Friday, April 10, 2015

An Illustrated Memoriam For Kurt Donald Cobain: February 20, 1967 - April 5, 1994

Christal Cooper

Article 2,227 Words

In Memoriam: Kurt Donald Cobain
February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994

On Friday, April 8, 1994, electrician Gary Smith and his team of men went to the Kurt Cobain residence on 171 Lake Washington Boulevard to install a new security system. 

 At 8:49 a.m. Smith looked into the window of the greenhouse, located above the garage behind the residence, and noticed something.  
“I though it was a mannequin.  Then I noticed it had blood in the right ear.  I saw a shotgun lying across his chest, pointing up at his chin.”

It was determined by the Seattle Police Department that the male body was in fact that of Kurt Cobain, and that, on April 5, three days before, he committed suicide by injecting a fatal dose of black tar heroin and shooting a bullet via his mouth into his brain, killing him instantly.  It would have been only a matter of minutes that Cobain would have died from the black-tar heroin overdose if the gun had not been fired, thus Cobain committed an almost impossible feat –successfully committing suicide twice.   

       Kurt Cobain could be compared to the great Ernest Hemingway in numerous ways – both men were heavy drinkers, artists, writers, and victims of mental illness.  Both men also had suicide in their family history:  Cobain’s two uncles and great-grandfather committed suicide; and Hemingway’s father and two siblings, Ursula and Leichester, committed suicide. 

Both succumbed to the ritual tradition – except Hemingway was a more ripe age of 61, and Cobain was only 27 at the time of his double suicide, thus joining the legendry 27 Club with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison. 

       On Sunday, April 10, a public candlelight vigil was held at Seattle Center’s Flag Pavilion attended by 7000 while, at the same time, 70 close friends and family gathered at the Unity Church of Truth for a private memorial. 

       One week later Kurt Cobain’s body was cremated with his ashes contained in an urn given to his widow Courtney Love.  She buried a portion of the ashes under the willow tree in the back of the 171 Lake Washington Boulevard residence in April of 1994; in May of that same year she traveled to Ithaca, New York to visit the Namgyal Buddhist monastery where she had some of the ashes blessed by monks and transformed into a memorial sculpture; the remaining ashes were left to his only child, Frances Bean Cobain, who, at the age of 6, in 1999, scattered the ashes in McLane Creek in Littlerock, Washington. 

       In this blog post we could talk about how many albums Nirvana has sold, how many books have been written about the tragic and mentally ill figure of Kurt Cobain, but it wouldn’t matter the statistics.  All that would matter is that Kurt Cobain mattered and still matters to so many people.  Here are some of their testimonials.

Charles Clifford Brooks III
Teacher, Poet, Radio Broadcaster, Publisher
Jasper, Georgia

       I was a freshman at Campbell University when I learned of Kurt Cobain’s suicide.  The grunge movement brought an enormous amount of peace to my own disenchantment with culture, and Kurt provided a lightning rod to call me home into the seat of my soul.  It was a surreal few weeks that tore at my ideas of surviving in a world seemingly so cruel to those able to articulate their deepest insecurities.

       I was in my living room one night, listening to Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” that has the most grief-stricken piece about the death of Aase.

       So I took the story of the Mountain King and fused it with the death of Kurt.

       Greig’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” contained the only sorrow I could find to mirror my own melody of loss.  This poem juxtaposed the two stories in a way to illustrate the agony I wrote, and still wear, concerning the loss of what I felt, and feel, is a brother.

Before Nirvana, Grieg

Before Nirvana, Grieg
crowned the Mountain King.
His corridors, adopted by grunge
and old trolls,
walked one to suicide.
Rock’s maudlin blonde
got shot-out pathetic
in the guesthouse.

Peer wouldn’t wear
the same, rotten crown,
his head against Solveig’s bosom.
Live at Reading pauses
To honor Aase’s suite death.
Legions light funeral pyres.

Violins mourn the quasi-prophet,
his family absent and everywhere.
The last tone,
a cello far from Norway,
ripples through Seattle
with desert sands
and Bedouin kisses.  

Janlyn Diggs
Model and aspiring actress
Montgomery, Alabama

Kurt Cobain was an amazing musician.  I discovered the band Nirvana in early 2012 and I’ve been listening to them every sense.  He had so much raw talent as did the rest of the group.  

     Cobain’s music inspired me to play guitar, which I still do to this day.  I remember first hearing the band name; I searched interviews, songs, etc. and after watching those it was like I had fallen in love.  His personality is one like no other.  

     Listening to their music makes me feel as if I’ve been placed into the 90s in the heart of one of the biggest grunge movements in history.  Kurt Cobain has truly inspired me to be who I am today.

