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Timeline: Tracing the final days of Kurt Cobain


From an outside perspective, 1994 was destined to be a great year for Kurt Cobain. His rock band, Nirvana, were forerunners during the mainstream explosion of grunge and were the genre’s most highly-visible band. Cobain had received critical acclaim, not just for his mix of punk attitude and pop hooks on Nevermind but also for the darker underbelly uncovered on the band’s follow-up, In Utero. Nirvana were selling out massive concerts across the world, and Cobain was already getting labelled as the voice of a generation.

But privately, Cobain was struggling. An intense undiagnosed stomach ailment had increased his heroin usage, as did his struggles with depression and overexposure. As Cobain’s physical and mental health began to deteriorate, Nirvana were only getting bigger and bigger. By the time the band recorded their sessions for MTV Unplugged at the end of 1993, Cobain had already been attempting to get himself off hard drugs, with little success.

In the middle of Nirvana’s 1994 European tour, Cobain overdosed on pills and alcohol in Rome on March 4th. The overdose caused Cobain to relapse into his heroin addiction, and in the ensuing years, Cobain’s wife Courtney Love opinioned that the overdose was his first suicide attempt. Cobain’s family had a history of suicide, with two of Cobain’s uncles committing suicide using guns.

An attempted intervention led Cobain to check into the Exodus Recovery Center in Los Angeles on March 30th. That day, he saw Love and his daughter, Frances Bean, for the last time. Less than 24 hours later, Cobain hopped the six-foot fence that surrounded the rehab centre and got on a plane to Seattle. Sat near Cobain was Duff McKagen, bassist for eternal Nirvana enemies Guns ‘N Roses. However, McKagen recalls a friendly interaction with Cobain, despite being quoted in Charles Cross’ Heavier Than Heaven as having felt from “all of my instincts that something was wrong.”

After a week of questions surrounding Cobain’s whereabouts, an electrician entered his Seattle home to install a security system. It was then that Cobain’s body was found with a shotgun and a small pool of blood by his head. During the initial investigation, the coroner reported that Cobain had likely been dead for days when he was found, estimating the exact date of death as April 5th, 1994.

Here is a timeline chronicling the final days of Kurt Cobain…

March 30th

Cobain checks into rehab in Los Angeles

On March 25th, Love and a small number of friends staged an intervention for Cobain. Although he refused and initially locked himself in a bedroom, Cobain was convinced at the end of the day to finally admit himself into a drug rehabilitation program.

Cobain flew into Los Angeles and checked into the Exodus Recovery Center on March 30th. He was visited by friends and family, including his infant daughter Frances Bean. By all accounts, Cobain seemed to be making a positive step towards recovery.

Cobain escapes the rehab facility and flies back to Seattle

On only his second day in the rehabilitation facility, Cobain decided that he was no longer going to stay. After having joked to a staff member about the futility of hopping the six-foot fence that surrounded the facility, Cobain went outside to smoke a cigarette and hopped the same fence.

Once he was out, Cobain immediately took a taxi to Los Angeles International Airport, where he got a ticket on the next flight to Seattle. Cobain befriended Duff McKagen on the flight and landed in Seattle, returning to his home.

March 31st
April 2nd

Cobain is spotted around Seattle

While his family and friends remain unsure of Cobain’s location, Cobain is seen in various locations around Seattle, including wandering throughout a park and entering a gun shop, where Cobain purchased the gun that he would use to take his own life.

Roughly two weeks prior, police had seized a number of Cobain’s guns that he kept in his house after Love had reported him as being suicidal. Cobain denied it at the time and allegedly bought the shotgun under a different name so that the purchase wouldn’t be flagged by police.

Love hires a private investigator to find Cobain

After escaping from the Los Angeles rehab facility earlier in the week, Cobain had left his friends and family in the dark as to where he was. As a result, Love hired private investigator Tom Grant to try and find Cobain. Grant would later become a prominent figure in the conspiracy theory that Cobain was murdered.

Cobain was once again spotted around Seattle on April 3rd. The following day, there were no reported sightings of the singer. Nobody, including Love, Cobain’s family, or his Nirvana bandmates, knew where he was.

April 3rd
April 5th

Cobain commits suicide

Although his body was found on April 8th, the coroner at the scene of Cobain’s death estimated that his actual death occurred on April 5th, three days prior to his body being found.

Two days after Cobain’s suicide, there was still no information regarding where he was. Nirvana pulled out of the 1994 Lollapalooza Festival on April 7th, as without Cobain, they could not commit to playing the show.

Cobain’s body is found

Electrician Gary Smith entered Cobain’s house on April 8th under the pretence of installing a security system. When Smith entered the home, he eventually found Cobain’s body. Smith also found the shotgun and Cobain’s suicide note close by.

In the following days, a public vigil was held at a park in Seattle Centre, attended by Love and Nirvana bandmate Krist Novoselic. Cobain’s death quickly and suddenly closed the book on the rise and fall of the Seattle scene that he had helped birth only a few years earlier.

April 8th

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