Here’s 50 things you probably didn’t know about Kurt and the gang, starting with the fact that the frontman’s mother, Wendy Elizabeth Fradenburt, was a waitress, and his father, Donald Leland Cobain, was an automotive mechanic.
Kurt came from a musical background: his uncle Chuck Fradenburg was a member of the band The Beachcombers, his aunt Mari Earle played guitar and his great-uncle Delbert was an Irish tenor (who appeared in the 1930 film King of Jazz).
As a child, Kurt was fond of drawing cartoon characters. His room was filled with drawings of the likes of Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Aquaman.
Kurt Cobain was influenced by The Beatles at an early age. His aunt recalled that he used to sing ‘Hey Jude’ at the age of two. In 1993, Cobain said, “My aunts would give me Beatles records…so for the most part I listened to the Beatles as a child, and if I was lucky, I’d be able to buy a single.”
Following his parents’ divorce, Kurt began bullying a fellow student at school, so his father and step-mother took him to see a therapist. It was then decided that he should live with one parent permanently, so his mother granted full custody to Kurt’s father.
When Kurt’s rebellion became too much for his father to deal with, he was sent to live with a family friend who was a born-again Christian. Kurt became a devout Christian and attended church regularly. However, he later abandoned the religion and became a Buddhist in later years.
Cobain was friends with a gay student at art school, which caused his classmates to think he was gay, as well. “I started being really proud of the fact that I was gay even though I wasn’t”, he later told The Advocate.
Kurt liked drawing images with human anatomy during his art classes. He once drew one of Michael Jackson, but his teacher deemed it inappropriate for public display. He then drew a caricature of President Ronald Reagan, instead.
According to his family and friends, Kurt’s first concert was Sammy Hagar and Quarterflash at the Seattle Center Coliseum. However, the singer claimed that his first gig was the Melvins.
Two weeks before he was meant to graduate from high school, Kurt found out he didn’t have enough credits to do so. His mother threatened to kick him out if he didn’t find a job. After one week, she packed up his belongings, forcing him to stay with friends.
Kurt’s girlfriend of the time Tracy Marander grew frustrated having to support him financially and unsuccessfully tried to force him to get a job. It wasn’t until after his death that she found out he had written the song ‘About A Girl’ about her. Marander is also said to have taken the picture on the cover of Nirvana’s album ‘Bleach’.
The title ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ stems from a conversation Kurt had with his friend Kathleen Hanna. She spray-painted “Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit” on his apartment wall (Teen Spirit being the deodorant brand his then-girlfriend wore). He thought she meant something more revolutionary than that, though…
Kurt Cobain first met bassist Krist Novoselic in high school, but they didn’t become friends until they regularly ran into each other at the Melvins’ practice space. Kurt wanted to start a band with Krist and gave him the demo for his band Fecal Matter. It took three years after they met for Krist to listen to the demo and agree to form a band.
Kurt and Krist initially recruited Bob McFadden to play drums, but that only lasted a month. They then began playing with Aaron Burckhard. The newly-formed trio went by various names including Skid Row, Pen Cap Chew, Bliss and Ted Ed Fred.
They eventually settled on the name Nirvana because, according to Kurt, “I wanted a name that was kind of beautiful or nice and pretty instead of a mean, raunchy punk rock name like the Angry Samoans.”
Kurt went by the name ‘Kurdt Kobain’ in the early days of Nirvana (after seeing it misspelled that way) in order to distance himself from his music.
In 1990, Kurt and Krist recorded their single ‘Sliver’ with Mudhoney’s drummer Dan Peters. They then asked Crover to return on drums for their seven-date tour with Sonic Youth.
In 1991, after being asked what his favourite UK song at the time was, Kurt replied by singing ‘There’s No Other Way’ by Blur.
It wasn’t until September 1990 the two were introduced to Dave Grohl (who was looking for a new band following the break up of his band Scream). They were introduced to the drummer by the Melvins’ Buzz Osborne. Krist later said of Grohl’s audition, “We knew in two minutes that he was the right drummer”.
In March 1992, Kurt Cobain decided that he wanted a larger share of royalties, since he was more involved in writing Nirvana’s music than Kris and Dave were. His bandmates were fine with the decision, until Kurt said that he wanted to apply it retroactively to ‘Nevermind’. Although it caused tension in the band, he earned a 75 percent share of royalties.
Nirvana recorded their third album ‘In Utero’ with Steve Albini. The recording process only took two weeks and cost a mere $25,000. However, they ended up having to bring in R.E.M. producer Scott Litt to help remix ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ and ‘All Apologies’ (which didn’t sound “perfect”, according to Kurt), with added instrumentation and backing vocals.