Christine Duray 
Joliet, Illinois 

Okay, first of all, I love Nirvana, such a void in music until they came out. I first learned of Cobain's death and really didn't think much of it except sadness. Sometimes they say those who shine the brightest among us are the first to burn out.

My work is about expressions, I want to capture the thoughts, the moment that image was captured and turn them into my creation, I usually shoot for the eyes to do this but in the image of Kurt his eyes are closed. Still the emotion, the feeling was there. I knew it had to be captured in my own way. My work of Kurt Cobain is to honor his greatness and passion he had to stand on his own two feet.

Katie Longstaff

Some people remember where they were when they heard Princess Diana died.  Others, Elvis.  But for me, I remember the moment I found out that Kurt Cobain had die. 

You see, I’d always felt myself as being a bit of a misfit.  Multiple changes of school meant I spent a large majority of my schooling years being regarded as “the new” girl – always under scrutiny, never fitting in.  At last, settling in a small country town, I tentatively struck up a friendship with other ‘misfits’ during the early stages of teenage angst.  While the other girls our age were listening to the repetitious drone of techno and dance music, we found a solace in the darker ballads of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana.

The Grunge phase in Australia was only in its early states.  Spiderbait, Hole, and many others were slowly gaining popularity with many teens.  “Smells like teen spirit” became a favorite with the cheerleaders and I can recall many hours spent in the basement with friends, frantically trying to come up with a routine for the athletics carnival the next day.

For me, it wasn’t about the rebellious stigma attached with listening to “heavier” music as it was seen back then – there was something in the lyrics that just seemed to echo in my soul, almost as if he understood the agony of growing up weird.  He was the person celebrity who made it ok to express the darker side of being a teenager.

The day Kurt died is etched clearly in my mind.  My bus always arrived at school a little earlier than my friends, so it was tradition to wait for the others before going inside.  I knew the moment my two friends got off their bus that something had happened.  One was openly crying and the other’s eyes were blotchy and red.  They told me in a quite voice:  “Kurt Cobain committed suicide this morning.”

Pain, betrayal, hurt and confusion were instant friends.  To actually take his own life nearly felt like treachery – how could he abandon us like that?  So suddenly?  With no real explanation?

We wore black for months.  On his birthday, after a few stolen drinks we’d smuggled into a friend’s birthday, we pulled out the Ouija board to get our answers.  But other than a hangover and messy, drunk, emotional teenagers, we achieved nothing. 

I still have my own theories and I don’t want to believe that he abandoned us like that, but I guess I’ll get my answers one day.

Tarun Sharma

       When I was 9 years old (or) maybe 8 I was crazy about rock music and then I started finding some rock music on YouTube and I found Nirvana.

Tracie Schaeffer
Montgomery, Alabama

I have to be honest; I don't remember where I was when I found out Kurt Cobain died. I do remember my 10th grade science lab partner (1991) gave me a dubbed copy of a Nirvana ep at school. At the time I was heavy into hair metal and I listened to that tape and I never listened to another hair band again. 

I also remember keeping the issue of the People magazine about Kurt's death in my car for at least six months and I'd read it at least once a week.

Fay Smith
Aberdeen, Washington

       I didn’t actually discover Kurt until after he died.  I listened to talk radio at that time.  One night in July 1994 I watched the Saturday Night Live with Nirvana.  As soon as they started singing “Heart-Shaped Box” I knew I was obsessed.
       I came to Aberdeen, Washington, Kurt’s hometown, for the first time in June 1995, and returned many times when I was living in Denver and Montana.

       In 2005, during one of my trips, I applied for a job at the hospital here (the one where Kurt was born) and was hired.  My house is within walking distance of the house where Kurt spent his first few years.

       Soon after that I met Leland Cobain, Kurt’s granddad.  He was wonderful and he loved to talk about Kurt.  Sitting in the living room where Kurt lived (and) seeing the back yard he used to mow made him very real to me.

       He ceased being Kurt Cobain the world-renowned star and became Kurt, the teenager who pretended the lawn mower wouldn’t start, who made a dollhouse for his grandmother.  He was like a long lost friend.

       Sometimes I think I see him, disappearing around a corner, or just out of sight at the bridge.  He is real to me even though I didn’t discover him until too late.
Kenny Squires
Musician and magazine writer
St. Louis, Missouri

       I used to sit in front of my cheap stereo and listen to In Utero, following along with the lyrics in the liner notes.  Lyrically, the songs all have at least one distinct image (“…meat-eating orchids…”) or play on words (“…contradictionary files…”).  I’d never heard lyrics like that before.   

