Today, we remember to lives of Layne Staley and Kurt Cobain, two of the most prominent vocalists and lyricists of the ‘Grunge’ era. In this piece, we will concentrate on the life and contributions of the [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Nirvana[/lastfm] frontman, Kurt Cobain.
[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Kurt Cobain[/lastfm] was born on February 20, 1967 in Aberdeen, Washington to parents Donald and Wendy. The pair would divorce in 1975. Kurt would move in with his father several months later. In 1978, Donald would remarry, leaving Kurt feeling neglected and resentful of his stepmother and her children. His life would change in 1981 when his Uncle Chuck bought him a guitar for his birthday.
1985 brought great change to Kurt’s life. He dropped out of high school and his father encouraged him to join the Navy. He would take the entrance test and pass. However, Kurt rejected joining the service. He later would form Fecal Matter with Dale Crover of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]the Melvins[/lastfm], a group Cobain highly idolized. They went on to record a demo and play a few small gigs.
Finally, in 1987, Kurt formed a new band with his high school friend Krist Novoselic and Steve Newman. The group would consider a few names before settling on Nirvana. The following year, Cobain, Novoselic, and Crover would record and release their first demo “Love Buzz/Big Cheese” in October.
Seattle label Sub Pop Records released Nirvana’s debut album Bleach in June of 1989. The album did not sell well at first, but was eventually certified Gold in 1995. To this day, it has sold over four million copies worldwide. Bleach contained their single “About a Girl” and a re-recorded version of “Love Buzz.” The album also earned them enough notoriety to join [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Sonic Youth[/lastfm] on a west coast tour. Prior to the tour, their drummer, Chad Channing left the group following several internal disputes. Dale Crover would fill in until the group was introduced to drummer Dave Grohl of the Washington D.C. hardcore group, Scream. Grohl would officially join the group in 91. Cobain would also start dating Courtney Love in the summer of 1991.
Contradictory to their anti-establishment/punk-rock attitude, Nirvana would sign to Geffen records in ’91. On September 10th, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was released, spurring a musical and cultural revolution. The album, Nevermind, was dropped two weeks later. It would reach #1 status in January 1992. The group would perform Saturday Night Live on January 11 and end their set trashing the set and kissing one another. The “make-out” session was edited out of the televised version.
On February 24, 1992, Cobain married Courtney Love in Waikki Beach, Hawaii. Their daughter, Frances Bean was born on August 18th the same year. Love and Cobain would inflict some public criticism when Love admitted in a Vanity Fair article to heroin use while pregnant. Their daughter was removed from their custody for several weeks.
Kurt Cobain continued in a downward spirl of drug addiction, overdosing twice in 1993. The first time occurred on May 2nd. Luckily, Love revived him with a shot of Buprenorphine. Months later, Love would save him again of a heroin overdose with a shot of Narcan. Cobain went on the perform at the New Music Seminar in New York City the same night. In Utero was released on September 21. The album featured “Heart Shaped Box”, “All Apologies”, and “Rape Me”. All three singles would reach #1 on Alternative Charts while the album went to #1 on Billboard’s 200 Chart. Nirvana would become the first group to appear twice on SNL, when they performed “Heart Shaped Box” and “Rape Me” on September 25th. The MTV Unplugged album was recorded weeks later on November 18 and be released the following year.
While on tour in Germany of March of 1994, Cobain was diagnosed with bronchitis and larygitis. While on break of the tour, Cobain would overdose again on a combination of alcohol and rohypnol in his hotel room in Rome on March 4th. When he returned home, Love held an intervention with friends and band mates on March 25th. Days later on the 30th, Cobain entered the Exodus Recovery Center in Los Angeles, only to leave the following day.
On April 8, 1994 the body of Kurt Cobain was discovered by a serviceman in the guest house of his home at Lake Washington with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Two days later, a vigil was held in the park at Seattle Center. Thousands of fans gathered to remember Kurt and hear Courtney Love read his suicide note that he left to his family and fans.
As we recount the careers of Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley, it is important to learn from their struggles with addiction. Still, their contributions to rock music and grunge culture are insurmountable, and we pay homage to both of these men on the anniversary of their death, April 5th.