On April 8, 1994, the body of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was discovered in a room above the garage of his upscale Seattle home. It was later determined through forensic analysis that Cobain died three days earlier, on April 5, 1994. As such, today marks the 24th anniversary of Cobain’s death. He was 27 years old at the time.
According to members of the Seattle Police Department, Cobain died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. However, Cobain’s death has been the subject of much speculation and mystery; many believe foul play may have been involved. That said, the official, accepted version of events involves Cobain injecting himself with a large dose of heroin and shooting himself with a shotgun.
When news of Cobain’s death spread, his large, devoted fan base was heartbroken, devastated and in utter disbelief, especially in the Seattle area, Cobain’s home and the center of the grunge music scene and the tight-knit community that thrived in it. Cobain’s death was impossibly difficult to accept; he was a superstar who had reached the greatest heights of professional success. He had more money than he could ever need, a wife and a baby. The concept of Cobain turning around and taking his own life was unfathomable.
However, Cobain’s fans knew of his deep personal struggles and the pain he dealt with on a daily basis. Cobain’s life was plagued with chronic pain, drug addiction and depression. Not even stardom, wealth and success could make things right for Cobain, and for his fans, it felt like the whole world was sinking into despair.
1. Cobain Struggled With Depression & Pain During His Early Life
Kurt Cobain was born in 1967 in Aberdeen, Washington. As a child, Cobain showed an early interest in music. He was described as introverted, yet despite this, he still enjoyed performing. When Cobain was nine years old, his parents divorced, and he later stated during an interview that his parents’ divorce had a profoundly negative effect on him and caused him to feel a great amount of shame.
In school, Cobain befriended a student who happened to be gay. As such, he was considered to be gay by association, and was bullied relentlessly by other students. This helped to inform Cobain’s lifelong disdain for homophobia and pro-gay rights stance. Some believe that Cobain himself may have been bisexual, though the more commonly accepted theory is that he simply did not like anyone being picked on for his or her sexual preference. It is believed that around this time, Cobain developed either Crohn’s Disease or IBS, causing him to experience excruciating stomach pain, which he struggled with for the rest of his life. He also struggled with frequent bouts of bronchitis, adding to his physical discomfort.
In his late teens, Cobain’s mother kicked him out of the house, and Cobain lived through several periods of homelessness. During this time, he often slept on the banks of the Wishkah River. He became more and more involved with the local punk scene, befriending members of the riot grrrl scene such as Bikini Kill.
2. Cobain & His Bandmates Formed Nirvana in 1987
Nirvana was formed in 1987 with Cobain signing on as the band’s singer and guitarist, Krist Novoselic as the bass player and ultimately, Dave Grohl as the drummer, who joined on in 1990. Nirvana began playing small venues in the Seattle area, where they quickly gained a following and devoted fans. They were pioneers in the grunge scene, and it wasn’t long before they landed their first record deal.
Nirvana would release three full-length albums during the span of seven years and released a series of billboard-chart topping singles. They found success quickly, going on tour almost immediately, gaining immense wealth, and becoming international superstars. To call it a culture shock for the band members would be a gross understatement.
Cobain had a love/hate relationship with fame, as he was a private person by nature. Cobain was also dealing with personal struggles which his growing fame and fortune seemed to hurt rather than help. Cobain had become an unwitting symbol of a disillusioned, unhappy generation, and it was a large cross to bear.
3. Cobain Had a Tumultuous Personal Life
Cobain met Courtney Love in 1989 and they became involved in 1990. Cobain was not interested in Love when he first met her, but she relentlessly pursued him. Eventually, they became romantically involved. They both developed serious heroin addictions, adding to the volatility of their relationship. Love was also a musician and performed with the band Hole, and she and Cobain ran in a lot of the same social circles.
Eventually, Cobain and Love were married and had a daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, who was born in 1992. Love admitted during an interview with Vanity Fair that she shot up heroin while pregnant with her daughter, a claim which she later denied. This led to state intervention checking on the welfare of infant Frances Bean; an event that was highly publicized, humiliating and traumatic for Cobain and Love.
Cobain went to rehab several times in an effort to get clean, to no avail. He would ultimately disappear from a California rehab facility in April of 1994, shortly before his death, unable to overcome his heroin addiction.
4. Cobain Died On April 5, 1994
Cobain’s body was discovered on April 8, 1994. It was determined that he died three days earlier. According to the medical examiner’s office, Cobain died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after shooting up with a large dose of heroin.
A suicide note was found at the scene, as was a large amount of drug paraphernalia. Some refuse to believe that Cobain’s death was a suicide. Many point to the amount of heroin in Cobain’s system when he died, arguing that he could not possible have put his drug kit away and fired a shotgun with such a high amount of the opiate in his system. Additionally, Cobain’s suicide note raises red flags for some. The handwriting appears to change dramatically toward the end of the note. For some, this is an indication that someone else wrote the note, in whole or in part.
As a result of this speculation and suspicion, Cobain’s death has been the subject of various conspiracy theories for the last 24 years. The majority of the theories include involvement to some degree by Courtney Love. However, Love has never been charged with any involvement in Cobain’s death, conspiracy or otherwise.
5. Cobain’s Influence Continues To Be Felt, 24 Years Later
Cobain has been recognized as one of the most iconic and influential musicians of all time, both on a micro and a macro level. After his death, his hometown of Aberdeen put up a sign saying “Come As You Are” as an homage to Cobain. A memorial committee was formed in Cobain’s honor and the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park was established.
Nirvana continues to enjoy massive success today. In 2014, Nirvana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with various famed musicians providing vocals in Cobain’s place. Multiple books have been published about Cobain’s life as well as several films, including Kurt and Courtney, Soaked in Bleach and Montage of Heck.
Cobain’s fans continue to pay tribute to him every year on the anniversary of his death. His family home in Aberdeen is frequently visited, as well as the park established in his name. Cobain has certainly not been forgotten, and he is still greatly loved and missed, and remains an important icon to fans of all ages, including teenagers just discovering Nirvana for the first time. Kurt Cobain has not burned out, nor has he faded away.