Kurt Cobain was just 27 years old when he was found dead in the living room of his Seattle home on 8th April 1994.
The subsequent police investigation determined that his death occurred three days earlier, and that he had – conspiracy theories notwithstanding – committed suicide by shooting himself with his own handgun.
21 years on, here are seven interesting facts about the grunge legend.
Something In The Way
Before arriving at Nirvana, Cobain originally called his band ‘Fecal Matter’.
(Though he later changed the name, when he decided he wanted a number one.)
Smells like Teen Spirit, arguably the most famous Nirvana song, was – by Cobain’s own admission – a ‘rip off’ of The Pixies and, as he told the bemused audience at 1992’s Reading Festival, he worried it sounded like Boston’s More than a Feeling.
Cobain came up with the song’s title when his friend Kathleen Hanna, the lead singer of the band Bikini Kill, spray-painted ‘Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit’ on his wall.
Cobain (unaware of the brand) wrongly interpreted the slogan as having some sort of revolutionary meaning – but, actually, Hanna was just referencing the cheap deodorant that Cobain’s then-girlfriend Tobi Vail used.
(You can still buy the ‘Teen Spirit Stick’ in two fragrances: Sweet Strawberry and Pink Crush.)
Son Of A Gun
However you feel about his death, suicide is not uncommon in the Cobain family.
At the inquest into his death, Kurt’s cousin Beverly drew the coroner’s attention to two of her uncles who had also killed themselves – both taking their lives by shooting themselves in the head.
Suicide continues to be a source of fascination with the family – Frances Bean Cobain, Kurt’s daughter, had a suicide-themed party for her 16th birthday.
As a child, Kurt had an imaginary friend he called ‘Boddah’ – on whom he would often blame his misdeeds.
In 1981, when Kurt was 14 (and really too old to have an imaginary friend, you’d think), he trapped a neighbour’s cat in his parents’ chimney and killed it.
Questioned about how it got there, Cobain blamed it on Boddah. However, his clever subterfuge proved unsuccessful.
Kurt’s suicide note – if indeed that’s what it is – was addressed to ‘To Boddah’.
One of Nirvana’s first live gigs was booked by a rock promotor called Nikolas Hartshorne, who signed the band up for a performance at the Central Tavern in Seattle.
Years later, Hartshorne would become the medical examiner responsible for investigating Cobain’s death.
Let Me In
REM’s Michael Stipe was a close friend of Cobain’s and is godfather to Kurt’s daughter, Frances Bean. It appears that REM’s 1994 album Automatic for the People was playing on the stereo in Cobain’s apartment when he died.
Out of respect for its favourite son, the welcome signs in Cobain’s hometown of Aberdeen, Washington, now read ‘Come as you are’.*
*Whilst appreciating the sentiment here, the thought of an entire town with such lax dress code will naturally fill any right-thinking person with horror.
For more about grunge, Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, read The Bluffer’s Guide to Rock Music®