Kurt Donald Cobain (February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994) was an American singer, songwriter, and musician. Cobain is remembered as one of the most iconic rock musicians in alternative music.
Born in Aberdeen, Washington, Cobain formed the band Nirvana with Krist Novoselic and Aaron Burckhard in 1987 and established it as part of the Seattle music scene which later became known as grunge. Nirvana’s debut album Bleach was released on the independent record label Sub Pop in 1989. After signing with major label DGC Records, Nirvana found success with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” from their second album Nevermind (1991). Nevermind was in part responsible for bringing both alternative rock and grunge to a mainstream audience. It has been ranked highly on lists of the greatest albums of all time by publications such as Rolling Stone and Time. Following the success of Nevermind, Nirvana was labeled “the flagship band” of Generation X and Cobain was hailed as “the spokesman of a generation.” Cobain resented this, believing his message and artistic vision had been misinterpreted by the public, with his personal problems often subject to media attention.
During the last years of his life, Cobain struggled with heroin addiction and chronic health problems such as depression. He struggled with the personal and professional pressures of fame, and his marriage to musician Courtney Love. On April 8, 1994, Cobain was found dead at his home in Seattle by an electrician who had come to install a home security system. The King County Coroner concluded Cobain died from a self-inflicted shotgun wound to his head. His death at age 27 has been a topic of public fascination and debate.
Nirvana, with Cobain as a songwriter, has sold over 25 million albums in the U.S., and over 75 million worldwide. In 2003, David Fricke of Rolling Stone ranked him the 12th greatest guitarist of all time. He was later ranked the 73rd greatest guitarist and 45th greatest singer of all time by the same magazine, and by MTV as seventh in the “22 Greatest Voices in Music”. In 2006, he was placed at number twenty by Hit Parader on their list of the “100 Greatest Metal Singers of All Time”. Cobain was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, along with Nirvana bandmates Dave Grohl and Novoselic, in their first year of eligibility. They were inducted by the frontman of American alternative rock band R.E.M., Michael Stipe, who was a close friend of Cobain.