Music / Kurt Cobain

Kurt Donald Cobain (20 February 1967 - 5 April 1994) was the lead vocalist and guitarist of Nirvana. Without any doubt the most important and influential rock star of The '90s. The monster success of Nevermind in 1991 launched Nirvana to the top of the charts and made Grunge and to a greater degree Alternative Rock fashionable. Angsty songs with Darker and Edgier lyrics and sounds suddenly got a chance to leave the underground and break to the mainstream.

As a teenager and twenty something he listened to a lot of Alternative Rock, Punk Rock, Proto Punk, Outsider Music, and regular Rock bands to emulated their styles. When Nirvana became the first of these bands to break to the mainstream Cobain did everything he could to give his inspirations more attention in the press, including: The Pixies, The Breeders, The Vaselines, Meat Puppets, Daniel Johnston, The Stooges, The Raincoats, The Shaggs, Black Flag, Bad Brains, Sonic Youth, The Sex Pistols, PJ Harvey, Boredoms, Shonen Knife, Leadbelly, Public Image Ltd., The Beatles, David Bowie, Swans, and Mazzy Star.

Sadly, he felt his over-night success was embarrassing. He always wanted to be famous, but within alternative rock, not in the mainstream where people could accuse him of "selling out". He tried to do everything to avoid such connotations, but Cobain sank away further in drug addictions, depressions until he finally offed himself. Much of the fan-base blames his widow, Courtney Love, though Kurt had already alluded and flirted with suicide all throughout his life, so it actually was pretty much foreshadowed.

After death Cobain became a typical example of Dead Artists Are Better. His legend remains intact to this day and Nirvana's albums still get rediscovered by many new young rock bands. He even got respect from older rock stars such as Neil Young, David Bowie and Bob Dylan. He also had an Odd Friendship with writer William S. Burroughs.

For a list of albums featuring Cobain, see The Other Wiki (or just go to the Nirvana page).

Tropes relating to all things Kurt Cobain:

  • Accentuate the Negative: Many of Cobain's lyrics write about a Crapsack World and his personal hatred for machoism, homophobes and abuse of women.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Helped his favourite obscure Alternative Rock and Punk Rock bands (like The Vaselines) reach a larger audience. He also wrote down a Top 50 of his favourite music albums in his personal diaries. According to Charles R. Cross' biography Heavier Than Heaven Cobain listened to Automatic For The People by R.E.M. at the time of his death.
  • Broken Ace: A rock star adored by millions of fans who suffered from depression and bipolar disorder, which, coupled with his heroin addiction, led him to suicide.
  • Careful with That Axe and Guttural Growler: One of his vocal trademarks.
  • Dreadful Musician: In his early days.
  • Follow the Leader: When Nirvana became famous countless rock bands started copying their sound and even their look. Cobain's sweaters were seen as a distinctive grunge look, while they were actually just common clothes someone would wear in a cold region like Seattle.
  • Goodbye, Cruel World!: His famous suicide note (which quotes Neil Young's line "better to burn out than to fade away" from "Hey Hey (My My)" on Rust Never Sleeps.).
  • Grunge: Trope Codifier
  • Guilt Complex: Cobain suffered from intense guilt about all kinds of topics that others wouldn't feel so bothered about. He hated the macho culture and attacked this viciously in songs like "In Bloom." He despised violence against women, another topic found in many of his songs, including "Rape Me," "Polly," and "Been A Son." When Nirvana suddenly broke to the mainstream Cobain felt bad about the fact that he was now the same kind of pop-star he used to despise and desperately tried to avoid being pigeon-holed as a sell-out by keeping albums like Incesticide, In Utero and MTV Unplugged In New York as anti-commercial as possible. One of his songs is even named "Oh, The Guilt."
  • Harsh Vocals: He once complained in an interview about having to scream his lungs out every night on stage.
  • Iconic Outfit: His fuzzy sweater from MTV Unplugged In New York.
  • Never Accepted In His Home Town: Kurt, being from the small town of Aberdeen, had this sort of relationship with his town. Kurt didn't approve of the town, and the town generally didn't approve of him. Kurt rarely ever said anything good about the town. After his death, however, the town paid tribute to Cobain on its city limit signs, which read "Welcome to Aberdeen. Come as you are."
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: As the liner notes for Incesticide read:
    Last year, a girl was raped by two wastes of sperm and eggs while they sang the lyrics to our song "Polly". I have a hard time carrying on knowing there are plankton like that in our audience.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Cobain often gave his songs themes, titles or lines that were clearly intended to shock and alienate certain people. He also used Nightmare Fuel drug-, disease-, death- and human anatomy imagery that would repulse average listeners. Apart from that he sometimes performed in dress or flirted with homosexuality to piss off his macho homophobic fan-base.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: He wrote songs mocking Macho culture, and he publicly lambasted those who epitomized it.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: His sound is simple, but effective.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: He admitted he had been more concerned about the music.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Cobain was particularly disturbed by violence against women. Several Nirvana songs protested against it.