At a time when heavy metal ruled the charts, Nirvana shook the music industry to its core with a jaw-dropping sound full grit, that gave way to an entirely new genre. Whether you liked Nirvana or hated them, there is no disputing how they changed the face of music. Although they didn’t invent grunge music, their breakthrough hit album Nevermind introduced it to the mainstream and paved the way for bands like Pearl Jam to take off.
Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain became the face of the grunge movement, albeit unwillingly. Through his short lived but powerful time in the spotlight, Cobain struggled with the life that fame brought him. In his last lines to the world, Cobain wanted everyone listening, to know that he thought it was better to burn out than to fade away. And so, burn out he did. On April 5, 1994, Kurt Cobain took his own life. The world knows all about his drug use, his marriage to Hole singer Courtney Love, their daughter Frances Bean, and that Cobain didn’t know that Teen Spirit was a deodorant when he wrote his most famous song. But 20 years since the legendary musician’s death, here are 10 things you might not have known about Kurt Cobain.
10. The Sign Entering His Hometown Says ‘Come As You Are’
Kurt may be forever linked to Seattle, Washington. But a lot of people don’t realize that’s not where he’s from. Cobain was born and raised in Aberdeen, Washington where he formed Nirvana with bassist, Krist Novoselic. In 2005, “Come As You Are” was added to the sign at the town’s entrance to honor Cobain, created by the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee. The committee has future plans to create a memorial park and youth center in Aberdeen, as well.
9. He Almost Joined The Navy
Cobain admittedly did not do well in high school. Although he had a love for reading, he found getting along with the teachers and focusing on school work to be difficult. Cobain’s father wanted him to get his life on the right track and asked a Navy recruitment officer to meet with his son, hoping that it would teach him discipline. In 1984, Cobain completed the process of the recruitment test, on which he scored high. But when the recruitment officer came back to the family house to complete the process, Cobain got high on marijuana in the other room and walked out. He didn’t talk to his father after that for eight years.
8. He Auditioned For The Melvins
Before Nirvana, Cobain formed the band ‘Fecal Matter’ along with Dale Crover of the band The Melvins, with Buzz Osbourne later joining as bassist. Crover and Obsbourne went onto to create the sledge-metal band, The Melvins. Cobain auditioned for the part of guitarist but was rejected after what he said was a case of bad nerves that caused him to forget all the songs. However, Cobain met Kris Novoselic through mutual friends of The Melvins, gave him a Fecal Matter demo tape, and asked him to form a band with him. Nirvana was born.
7. He Was Homeless While Recording ‘Nevermind’
Cobain’s parents divorced when he was seven years old , an event which he said caused him a great deal of trauma. He was bounced back and forth between relatives house and, at one point, found himself homeless, living under a bridge. That experience went on to be the inspiration for From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah. Cobain found himself homeless yet again when he came home from recording Nirvana’s most acclaimed album, Nevermind to find an eviction notice posted on his door, forcing him to sleep in his car. By the end of the year, Nevermind went on to sell 2 million copies, knocking Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album from number one.
6. Duff McKagan Wanted To Help Him
Cobain and Axl Rose might have hated each other, but former Guns N’ Roses bassist, Duff McKagan says that he tried to help Cobain. Just days before Cobain’s suicide, McKagan says that they sat together on a flight from Los Angeles to Seattle. Cobain had just been released from rehab and McKagan said that he recognized the trouble he seemed to be feeling. “We talked. We were both sort of in the same boat,” McKagan told VH1. “A couple guys recognizing where each other was at. It’s no fun being that completely and utterly addicted.” McKagan says he offered Cobain a ride home, but he slipped away. Days later, news of Cobain’s death was front page news.
5. He Loved Weird Al Yankovic’s Parody Smells Like Nirvana
Given Cobain’s disdain for almost everything, one might assume that he wouldn’t be a fan of Weird Al Yankovic or Smells Like Nirvana, the famous parody of Nirvana’s Teen Spirit hit. But just the opposite is true. Yankovic called the band while they were on the set of Saturday Night Live to request permission to parody their song, to which they quickly obliged. When asked about the song, Cobain said that he thought Yankovic was a “musical genius” and that the song was a sign to him that Nirvana had officially made it as a band.
4. He Hated Bandwagon Fans
Cobain was very open about the fact that he was against people who were late to the game and only liked the band because of their sudden rise to the top. “Most of the fans are people who don’t really know very much about underground music at all,” Cobain said. The band once received a fax from metal band Metallica which read, “We really dig Nirvana. Nevermind is the best album of the year. Let’s get together soon. Love, Metallica – P.S. Lars hates the band.” Cobain’s reaction was a sarcastic, “We’ll rub elbows with Metallica! That way, they’ll wear our t-shirts and we’ll become an instant success!”
3. He May Have Been Listening To R.E.M. When He Died
R.E.M. wrote the song, ‘Everybody Hurts’ on their album, ‘Automatic For The People’ in response to what they called an epidemic of suicides among youths. Cobain was a big fan of the band and had a musical project planned with Michael Stipe, shortly before his death. While it has never been confirmed, rumor has it that the album ‘Automatic For The People’ was playing on a loop in Cobain’s stereo when he was found dead by an electrical repairman.
2. Just Because He Didn’t Spend Money Doesn’t Mean He Didn’t Like It
Cobain was notorious for making sure no one thought he was a decadent rock star. After breaking down his $1 million expense sheet for 1993, Cobain cited that it included taxes, a new house, doctor and lawyer fees, and necessities like food. He added, “That’s not what Axl Rose spends in a year.” But Cobain didn’t exactly shun away his millions, either. When ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was released, Cobain was more than willing to split the royalties among band members Grohl and Novaselic. But when the album sky rocketed through the charts, Cobain argued that since he wrote the music and the lyrics, he should get 100% of the revenue from the lyrics and a 75/25 split on the music. Grohl and Novoselic agreed, after Cobain threatened to disband Nirvana if he didn’t get his way.
1. His Final Letter Was Written To His Childhood Imaginary Friend
Controversy still exists over whether Cobain’s death was a suicide or a homicide. It has been ruled a suicide since the beginning, and a letter addressed to “Dear Boddah” has always been considered his goodbye letter to the world. But many people never knew why the letter was addressed to Boddah or who he was. As it turns out, Boddah was Cobain’s imaginary friend from his childhood. Whenever Cobain got into trouble, his parents say that he would blame it on Boddah. They became so concerned with Cobain’s belief in his imaginary friend, his parents told him that Boddah was drafted in the Vietnam war along with his uncle.