Kurt Cobain is probably one of the most famous musicians of the past few decades. The American singer and guitarist moved from punk origins to found Nirvana, kick-starting an entire genre of music into the forefront and ensuring that alternative rock became the sound of the 1990s. Along with Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, he helped propel the band to unprecedented success, pushing Nirvana to become one of the most important and influential bands of all time.
The popularity of Cobain and the band meant that he became the spokesman for an entire generation, as he was at the head of the grunge movement. Despite this incredible fame, Cobain remained enigmatic and out of the spotlight. He found the media attention that came with his success uncomfortable and did his best to stay out of the public eye whenever possible. He also continued to live in a simple way, shunning the lifestyle that many of his contemporaries favored.
Unfortunately, the musician also had something of a troubled life. He struggled with a crippling addiction to heroin during the last few years before his suicide and also suffered with severe depression. This was exacerbated by a belief that his message had been misinterpreted and twisted by the media and fans. These issues eventually led to his suicide in 1994. Even with his life being in the limelight constantly, there are still plenty of things that people don’t know about Kurt Cobain, with new pieces of information coming out every year.
15. His Demands Were Relatively Simple
The reputation that many superstars have is that they can be Prima donnas, with all kinds of outrageous demands. However, Kurt was the exact opposite of this and only ever made relatively simple demands from executives before shows. His rider was simply to have Kraft-branded macaroni and cheese available to eat in the dressing room.
This continued even when he was earning big money after the success of Nevermind. He continued to eat the same foods and wear the same clothes as he always had, telling Rolling Stone: “We do not live large. I still eat Kraft macaroni and cheese — because I like it, I’m used to it. We’re not extravagant people.”
14. He Banned A Lot Of People From Shows
Although Kurt Cobain tried to stay out of the limelight wherever possible, he and the rest of the band were never afraid of speaking out against injustices or making political points that they felt needed to be made. The frontman had a particular disdain for those who discriminated against others. He took this so seriously that he made a point of banning any racists, homophobes or sexists from coming to Nirvana concerts or buying their records in the liner notes for Insecticide.
“At this point I have a request for our fans. If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different color, or women, please do this one favor for us — leave us the fuck alone! Don’t come to our shows and don’t buy our records.”
13. His Musical Tastes Were Varied
Despite his obvious punk origins and the fact that he was at the forefront of the alternative rock movement, Cobain did not focus all of his time to listening to those genres. The Nirvana founder had a wide range of musical tastes that included a huge variety of artists that performed in all aspects of music.
This was most obvious during the Unplugged in New York performance when the band covered a Lead Belly song. The musicians all confirmed that Lead Belly was one of their favorite performers, while Kurt later wrote a list of some of the other artists he loved to listen to. These included the likes of the Pixies, R.E.M., David Bowie, The Beatles, Black Flag, Aerosmith, The Clash and Public Enemy.
12. Suicide Played A Big Part In His Life
Apart from the music that he created, Kurt Cobain is perhaps best known for the fact that he killed himself. While the suicide was a tragedy for all of those involved, it also mirrored his life somewhat tragically as well, as the act seemed to be a big part of his life. Reports indicate that several of his family members had killed themselves.
Not only that but as a youngster, he also came across a dead body that was hanging from a tree. Along with some other classmates, Cobain stared at the corpse for some 30 minutes before they were moved along by authorities. The image seemed to have left a lasting impression on the then 13-year-old child that continued with him into his adult life.
11. He Was Terrified Of Doing The Unplugged In New York Show
Throughout his career, Kurt was never the perfect frontman in terms of exuding confidence. While he always understood how talented he was, the musician tended to have a rather quiet and conservative demeanor that betrayed a certain nervousness.
This was never more clear than the Unplugged in New York performance. Battling with withdrawal symptoms from heroin, a medical condition in his stomach, and conflict with bandmate Dave Grohl, Kurt was terrified about going through with the performance. The band’s tour manager even remembers him saying that he was scared.
10. He Spent A Lot Of Time Homeless
Cobain often spoke about how he had lived rough at various times during his life. These stories weren’t just tales to help give him a mysterious or seemingly poor background but actual real-life bouts of homelessness. This even included a time just before the release of Nevermind when he was evicted from his apartment and had to live in his car.
One of the most well known stories that Kurt used to tell was slightly embellished, however. He claimed that he was forced to move out of his home as a teenager in high school, sleeping on friend’s couches for several weeks. After doing this for several weeks he allegedly slept on the banks of Wishkah River, though Krist Novoselic said that although he did spend a lot of time there, the frontman never actually spend any nights on the banks.
9. Stomach Problems Plagued Him During His Life
All the way through his adult life. Kurt Cobain suffered from a debilitating stomach issue that caused an immense amount of pain to the singer. His personal journals, which were released several years ago, went into great detail about the problems and how the issue slowly got worse over time as he continued to perform around the world.
Despite going to see a variety of doctors in different locations, none were able to diagnose the medical condition or effectively treat it. It is thought that this may have contributed to his suicide and was known to have been a factor in why he became so heavily addicted to heroin, as he used the drug to help ease the pain.
8. He Openly Admitted Trying To Rip-Off Songs
Cobain has always been very open about the fact that he tried to emulate, or in his own words “rip-off,” certain bands and songs when writing his own music. This was most obvious with Smells Like Teen Spirit, which the frontman said was an attempt to make a Pixies tune.
“I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily that I should have been in that band—or at least a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard.”
7. And Hated His Most Famous Song
Despite Smells Like Teen Spirit being Nirvana’s most famous song, and widely considered one of the best of all time by critics and fans alike, the band was not particularly enthused about it. When Kurt first played it for his bandmates, they showed their distaste immediately, though that didn’t stop the frontman from forcing them to play it for an hour and a half anyway until they changed their minds about recording it.
Kurt later developed a disliking of the song. He felt it was at odds with the band’s idea and image, while its popularity meant that they were often forced to play it on TV and during live performances. Eventually, Nirvana would be reluctant to do the song at all during shows, despite fans requesting it constantly.
6. The Frontman Worked As A Janitor
While Kurt Cobain was always artistic, that did not mean that he always made his living that way. In fact, it turns out that the frontman had to do some rather basic jobs to make ends meet before Nirvana were even formed, never mind before they got their big break. According to bassist Novoselic, Cobain worked as a janitor when he was just 17 and that is where the pair met.
“He liked punk rock music and that piqued my interest,” Novoselic says. “I noticed what a good artist he was. He was working at the time as a janitor but he’d always have to do some kind of art – usually defacing something. He never had, like, idle hands. It just came out of him; he had to express himself.”
5. He Was Kicked Out Of His Own Record Release Party
To celebrate the release of Nevermind, the record company threw a party to which Kurt and the rest of Nirvana were obviously invited to. True to their rebellious nature, though, the party didn’t go exactly as planned and the trio was eventually kicked out by security. This was the result of a food fight that Cobain had started by throwing ranch dressing at bassist Krist Novoselic, prompting something of a messy brawl.
That didn’t stop the bandmates from continuing with the fun. Before moving the celebrations to a friend’s house, they simply stood in the alley talking to their friends still in the party through a window. Things turned hectic further in the night when he shot a fire extinguisher and forced an entire building complex to be evacuated.
4. A Solo Album Was In The Works
Although all of the success that Kurt had in music came about as part of Nirvana, he appeared to have at least planned to produce some solo work before he died. Two people have confirmed that the musician was working on songs that were not part of an existing project. Eric Erlandson, the guitarist from the band Hole, claimed to have heard some of the songs that Cobain had written. Meanwhile, Butch Vig revealed that nothing had actually been recorded and the songs only existed in concept.
“He was working on songs, but they were just in his head. He might have just played some songs to Eric… Around that time period he only wanted to talk about Courtney’s album. I never heard any of his new songs.”
3. He Was A Serial Prankster
Nirvana was well known for pulling pranks and causing mischief. In fact, bassist Krist Novoselic became infamous for trashing hotel rooms and destroying equipment on stage. However, Kurt Cobain was less violent when it came to his pranks. He particularly enjoyed doing little things like putting tape on the outside of fast food drive-through windows or knocking the heads off garden statues.
Perhaps his best moment came during a concert at Hoquiam Eagles Hall. In response to media comments that the band were simply rednecks, he took red lipstick and painted his entire neck red so that he literally was a redneck. He carried on the whole show with the lipstick painted on, happily proclaiming to the crowd that he was a genuine redneck.
2. Axl Rose And Kurt Cobain Did Not Get Along
Feuds are commonplace in the music industry. Whether it is the latest pop groups battling it out to get to the top of the charts or the likes of Blur and Oasis fighting over who is the best, feuds have become something that fans have come to expect. Nirvana were no exception, with Kurt Cobain showing a passionate distaste for Guns N’ Roses frontman, Axl Rose.
Over the course of several years, the feud grew so big that it became more and more venomous. Firstly, Cobain refused to play with the band or go on tour with them as he believed their music was sub-par and that they had no message. This later grew into personal insults moving between the pair until other members of both bands became involved.
1. He Got Excited About Little Things
After Nirvana had completed work on their very first single, Cobain sent a copy of the tape to a local college radio station. Unfortunately, KMCU didn’t play the song straight away, leaving the frontman disappointed as he remained tuned in for several hours. After waiting for too long, he simply pulled over his car at a payphone, called the radio station and requested that it be played.
An even cuter story came about when the music video for Smells Like Teen Spirit was first shown on MTV. He got so excited about seeing himself on television during the song, he called up his mother and told her “there’s me” every time he appeared on screen throughout the rest of the performance.