem. Meanwhile the breakup of the band is reported because of this.


  • Kurt & Courtney , documentary, 1998, directed by Nick Broomfield
  • Last Days , feature film, 2005, directed by Gus Van Sant
  • Kurt Cobain: About a Son , documentary, 2007, directed by AJ Schnack
  • Cobain - Montage of Heck , documentary, 2015, directed by Brett Morgen
  • Kurt Cobain - Death of an Icon (Original title: Soaked in Bleach ), documentary, 2015, director: Benjamin Statler

Web links

Commons : Kurt Cobain  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Chart sources: Switzerland UK charts US charts
  2. Music Sales Awards: UK
  3. This is a scan of Kurt Cobain's actual death certificate. Retrieved July 25, 2019 .
  4. ^ Al Kowalewski, Carlos A. Nunez: An interview with ... Kurt Cobain. In: Flipside. 1992, accessed October 3, 2013 .
  5. Interview: Kurt Cobain's Cousin on Youth Suicide | AHealthyMe.com. February 2, 2007, accessed February 18, 2020 .
  6. a b c Julia Jüttner: Morbid theft: Kurt Cobain's ashes were stolen. In: Spiegel Online . June 3, 2008, accessed June 19, 2019 .
  7. Steffen Rüth: The purest self-destruction ( Memento of the original from April 2, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . In: Frankfurter Neue Presse . March 29, 2014. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.fnp.de
  8. freewebs.com ( Memento of the original from April 1, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.freewebs.com
  9. This is the actual contents of Kurt Cobain's "suicide note" . In: kurtcobainssuicidenote.com .
  10. Sebastian Zabel: The Scars of Rock'n'Roll . In: Rolling Stone . No. 10 , 2013, ISSN  1612-9563 , p. 36-45 .
  11. Lacey Rose, Louis Hau, Amanda Schupak: Top-Earning Dead Celebrities. In: Forbes.com. October 23, 2006, accessed March 4, 2010 .
  12. 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. Rolling Stone , December 2, 2010, accessed August 7, 2017 .
  13. 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Rolling Stone , December 18, 2015, accessed August 7, 2017 .
  14. The 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time. Rolling Stone , August 2015, accessed August 7, 2017 .