He is Kurt Donald Cobain, also known as Kurt Cobain. He was an American musician who was best known as the lead singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter of the rock band Nirvana. Cobain formed Nirvana with Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1985 and established it as part of the Seattle music scene, having its debut album Bleach released on the independent record label Sub Pop in 1989.
After signing with major label DGC Records, the band found breakthrough success with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” from its second album Nevermind (1991). Following the success of Nevermind, Nirvana was labeled “the flagship band” of Generation X, and Cobain hailed as “the spokesman of a generation“. Cobain, however, was often uncomfortable and frustrated, believing his message and artistic vision to have been misinterpreted by the public, with his personal issues often subject to media attention. He challenged Nirvana‘s audience with its final studio album In Utero (1993). It did not match the sales figures of Nevermind but was still a critical and commercial success.
During the last years of his life, Cobain struggled with heroin addiction, illness and depression. He also had difficulty coping with his fame and public image, and the professional and lifelong personal pressures surrounding himself and his wife, musician Courtney Love. On April 8, 1994, Cobain was found dead at his home in Seattle, the victim of what was officially ruled a suicide by a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head. The circumstances of his death at age 27 have become a topic of public fascination and debate. Since their debut, Nirvana, with Cobain as a songwriter, has sold over 25 million albums in the US, and over 75 million worldwide. Cobain was inducted – 20 years posthumously – along with fellow Nirvana members Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl – into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, the first year in which they were eligible.
On his 14th birthday on February 20, 1981, Cobain‘s uncle offered him either a bike or a used guitar. He chose the guitar. Soon, he was mastering Led Zeppelin‘s power ballad “Stairway to Heaven“. Cobain began learning guitar with a few covers, including “Louie Louie“, The Cars’ “My Best Friend’s Girl“, and soon began working on his own songs. During high school, Cobain rarely found anyone with whom he could play music. While hanging out at the Melvins‘ practice space, he met Krist Novoselic, a fellow devotee of punk rock. Novoselic‘s mother owned a hair salon. Cobain and Novoselic would occasionally practice in the upstairs room of the salon. A few years later, Cobain tried to convince Novoselic to form a band with him by lending him a copy of a home demo recorded by Cobain‘s earlier band, Fecal Matter. After months of asking, Novoselic finally agreed to join Cobain, forming the beginnings of Nirvana.
Cobain was disenchanted after early touring, due to the band’s inability to draw substantial crowds and the apparent difficulty in sustaining themselves. During their first few years playing together, Novoselic and Cobain were hosts to a rotating list of drummers. Eventually, the band settled on Chad Channing, with whom Nirvana recorded the album Bleach, released on Sub Pop Records in 1989. Cobain, however, became dissatisfied with Channing‘s style, leading the band to find a new drummer, eventually settling on Dave Grohl. With Grohl, the band found their greatest success via their 1991 major-label debut, Nevermind.
With the lead single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” from Nirvana‘s second album Nevermind (1991), Nirvana entered the mainstream, popularizing a subgenre of alternative rock called grunge. Since their debut, Nirvana, with Cobain as a songwriter, have sold over 25 million albums in the United States alone, and over 75 million worldwide.
The success of Nevermind provided numerous Seattle bands such as Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden access to wider audiences, and as a result, alternative rock became a dominant genre on radio and music television in the United States during the early-to-middle 1990s. Nirvana was considered the “flagship band of Generation X“, and frontman Cobain found himself reluctantly anointed by the media as the generation’s “spokesman.” Cobain‘s discomfort with the media attention prompted him to focus on the band’s music and, believing their message and artistic vision to have been misinterpreted by the public, challenged the band’s audience with its third studio album In Utero (1993).
Cobain struggled to reconcile the massive success of Nirvana to his underground roots. He also felt persecuted by the media, comparing himself to Frances Farmer. He began to harbor resentments for people who claimed to be fans of the band yet refused to acknowledge, or misinterpreted, the band’s social and political views. A vocal opponent of sexism, racism and homophobia, he was publicly proud that Nirvana had played at a gay rights benefit supporting No-on-Nine in Oregon in 1992, in opposition to Ballot Measure Nine, a ballot measure, that if passed, would have prohibited schools in the state from acknowledging or positively accepting LGBT rights and welfare.
Cobain was a vocal supporter of the pro-choice movement, and had been involved in Rock for Choice from the campaign inception by L7. He received death threats from a small number of anti-abortion activists for doing so, with one activist threatening Cobain that he would be shot as soon as he stepped on stage.
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