Eighteen years since his suicide, we can’t get enough of Cobain

Nirvana: “Freedom from pain, suffering and the external world.”

That’s how Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain explained to reporters how he got the name for the flagship grunge band that stormed the music scene in the 1990s.

And freedom from pain is what the troubled artist strived for most of his adult life as he struggled with depression and heavy drug addiction. The legacy of that pain continues as lawsuits and vitriol sticks to so much  he‘s left behind.

It was nearly eighteen years ago, on April, 5th 1994,  when the 27-year old Cobain put a rifle in his mouth and pulled the trigger in his beautiful home at 171 Washington Boulevard East. According to the Seattle-King County Medical Examiner, Cobain’s body was found a few days later by an electrician installing a burglar alarm.

“I observed through the door a W/M, with long blond hair, laying on the floor, on his back,” wrote a police officer who was called to the scene.

“A shotgun was laying across the victim’s body; the butt of the gun was between the victim’s feet and the muzzle was at about the mid-chest level of the victim. The victim appeared to be Kurt Cobain who I knew to be to be the resident of the house,” he said.

News of his death sent shockwaves through the world. Cobain had by then become the enigmatic helmsman of the so called-grunge culture, of the post-punk, slacker generation that found its voice through the music of Nirvana.

Copy-cat suicides followed as well as endless speculations and conspiracy theories. The level of his adoring fans’ enduring fascination with Cobain’s mysterious, withdrawn manic-depressive persona reached all kinds of levels. That fascination has lasted  to this day and thousands continue to visit and revisit online sites that claim to have close knowledge of the circumstances of Cobain’s death. This public idolatry is what Cobain rejected at the end of his life. This is an excerpt from his suicide note:

“I haven’t felt the excitement of listening to as well as creating music along with reading and writing for too many years now. I feel guilty beyond words about these things. For example when we’re backstage and the lights go out and the manic roar of the crowd begins, it doesn’t affect me the way in which it did for Freddy Mercury, who seemed to love, relish in the love and adoration from the crowd, which is something I totally admire and envy.”

Cobain’s widow, Hole lead singer Courtney Love, the Kinderwhore lipstick punkette and the mother of their only child Francis Bean Cobain, has helped perpetuate controversy and dissent over Cobain’s legacy . With Kurt, they became infamous for their dysfunctional, drug-induced celebrity status as a married couple. Without Kurt, we rarely hear Love’s voice unless there is a lawsuit or trouble. According to Spin, Love has ranted against former members of Nirvana and her attorneys over the Muppets and the rights over Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Love may still be coping with the anniversary of her husband‘s death, echoing through the media as fans celebrate the grunge poet who, like many cultural icons of the so called 27 club, took his own life.

She is left with a burden of representing a man who has been deified by adoring fans. So much has been written about Cobain’s broken life, from his sad childhood to lost adulthood. He has become a beatified rock figure reaching a de facto sainthood with his ultimate suicidal sacrifice.  And as more is written and exploited from his legend, more copyright issues continue to emerge.

There is clearly an ongoing fascination with Cobain’s persona  as Hollywood and the world wide web  try to resurrect the  Kurt Cobain saga.  As Cobain once sarcastically said about the hungry crowds needing more of him, “Here we are now… entertain us!”

There is talk of a Clint Eastwood movie featuring a Cobain-like character in a re-make of the 1937 classic, A Star is Born. William Fetters, the screen writer, has reportedly said he wanted to ask questions about the music industry today by pretending Kurt Cobain was alive.

“If he was past his prime and no longer someone, how does he get that album? The whole movie for me is this balance between art and commerce, which is when you first start in this business, you are smacked in the face with it,” Fetters said.

Cobain’s art is being shown for the first time thanks to an addiction activist who is working on a book about Courtney Love. This happy news is not devoid of controversy either.

ARTinfo.com reports on an addiction advocacy group called The Fix,  whose founder Maer Roshan claims to have unearthed  a trove of Cobain’s art while doing research for Courtney Comes Clean, an e-book with excusive interview with Courtney Love on her life with Cobain. You can purchase it here for a mere $2.99.

And, of course, his legacy really is the DNA of his only offspring, Frances Bean Cobain. One can only try to imagine what her journey has been like from visiting her father in rehab, having her mother taken way from her by court orders, and, according to her own Facebook account, taking a restraining order against her own mother who allegedly killed her pets.

She is a great beauty who has managed to stay away from the limelight. Footage of their intimate lives can be seen in a newly released documentary narrated partially by Hole ex-drummer Patty Schemel, a former addict who said she took care of baby Frances.

Frances Bean Cobain, now 18 years old and a very wealthy young woman, is slowly coming out to enjoy the limelight.  But there is always her father’s voice to remind her as in the lyrics of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that “With the lights out…it’s less dangerous.”


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