In April 2004, the ten year anniversary of the death of Nirvana frontman and chief songwriter Kurt Cobain, the cover of every major rock magazine featured various images - mostly in black and white - of the troubled countenance that so perfectly defined the captivating, cathartic yet grim spirit of the early 90’s Seattle-based indie rock 'grunge' sound.
Those gathering to mourn and celebrate his legacy reflected upon the moment when, increasingly troubled by drug addiction, manic depression and the pressures of his meteoric rise to fame, he was found dead of what was ruled to be a self-inflicted shotgun wound.
Ten years after the incident, doubts have arisen as to the finding of suicide, but the fact remains that Kurt Cobain was a troubled man at the time of his death.
Cobain may or may not have been able to handle Nirvana's monstrous success, but the band's legacy stands as one of the most influential in rock & roll for unintentionally bringing post-punk and indie rock into the American mainstream.
Born in February 1967 in Hoquaim, a small town southwest of Seattle, Cobain’s family soon moved to nearby Aberdeen, a depressed and dying logging town. The traumatic divorce of his parents led to his becoming increasingly difficult, anti-social and withdrawn; he later said that the traumatic split fueled the anguish in Nirvana's music.
As an adolescent, he was captivated by Britain's Sex Pistols and, later, he and future Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic were inspired by other British bands, including Joy Division, a nihilistic post-punk band that had an enormous influence on Kurt's musical sensibility.
Cobain formed and reformed a series of bands before Nirvana. After a series of drummers, Nirvana achieved its success with Dave Grohl, formerly of Drain Bramage, and the final line-up emerged onto the Seattle music scene in 1986.
By 1988, Nirvana were performing locally and cutting demos. In 1989, the band recorded their first album, Bleach for respected Seattle indie label, Sub-Pop.
The trio went on to secure a lucrative contract with Geffen Records, whose faith in the band was rewarded with Nevermind, a culturally-transforming work which almost singlehandledly brought the "grunge" phenomenon to the forefront of pop culture. Fueled by the Top Ten anthem “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” it topped the U.S. charts in 1992, went multi-platinum and topped many Album of the Year polls.
In February 1992, Cobain married fellow musician, Courtney Love, but it was becoming increasingly apparent that he was struggling with his new role as "spokesman for a generation."
Later in 1992, shortly after the birth of daughter Frances Bean, Nirvana released Incesticide, Cobain went into hospital treatment for heroin abuse, the drug of choice for the 90s.
In early 1993, another defining and self-reflective album, In Utero , was released. It followed its predecessors to the top of the charts. Nirvana embarked on a support tour and recorded and filmed an "Unplugged" performance for MTV in November of 1993.
In the winter of 1993-94, Nirvana embarked on an extensive European tour. After twenty concerts, Cobain developed throat problems and their schedule was interrupted while he recovered.
On March 4, 1994, he was rushed to hospital in Rome, in a coma after an incident involving prescription painkillers and alcohol.
Back in Seattle, Love and his management convinced Cobain to enter a detox program in Los Angeles. According to a Missing Person's report filed by his mother, Cobain left the facility after only a few days of the program.
On April 5, 1994, he barricaded himself into the "mother-in-law" apartment behind his Seattle mansion, apparently put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Two days after Cobain died, and the day before his body was found, Courtney Love was admitted to a Los Angeles hospital after a drug overdose. Her recent lifestyle problems are regularly reported in the media, and overwhelm any music projects she chooses to undertake.
Dave Grohl later formed the acclaimed Foo Fighters, alongside ex-Germs guitarist Pat Smear, and Novoselic formed Sweet 75 early in 1997.