Best known as the lead singer and guitarist of the Seattle grunge band Nirvana, the Late great American singer-songwriter, musician and vocalist Kurt Cobain was born on this day 20 February in 1967. Cobain formed Nirvana with Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, Washington in 1985 and established it as part of the Seattle music scene, having its debut album Bleach released on the independent record label Sub Pop in 1989. After signing with major label DGC Records, the band found breakthrough success with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” from the second album Nevermind, which was released in 1991, this album also contained many more brilliant songs including “Come as You Are” “In Bloom“ and “Lithium“. A 20th Anniversary edition of the album was also released in 2011 which in addition to the original album also features a second disc full of rarities, Alternative versions, outtakes and accoustic versions.
Following the success of Nevermind, Nirvana was labeled “the flagship band” of Generation X, and Cobain hailed as “the spokesman of a generation”. Cobain however was often uncomfortable and frustrated, believing his message and artistic vision to have been misinterpreted by the public, with his personal issues often subject to media attention. He challenged Nirvana’s audience with its final studio album In Utero (1993). During the last years of his life, Cobain struggled with heroin addiction, illness and depression. He also had difficulty coping with his fame and public image, and the professional and lifelong personal pressures surrounding himself and his wife, musician Courtney Love. On April 8, 1994, Cobain was found dead at his home in Seattle, the victim of what was officially ruled a suicide by a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head. The circumstances of his death have been a topic of public fascination and debate ever since.
Nirvana, with Cobain as a songwriter, have sold over 25 million albums in the US alone, and over 50 million worldwide. Cobain has been remembered as one of the most iconic rock musicians in the history of alternative music. He was ranked by Rolling Stone as the 12th greatest guitarist and 45th greatest singer of all time, and by MTV as 7th in the “22 Greatest Voices in Music”. In 2006, he was placed at number twenty by Hit Parader on their list of the “100 Greatest Metal Singers of All Time”. Reflecting on Cobain’s death over ten years later, MSNBC’s Eric Olsen wrote, “In the intervening decade, Cobain, a small, frail but handsome man in life, has become an abstract Generation X icon, viewed by many as the ‘last real rock star, a messiah and martyr whose every utterance has been plundered and parsed”.
In 2005, a sign was put up in Aberdeen, Washington, that read “Welcome to Aberdeen – Come As You Are” as a tribute to Cobain. The sign was paid for and created by the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee, a non-profit organization created in May 2004 to honour Cobain. The Committee planned to create a Kurt Cobain Memorial Park and a youth center in Aberdeen. Because Cobain was cremated and his remains scattered into the Wishkah River in Washington, many Nirvana fans visit Viretta Park, near Cobain’s former Lake Washington home, to pay tribute. On the anniversary of his death, fans gather in the park to celebrate his life and memory. In 2006, Cobain took the place of Elvis Presley as the top-earning deceased celebrity, after the sale of the Nirvana song catalogue. Presley reclaimed the spot in 2007. There is also A monument to Cobain in Aberdeen along the Wishkah River, and The monument and bridge have both become popular places for fans to leave tributes. Gus Van Sant loosely based his 2005 movie Last Days on the events in the final days of Cobain’s life. In January 2007, Courtney Love began to shop the biography Heavier Than Heaven to various movie studios in Hollywood to turn the book into an A-list feature film about Cobain and Nirvana. A film entitled Montage of Heck about Cobain was also released.