On this day 25 years ago, April 5 1994, the world lost pioneering grunge musician and Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain.
Remembered as one of the most iconic and influential rock musicians in the history of alternative music, Cobain tragically took his own life at the age of 27 and was found dead from a self-inflicted shotgun wound to his head.
During the final years of his life, Cobain struggled with heroin addiction, depression and chronic health problems. His ongoing battle to deal with fame and all the pressures that came with it finally took its toll.
Despite a failed intervention attempt to address his drug issue by his wife Courtney Love, Cobain did eventually agree to enter rehab and underwent a detox program at the Exodus Recovery Centre in Los Angeles on March 30, 1994. However, after one night at the facility, the Nirvana frontman climbed a six-foot wall, took a taxi to the airport and flew back to Seattle.
Despite hiring private investigator Tom Grant, Courtney Love was unable to track down Cobain in the following days and, eventually, Cobain’s body was discovered at his home by electrician Gary Smith.
The following days saw thousands of Cobain fans line the streets of Seattle in mourning of his death and, on April 10, 1994, a public vigil was held at a park at Seattle Center. Dave Grohl, Cobain’s bandmate, said this his death was “probably the worst thing that has happened to me in my life.”
Grohl added: “I remember the day after that I woke up and I was heartbroken that he was gone. I just felt like, “Okay, so I get to wake up today and have another day and he doesn’t.”
The public vigil for Cobain was a deeply emotional event with thousands of supporters in tears across the park. At one point during the ceremony, Love took to the stage and made the decision to read sections of the heartbreaking suicide note left behind by Cobain:
In his lengthy handwritten note, Cobain chose not to address it to his wife or his child, but instead to his childhood friend ‘Boddha’. At times the letter is hard to follow but his love for rock music forever involved as he quotes Neil Young by saying: “Better to burn out / than to fade away,” in tragic significance.
The “manic roar of the crowds,” Cobain writes before mentioning Queen frontman Freddy Mercury: “doesn’t affect me the way in which it did for Freddie Mercury,” whose “relish in the love and adoration” Cobain “totally admire[s].”
In moments of self reflection Cobain calls himself a “narcissist” and “too sensitive” and adds: “The sad little, sensitive, unappreciative, Pisces.”
Frances and Courtney, I’ll be at your altar.
Please keep going Courtney,
for her life which will be so much happier
You can read the full transcript, below.
“Speaking from the tongue of an experienced simpleton who obviously would rather be an emasculated, infantile complain-ee. This note should be pretty easy to understand. All the warnings from the punk rock 101 courses over the years, since my first introduction to the, shall we say, ethics involved with independence and the embracement of your community has proven to be very true. I haven’t felt the excitement of listening to as well as creating music along with reading and writing for too many years now. I feel guity beyond words about these things. For example when we’re back stage and the lights go out and the manic roar of the crowds begins., it doesn’t affect me the way in which it did for Freddie Mercury, who seemed to love, relish in the the love and adoration from the crowd which is something I totally admire and envy. The fact is, I can’t fool you, any one of you. It simply isn’t fair to you or me. The worst crime I can think of would be to rip people off by faking it and pretending as if I’m having 100% fun. Sometimes I feel as if I should have a punch-in time clock before I walk out on stage.
“I’ve tried everything within my power to appreciate it (and I do,God, believe me I do, but it’s not enough). I appreciate the fact that I and we have affected and entertained a lot of people. It must be one of those narcissists who only appreciate things when they’re gone. I’m too sensitive. I need to be slightly numb in order to regain the enthusiasms I once had as a child. On our last 3 tours, I’ve had a much better appreciation for all the people I’ve known personally, and as fans of our music, but I still can’t get over the frustration, the guilt and empathy I have for everyone. There’s good in all of us and I think I simply love people too much, so much that it makes me feel too fucking sad. The sad little, sensitive, unappreciative, Pisces, Jesus man. Why don’t you just enjoy it? I don’t know! I have a goddess of a wife who sweats ambition and empathy and a daughter who reminds me too much of what I used to be, full of love and joy, kissing every person she meets because everyone is good and will do her no harm. And that terrifies me to the point to where I can barely function. I can’t stand the thought of Frances becoming the miserable, self-destructive, death rocker that I’ve become. I have it good, very good, and I’m grateful, but since the age of seven, I’ve become hateful towards all humans in general. Only because it seems so easy for people to get along that have empathy. Only because I love and feel sorry for people too much I guess. Thank you all from the pit of my burning, nauseous stomach for your letters and concern during the past years. I’m too much of an erratic, moody baby! I don’t have the passion anymore, and so remember, it’s better to burn out than to fade away. Peace, love, empathy.
“Kurt Cobain Frances and Courtney, I’ll be at your alter. Please keep going Courtney, for Frances. For her life, which will be so much happier without me. I LOVE YOU, I LOV[E YOU!”
For anybody who might be struggling to deal with mental health issues, here are some helpline numbers for you to talk to:
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm)
Charity providing support if you’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5.30pm)
Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and OCD. Offers a course to help overcome your phobia/OCD. Includes a helpline.
Phone: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am-10pm)
Rethink Mental Illness
Support and advice for people living with mental illness.
Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-4pm)