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COLUMN: Kurt Cobain’s life was cut short, but his influence continues 23 years later


Singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain of Nirvana performed in Amsterdam in 1991. Tribune News Service Buy Photos

The thing about legendary people is that they never really die. There are different types of death —  the actual death, when people attend the funeral and accept the death — and when people stop talking about the deceased person.

I read that somewhere. I can’t remember where. The point is, legends don’t die. Not fully. 

Kurt Cobain was 20 when he started the wildly famous '90s grunge band Nirvana, and he was 27 when he committed suicide. He was born on Feb. 20, 1967, and died April 5, 1994.

Cobain’s life was troubled not only at the end, but throughout. His parents divorced when he was 9, and he began using drugs in his teens. 

In 1982, Cobain left his home with his father and began moving from relative to relative, before settling down to live with his mom, according to

Around 1985, Cobain started his first band, Fecal Matter. The band never played live gigs, except for one show speculated to have happened in December 1985, but it did record a few songs in Cobain’s aunt’s house, according to

Then, in December 1987, Cobain settled on the name for his band, Nirvana. Its first single, “Love Buzz,” is not its best work, but it's far from the worst song I’ve ever heard.

The '90s brought fame to Nirvana, and it also brought love to Cobain, in two ways. He met his wife, Courtney Love, in 1990. They married in 1992 and had a daughter the same year. They were married for just two years before Cobain’s death.

Cobain found fame and success with Nirvana, but he did not get the same luxury in his personal life. According to, in the early '90s he began using heroin as a relief to some of his chronic stomach problems and as an escape from the turmoil of his personal life. 

Before April 1994, Cobain had previously attempted to end his own life. In March of that same year, he attempted suicide by overdose in his hotel room in Rome. Love found him and got him help, but it was only a temporary bandage, which would soon peel off and leave an unhealed wound. 

After they returned from Italy, Cobain gave Love another scare by locking himself in a closet with guns and medication. He stated he wasn’t actually planning to kill himself at the time, but Love promptly called the police and they managed to take the guns and the medications from Cobain.

According to Rolling Stone, Cobain checked himself in to rehabilitation, but not before coaxing his friend into getting him a gun to protect against the trespassers he said were on his property. 

He put the gun in his home and went to the clinic in Los Angeles. He stayed there for two days before stepping out for a smoke and jumping over a brick wall that was more than six feet high.

Cobain was found April 8, 1994, three days after his death, and when he was found, he was unrecognizable. He had thrown his wallet on the ground next to his body, open to his Washington license. A 20-gauge shotgun was sitting on his chest.

The story of Kurt Cobain is a tragic one, and it shook the public. The Seattle Crisis Clinic received roughly 300 calls that day. A fan in Turkey ended her life with a shot to the head, and another fan returned home from Cobain’s vigil and ended his life the same way as Cobain, according to Rolling Stone.

Cobain would have been 51 on Tuesday, but his life ended at age 27. Cobain gave the world Nirvana in December 1987 and sadness on April 8, 1994. Amazingly enough, his influence has continued into 2018.

While the end to Cobain’s life was tragic, he and Nirvana managed to give some inspiration to bands today. They made the do-it-yourself sound popular, which can be heard in bands like The White Stripes. 

The grunge fashion started around the same time that Cobain met Love, and the famous x-for-eyes yellow smiley face on a black shirt is still worn today by those who don’t know Nirvana all that well. 

If you or someone you know is struggling or having thoughts of suicide, call the number for The National Suicide Hotline, 1-800-273-8255. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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