You Say It's Your Birthday: Nirvana's Kurt Cobain

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

on, Nevermind.

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.

The

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.

Cobain revived

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.

Other birthdays:

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

Winegarner