MTV wouldn’t let Nirvana play ‘Rape Me’ at the VMAs in 1992.
Nirvana turned down offers to tour with Guns & Roses and U2 and later pulled out of headlining Lollapalooza in 1994 right before Kurt’s death.
Nirvana performed at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards and after their set Kurt spat on the piano he believed Axl Rose was going to use. It turned out he’d spat on Elton John’s instead.
When Nirvana recorded their MTV Unplugged session in November 1993, they played quite a few cover songs, including three Meat Puppets tracks (for which they were joined by Meat Puppets’ Cris and Curt Kirkwood).
Kurt had a number of pets including a rat called Kitty, a cat called Melvin and lots of turtles.
‘You Know You’re Right’ was also known as ‘Autopilot’ and ‘On A Mountain’.
When the band appeared on Headbanger’s Ball, Kurt Cobain wore a yellow ballgown because, as he said, “It’s a headbanger’s ball so I thought I’d wear a gown. (You can watch the interview here).
Nirvana’s live album, ‘From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah’, was released in 1996 and was the band’s third release in a row to debut at the top of the Billboard album chart. It had initially been scheduled for release in November 1994, but Krist and Dave didn’t want to schedule it too close to Kurt’s death.
Courtney Love found out she was pregnant around the same time Nirvana performed on Saturday Night Live in 1992.
Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain got married on 24 February, 1992 on Waikiki Beach, Hawaii. Love wore the same satin dress that belonged to actress Frances Farmer and Kurt wore green pajamas.
In 2006, Kurt’s daughter Frances Bean was photographed for Elle magazine in her dad’s brown cardigan and those pajama pants. “I wore his pajamas because he got married in them to my mom in 1992 in Hawaii so I thought they would be cute if I wore them today,” she said. “He was too lazy to put on a tux so he got married in pajamas!”
Kurt’s daughter’s middle name is “Bean” because she looked like a bean in her sonogram.
Frances Bean’s godmother is Drew Barrymore and her godfather is R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe.
In 1992, Courtney Love apparently admitted to Vanity Fair that she used heroin while pregnant with Frances Bean, as she didn’t know she was pregnant at the time. She’s since said that she was misquoted. However, the couple nearly lost custody of their daughter due to their constant drug usage.
For most of his life, Kurt suffered from chronic bronchitis and stomach pains, due to an undiagnosed stomach condition. His cousin has also revealed that he was diagnosed with ADD as a child and bipolar disorder as an adult.
Krist Novoselic worked with Dave Grohl again in 2011, contributing bass and accordian to the Foo Fighters’ song ‘I Should Have Known’. He also contributed uncredited backing vocals to their 2002 track ‘Walking A Line’.
In 2010, Novoselic played bass on a cover of Nirvana’s ‘Sliver’ for the album ‘This Is Fun!’ by children’s musician Caspar Babypants (The Presidents Of The United States Of America’s Chris Ballew).
In 1992, the band teamed up with the Washington Music Industry Coalition, actively campaigning against a proposed bill in Washington that sought to declare certain albums “erotic” based on their content (making it illegal to sell them to people under 18). They also played a benefit show for the coalition.
The idea for ‘Nevermind’’s album artwork was apparently inspired by a water birth television documentary Kurt once watched. They came across a photo they wanted to use but the stock house wanted $7,500 per year for use – so they took their own shot.
The three-month-old baby on the ‘Nevermind’ cover was Spencer Elden, the son of the photographer’s friend. Geffen wanted to use an alternate cover, as they thought the nudity would offend people, but Kurt would only agree to covering the area with a sticker that said, “If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet paedophile.”
Kurt Cobain’s body was discovered at his home in Lake Washington by an electrician who was there to install a security system. Kurt’s body had been there for a few days – the coroner’s report estimates his date of death to have been 5 April, 1994.
On 10 April, 1994, a public vigil was held in Kurt’s honour at a park at Seattle Center. Nearly 7,000 people attended, and pre-recorded messages from Courtney and Krist were played.
The final funeral ceremony for Kurt was organised by his mother. It was presided over by a Buddhist monk and Kurt’s daughter Frances Bean scattered his ashes into the McLane Creek in Olympia.
There’s a Nirvana tribute sign in Aberdeen, Washington that reads “Welcome to Aberdeen – Come As You Are”. It was paid for and created by a non-profit organisation, the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee.
Kurt Cobain knocked Elvis Presley off of the top-earning deceased celebrity list in 2006, after the Nirvana song catalogue was sold. Presley took the title back in 2007, but has since been outranked by Michael Jackson.