Kurt Cobain, former singer and songwriter of the Seattle band Nirvana. According to his widow Courtney Love, he committed suicide, April 5, 1994, under the influence of heroin.

SIOUX CITY -- He would be 52 years old.

It is impossible to know what kind of music Kurt Cobain might be making if he were still alive, or if he would even be in the rock music business at all.

Cobain, the sardonic man with the lyrical vision for the groundbreaking Nirvana group, shockingly committed suicide 25 years ago today, leaving a void in the music world. His death by self-inflicted gunshot feels not that distant for a host of super fans, who feel they were denied a slew of great music from a band who only recorded three albums proper, not including the odds and sods compilation of "Incesticide."

Cobain altered the musical landscape in the U.S., essentially killing off the 1980s hair metal phase, with the groundbreaking "Nevermind" album in late 1991. At that point, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains launched  heavy-sounding grunge from Seattle.

Led by the fare of "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which Rolling Stone in 2010 cited as #9 in the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (just after "Hey Jude" by The Beatles), "In Bloom" and "Heart-Shaped Box," Nirvana in the early 1990s sat high in the musical landscape.

Dave Grohl, who was Nirvana's drummer before going onto leading the Foo Fighters, said melodies came first in Cobain's writing, then the lyrics. That makes sense, since even if people didn't know every word of "Smells Like Teen Spirit," they knew the song was hitting on a real dynamic that spoke to them. Cobain's hooks at times were reminiscent of The Beatles, a group he loved.

The music could be clean in places, or corrosive, often in the same song, with the soft-loud dynamic Cobain loved. He admitted to pinching that from The Pixies.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Twitter account said it is a day to remember hall inductee Cobain, since "@Nirvana brought rock and roll kicking and screaming into the modern world, impacting lives across the globe with their raw, punk-inspired and messy sound."

Cobain was routinely cited as the voice of a generation, and he often pushed back on that label regarding Generation X. He struggled with depression and drug abuse, and didn't deal well with the pressures of fame.

According to his widow, Courtney Love, he committed suicide, April 5, 1994, under the influence of heroin. He left a suicide note that Love would read in a Seattle park a few days later, citing a line from a song by Neil Young.

That portion read, "I don’t have the passion anymore, and so remember, it’s better to burn out than to fade away.”

I distinctly remember learning the death of Kurt, a guy it almost always feels more comfortable referring to by first name rather than last. While he shot himself on April 5, his death wasn't revealed until a few days later, after his body was found in a side room to his house by a visiting electrician.

That came on April 8, which was a Friday in 1994, or just like the April 5 25th anniversary is a Friday. In the days before social media and as the internet was just getting going, word of the Cobain death came on the radio and television reports, at the start of a weekend that played out in a disbelieving pall for me and my music friends.

It was a cliched thought, but for a college newspaper column I wrote in reference to the "Come as You Are" song, saying it is too bad that Cobain's line "...and swear that I don't have a gun" wasn't true in real life.

Cobain and Love had one child, Frances Cobain. In April 2015 on the 21st anniversary of her father's death, she said his death proved to make him "larger than life," even if she doesn't remember him.

"My dad has been like Santa Claus, this mythical figure," Frances Cobain said.

"People come up to me and say, 'Your dad's so cool.' And I don't know him."

A friend, who watched news reports 25 years ago on TV that sat by a Cobain poster, reminded me there was both a loss for the world, but also for Cobain's family.

"I remember feeling bewildered, sad, and angry as I looked at his face," the friend said.

"I watched the news waiting for any new info. I couldn't wrap my head around how someone so musically influential to me- and so young- could be gone, just like that. I also thought of his daughter and it made my stomach sink. I lost a musical hero. She lost so much more."

Be the first to know - Sign up for Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Copyright 2019 The Sioux City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


County & Education Reporter

Government and education reporter.

Load comments