Close to 17 years ago, Kurt Cobain died. Conspiracy theories about his death abound — as they tend to do with people of note — but most agree it was Cobain’s own decision to end his life. Since today would have been his 44th birthday, we bring you 44 facts about the man who struggled with drug addiction, being misunderstood, and those record industry types willing to defang the music from Cobain’s Pacific Northwest for the sake of money, power, and instant, yet fleeting success.
1. Before Nirvana, Cobain had auditioned to be in the Melvins, but was rejected.
2. While still a teenager, for eight months Cobain lived at a friend’s house and slept on the sofa.
3. When Nirvana was on the rise, Metallica sent them a fax that read: “We really dig Nirvana. Nevermind is the best album of the year. Let’s get together soon, Metallica. PS, Lars hates the band.”
4. For many years, Cobain enjoyed making Super-8 films. One of these movies contains a scene in which Cobain commits suicide.
5. In his free time, Cobain liked to buy big hunks of meat from the grocery store, and then go out into the woods and shoot at them with a variety of guns.
6. For a time, Cobain would often throw up before each show.
7. In June 1976, shortly after his parents divorced, a young Cobain scribbled onto his bedroom wall, “I hate Mom, I hate Dad, Dad hates Mom, Mom hates Dad, it simply makes you want to be sad.”
8. One of Cobain’s friends, Carrie Montgomery, once said that he “made women want to nurture and protect him. He was a paradox in that way, because he also could be brutally and intensely strong, yet at the same time, he could appear fragile and delicate.”
9. Cobain came close to joining the Navy, even meeting with a recruitment officer at one point to discuss enrolling.
10. A line from one of Cobain’s journals reads: “I have met many minds able to store and translate a pregnantly large amount of information, yet they havent an ounce of talent for wisdom or the appreciation of passion.”
11. Cobain recorded his first songs in December 1982 at his Aunt Mari’s house. They involved a guitar, bass, and spoons banged against a suitcase. Cobain titled the recordings “Organized Confusion.”
12. Cobain started using heroin on a daily basis to relieve his chronic stomach pains. In his diary, he wrote, “So I decided, if I felt like a junkie, I may as well be one.”
13. At one point, Cobain claimed to spend $100 per day on heroin.
14. In one journal entry, Cobain stated that the Sex Pistols were “one million times more important than the Clash.”
15. After Nirvana was famous, Cobain offered to play at the inaugural International Pop Underground festival in Olympia, but the event coordinators turned him down. Cobain was hurt by the rejection, and felt alienated from the scene he cared about most.
16. Cobain started wearing boxer briefs after Courtney Love expressed concern over his tiger-print Y-fronts.
17. Cobain would sometimes get moody and sit in a corner for 45 minutes without saying a word.
18. Cobain once wrote, “Art that has long lasting value cannot be appreciated by majorities, only the same, small percent will value arts patience as they always have. This is good.”
19. As a child, Cobain could recite the dialog from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind word-for-word.
20. Just hours after performing on Saturday Night Live, and one week before Nevermind hit number one on the charts, Cobain overdosed on drugs. Courtney Love found him at 7:00 am the next morning lying on the floor. She revived him by splashing water on his face and punching him in the stomach.
21. On Christmas Eve, 1991, three months after the release of Nevermind, Cobain and Courtney Love were living in a tiny room in a friend’s apartment.
22. As a boy, Cobain was temporarily put on Ritalin to curb his hyperactivity.
23. When asked what it’s like being number one on Billboard, Cobain responded, “It’s like being number 16, only even more people kiss your ass.”
24. One of Cobain’s most prized possessions was a signed first edition of William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch.
25. In 1992, Cobain claimed that he and Courtney Love spent a million dollars: $80,000 on personal expenses, $380,000 on taxes, $300,000 on a house in Carnation, Washington, and the rest on doctors and lawyers. “That’s not very much,” said Cobain. “That’s definitely not what Axl [Rose] spends a year.”
26. After performing “Territorial Pissings” on Saturday Night Live, Cobain and Nirvana bassist, Krist Novoselic began French-kissing. SNL refused to air the footage on reruns.
27. Before he was famous, for a time Cobain worked as a swimming instructor for kids at the YMCA in Aberdeen.
28. Cobain claims he started throwing 7-Up cans full of pebbles at police cars at the age of six.
29. In a letter he sent to Nirvana’s former drummer, Dave Foster, Cobain wrote: “Getting a name on a record isn’t shit. Anybody can do it, but theres a big difference between credentials & notoriety, and self respect through music.”
30. After hearing “In Bloom” for the first time and feeling overwhelmed by how good it was, in 1992 Courtney Love said: “I instantly felt sorry for Kurt. I knew immediately the nightmare that awaited the poor thing.”
31. As a child, Cobain had a Mickey Mouse drum kit.
32. Cobain once wrote: “I have been forced to become a reclusive Rock Star. IE: No interviews, no radio appearances, etc. due to the legions of self appointed authorities on music who are not musicians, who have not contributed anything artistic to Rock and Roll besides maybe a few second rate long winded, books on Rock and Roll and most importantly who are the highest group of mysogynists in all forms of expression.”
33. The first time Cobain saw himself on television was on September 28, 1991, for a taping of MTV’s 120 Minutes.
34. One year, Cobain cut up an inflatable sex doll and wore it for Halloween.
35. Cobain once said, “I went through most of my adolescent life being a male and not being aware of feminism, but I was always more of a feminine person. I always felt more inclined to hang out with girls, and I appreciated softer pop music during most of my childhood, until I became a teenager when I started smoking pot.”
36. Before launching into “Smells Like Teen Spirit” live on the British television show The Word, Cobain announced, “Courtney Love, the lead singer of the sensational pop group Hole, is the best fuck in the world.”
37. Cobain’s favorite Pixies song is “Gigantic.”
38. Courtney Love once said, “Kurt was pure and he was also insanely ambitious. He wanted what he got, but because of his training, because of Olympia, he decided he didn’t want it.”
39. When just starting out, Cobain insisted that Nirvana practice five nights a week.
40. While in junior high, Cobain’s father, Donald, enrolled Cobain in his school’s wrestling team. In tournaments, Cobain refused to fight back. Instead, he sat on the mat with his arms folded.
41. As a boy, Cobain had an imaginary friend named “Boddah.”
42. Cobain often watched television late into the night.
43. In a letter to his father, Donald, Cobain wrote: “Ive never taken sides with you or my mother because while I was growing up I had equal contempt for you both.”
44. While homeless for a time, Cobain would sleep in the waiting room at Grays Harbour Community Hospital, the place of his birth.