On this day, 18 years ago, Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of American grunge band Nirvana, was reported to have committed suicide and was found in his Lake Washington home three days later. Let us briefly look back at the events surrounding the iconic musician’s final moments, which remain to be subjects of debate and speculation to this day.
Kurt Cobain, vocalist and frontman of Nirvana, was as iconic as the American grunge band itself. Despite finding success and recognition within the first few years of the band’s career, Cobain was constantly subjected to criticism for his personal issues, artistic vision, and messages conveyed as a singer-songwriter.
Despite being hailed as “the spokesman of a generation,” Cobain grew uncomfortable and frustrated with the media attention, and believed that he was often misinterpreted. With the situation heightened by the difficulty coping with public image, popularity, and pressures he endured with his wife (fellow musician Courtney Love), Cobain soon found himself combatting depression, heroin addiction, and ill-health.
These struggles and his restless, rebellious nature eventually took their toll on the grunge musician. In early March 1994, Cobain underwent medical treatment for bronchitis and severe laryngitis, and rushed to the hospital the next day after overdosing on Rohypnol and champagne. His wife, regarding this as his first suicide attempt, arranged an intervention involving his closest friends, but was unsuccessful; later, on March 30, 1994. Cobain agreed to undergo a detox program in a Los Angeles drug rehabilitation facility.
During this time, his friends and counselors initially believed that the program was going well, as Cobain did not show any indication of negativity or suicidal tendencies. However, the following night, he climbed over the facility’s fence and left, hailed a taxi to Los Angeles Airport, and flew back to Seattle. Although he was seen in several locations around town during the first few days of April, his family and close friends had no idea about his whereabouts.
Love contacted and hired private investigator Tom Grant to find Cobain on April 3, 1994. No one saw the musician in the following days. Five days later, Cobain was found dead in his Lake Washington residence by an electrician who had come to set up a security system. Reports cite “contact perforating shotgun wound to the head” as the cause of death, and that Cobain’s body had been lying in the house for days. He was estimated to have passed away on April 5, 1994.
Authorities found a handwritten suicide note addressed to the musician’s imaginary friend “Boddah,” detailing his frustrations and insights on his personal and professional life. Towards the last portion of the note, Cobain wrote his iconic quote: “it’s better to burn out than to fade away.”
In memory of Kurt Cobain, one of the most iconic and unforgettable musicians of our time, let us listen to one of Nirvana’s popular tracks, All Apologies: