Today is the birthday of the late Nirvana guitarist and
vocalist Kurt Cobain, who was born in 1967 in Hoquiam, Washington. Nirvana's
popularity opened Seattle's postpunk "grunge" scene wide open to pop
enthusiasts; their distortion-driven guitars and angst-filled lyrics spelled
out a generation's worth of abuse and disllusionment. In fact, the
mainstreaming of alternarock can be credited--or blamed--on the success of
Nirvana's smash hit, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and the album that it appeared
Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic grew up in backwater
Aberdeen, Washington, a logging town with little to offer the adolescent duo.
Cobain's parents divorced when he was eight years old, and the boy was shuttled
between relatives for most of his adolescence. He drowned his early sorrows in
music, moving from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath; later
Novoselic would introduce him to punk bands like Black Flag and Flipper.
In 1987 Cobain and Novoselic formed Nirvana, playing parties at Olympia's
ultraliberal Evergreen State College; Seattle record label Sub Pop signed them
on for a single of "Love Buzz." With money scraped together they recorded
Bleach, a conusmmate noise-rock record which went on to sell 35,000
copies initially. In another year Nirvana (which now included drummer Dave
Grohl) began recording with Butch Vig, including a version of "Smells Like Teen
Spirit." They shopped their record to several major labels despite criticism;
Nirvana wanted to be the ones to bring punk to a larger audience. Geffen
released Nirvana's Nevermind in 1991.
Due to the overwhelming
success of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and other singles like "In Bloom," "Come
As You Are" and "Lithium," Nevermind sold phenomenally; it bumped
everyone from Michael Jackson to Garth Brooks down the charts. Cobain married
Hole frontwoman Courtney Love in 1992; their relationship and Love's pregnancy
raised questions about the couple's heroin use. In August, Love gave birth to
Frances Bean Cobain -- who was immediately swept away by Los Angeles children's
services, although the Cobains fought for custody and eventually won.
spring before the release of Nirvana's followup In Utero was riddled
with problems; Cobain overdosed twice on heroin, and Love called police when
she discovered Cobain's growing gun collection. In Utero was released in
Sepetmber, featuring singles "Heart-Shaped Box" and "All Apologies." After an
extensive American tour, Nirvana departed for Europe; there Cobain overdosed
again, this time on a combination of prescription tranquilizers and champagne
which landed the comatose singer in an Italian hospital.
and the group returned to Seattle; Love again called the police in March of
1994 when Cobain locked himself in the bathroom with a .38 and threatened to
kill himself. Later that month he checked himself into rehab, but jumped the
fence a few days later. On April 8 Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home
with a suicide note at his side. Fans and musicians like mourned his death.
Since Cobain's death, Novoselic has spent much of his time supporting
political causes like help for the victims of the war in Bosnia, and has a
group, Sweet 77; Grohl formed the very-successful Foo Fighters with guitarist
Pat Smear, who played on In Utero. Late last year a Nirvana live album,
From the Muddy Banks of Wishkah,, was released.
Barbra Ellis-(Fleetwoods), Lew Soloff (Blood Sweat & Tears), J. Geils, Walter
Becker (Steely Dan), Randy California (Guitarist for Spirit), Jon Brant
(Bassist for Cheap Trick), Monica Payne (Terri & Monica), Ian Brown (Stone
Roses) and actress Drew Barrymore. -- Beth