The anger and pain in Kurt Cobain’s voice resonated my own dealing with most of the people around me.  That’s the main thing he did for me – he helped me to realize that I wasn’t alone.   Between that, the great songs, and the beautiful noise he made, it’s almost impossible to imagine what my life would have been like without him.

Photograph Description And Copyright Information

Photo 1
People Magazine issue April 25, 1994 with Kurt Cobain on the cover.
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 2
171 Lake Washington Boulevard in Seattle, Washington

Photo 3
Kurt Cobain’s body with a Seattle Police Detective kneeling over it.
Released by the Seattle Police Department
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 4
Ted Moore cigar box with Cobain’s heroine “tool kit” that he used to inject himself with before shooting the fatal bullet.
Released by the Seattle Police Department
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 5
Kurt Cobain’s foot next to the bullets.
Released by the Seattle Police Department
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 6
Hemingway at a fishing camp in 1954. His hand and arms are burned from a recent bushfire; his hair was burned in the recent plane crashes.
Public Domain

Photo 7
Jimi Hendrix performing for the Dutch televiswio show Hoepla in 1967

Photo 8
Janis Joplin
Publicity Photo 1970
Public Domain

Photo 9
Jim Morrison
Publicity Photo 1968
Public Domain

Photo 10
Kurt Cobain’s public memorial service at the Seattle Center Flag Pavilion on April 10, 1994
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 11
Unity Church of Truth in Seattle Washington
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 12
Spin Magazine cover with Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, and baby Francis Bean Cobain
December 1992
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright law

Photo 13
Charles Clifford Brooks III
Copyright granted by Charles Clifford Brooks III

Photo 14
Photo-shopped image of Janlyn Diggs, baby doll head, and Kurt Cobain
Photo-shopped by Christal Rice Cooper
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper and Janlyn Diggs

Photo 15
Edvard Grieg in 1888
Portrait published in The Leisure Hour (1889)
Public Domain

Photo 16
Edvard Grieg’s two phrase theme, written in the key of B minor.
Public Domain

Photo 17
Modeled by Janlyn Diggs
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper and Janlyn Diggs.

Photo 18
Modeled by Janlyn Diggs
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper and Janlyn Diggs

Photo 19
Janlyn Diggs holding two rocks – one of Kurt Cobain’s image and the other of Kurt Cobain’s signature.
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper and Janlyn Diggs.

Photo 20
Christine Duray
Copyright granted by Christine Duray

Photo 21
Pencil drawing of Kurt Cobain
Attributed to Christine Duray
Copyright granted by Christine Duray

Photo 22
Katie Longstaff
Copyright granted by Katie Longstaff

Photo 23
Painting of Kurt Cobain
Attributed to Connie Stevens ( who did the painting as a gift for her daughter Katie Longstaff

Photo 24
Kurt Cobain (front) and Krist Novoselic (left) live at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards

Photo 25
Announcement from the band encouraging people to participate in the making of the music video for "Smell Like Teen Spirit"
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 26
Photo-shopped image of baby dolls, Kurt Cobain, Janlyn Diggs holding skull
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper and Janlyn Diggs

Photo 27
Janlyn Diggs holding Kurt Cobain’s suicide note.
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper and Janlyn Diggs

Photo 28
Janlyn Diggs with quote by Kurt Cobain on cardboard box.
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper and Janlyn Diggs

Photo 29
Janlyn holding anti-suicide sign
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper and Janlyn Diggs.

Photo 30
Tarun Sharma
Copyright granted by Tarun Sharma

Photo 31
Painting of Kurt Cobain by Tarun Sharma
Copyright granted by Tarun Sharma

Photo 32
Tracie Schaeffer
Copyright granted by Tracie Schaeffer

Photo 33 and 34
Kurt Cobain’s Heart
Artwork by Tracie Schaeffer
Copyright granted by Tracie Schaeffer

Photo 35
Fay Smith
Copyright granted by Fay Smith

Photo 36
Sign erected in 2005 in Cobain's hometown of Aberdeen, Washington in tribute to him. It was paid for by the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee and is a reference to the Nirvana song "Come as You Are"

Photo 37
Grays Harbor Hospital where Kurt Cobain was born located in Aberdeen, Washington
Attributed to Joe Mabel

Photo 38
Kurt Cobain in the 2nd grade.  This photo was printed on the brochure for Kurt Cobain’s funeral.
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 39
Janlyn Diggs reading Kurt Cobain’s journals.
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper and Janlyn Diggs.

Photo 40
Kenny Squires
Copyright granted by Kenny Squires 

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