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Music / Kurt Cobain

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The unwilling icon of a generation.


Kurt Donald Cobain (February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994) was the lead vocalist and guitarist of Nirvana. He was 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 twentysomething, Cobain listened to a lot of Punk Rock, Heavy Metal, Proto Punk, Alternative Rock, Outsider Music, and regular rock bands to emulate their styles, and when Nirvana became the first of these bands to break to the mainstream, he did everything he could to give his inspirations more attention in the press.

Sadly, he felt his overnight 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, even going so far as to release an album meant to alienate the newer fanbase (which wound up having the opposite effect), but Cobain sank away further into drug addiction and depression until he committed suicide with a shotgun on April 5, 1994, joining the long list of rock legends who died at 27. Much of the fan-base blames his widow, Courtney Love, though Kurt had already alluded to suicide all throughout his life.


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).

Kurt Cobain and his works provide examples of:

  • Accentuate the Negative: Many of Cobain's lyrics write about a Crapsack World and his personal hatred for machismo, homophobia and abuse of women.
  • All Guitars Are Stratocasters: Though Kurt's main guitars were either a Fender Jaguar or Fender Mustang, he would also play a Stratocaster at the end of a concert. To either smash or give away to fans.
  • Careful with That Axe: The dude could surprisingly give a metal scream when it came to songs such as "Scentless Apprentice", "Territorial Pissing", but especially with the hidden track "Endless, Nameless".
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  • Guttural Growler: One of his vocal trademarks, both in singing and in talking. Although the note of talking was a bit more audible than groaning.
  • Grunge: Trope Codifier. As a general rule, when people think of Grunge, they think of Nirvana and Kurt. He can be seen as the face of the genre (and by an extent, the face of the The '90s), although it wasn't something he was truly not happy with.
  • 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.
  • Nice Guy: Arguably the epitome of it: Kurt was described by a majority of people as a relatively nice, if incredibly snarky and somber guy. He in particular really wanted Dave to break out more as a musician, to say nothing about his dedication to his fans and even advocating for heavy female rights.
  • 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 laden imagery (with special attention given to drugs, disease, death, and human anatomy) 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. Taken Up to Eleven after mainstream audience started coming to their shows once the band broke through. In Utero was intentionally even noisier than Nevermind in an attempt to get some of the mainstream fans to go away, and "In Bloom" was intended as a middle finger to the type of dumbass alpha male mainstream rock fans who blindly followed them because they were blowing up.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: He wrote songs mocking macho culture, and he publicly lambasted those who epitomized it.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Like the many punk rock and heavy metal bands before him, Kurt's guitar style heavily relied on power chords. It's also noted that his sound is pretty simple, and solos aren't very technical in nature, but the music is still quite effective.
    Jerry Cantrell: (chuckling) Kurt was such a shitty guitar player. But he was a great songwriter, and that's what mattered.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Kurt blatantly admitted he had been more concerned about the music than the words, even going so far as to occasionally string words together just because he thought they sounded good together, not because they meant anything special to him.


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