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Your complete Kurt Cobain reading guide: Journals, biographies, and more

best biography kurt cobain

Reading to remember

Serving the Servant by Danny GoldbergPublisher: Ecco

On the 25th anniversary of Kurt Cobain 's death, HarperCollins ' Ecco published Serving the Servant , a fascinating biography of the Nirvana frontman by none other than Danny Goldberg, the band's iconic manager. ( Available for purchase. ) The book works to reframe Cobain's legacy by blending Goldberg's memories with information and files that have previously not been public. As Cobain is remembered, it's vital reading — though hardly the only book out there worth your time. Here, EW has rounded up the essential Cobain reading list.

Journals by Kurt Cobain


Arranged in close chronological order and kept in their rawest form, Journals is a necessary read for any Cobain fan: a collection of his writings, from scrapped notes and letter drafts to wild sketches and shopping lists, which offer unparalleled access into his interior life. The No. 1 New York Times best-seller was originally published in 2002. "The publication of this unintentional autobiography of the famously talented and infamously troubled artist is a vast leap in the mythologizing and marketing of Kurt Cobain," EW wrote at the time of release. "And the journey from Cobain's hands to a store near you involves healthy measures of the serendipitous and the surreal."

Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R. Cross

Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R. CrossPublisher: Hachette Books

Charles R. Cross' definitive biography of Cobain traces his life story via more than 400 interviews and intimate access to the Nirvana frontman's private journals and lyrics. Despite its breadth and close sourcing, Heavier Than Heaven drew criticism for Cross' subjective account of Cobain's final hours.

Love & Death: The Murder of Kurt Cobain by Max Wallace and Ian Halperin


This 2004 best-selling book, co-written by Ian Halperin and Max Wallace, arrived as a controversial work of investigative journalism. Drawing on dozens of hours of conversation audiotapes obtained by the authors, Love & Death makes the argument that Cobain was murdered, with his then-wife Courtney Love a potential conspirator. The book is a product of a rigorous decade-long process for Halperin and Wallace.

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck by Brett Morgen

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck by Brett Morgen Publisher: Insight Editions

A companion to the HBO documentary of the same name, Montage of Heck includes extensive interviews, gorgeous animation stills, and previously-unseen photography as filmmaker Brett Morgen put on screen. It doesn't shed a ton of new light on Cobain, but it's perfect reading for those who've yet to check out the heartbreaking, illuminating documentary.

Godspeed by Barnaby Legg & Jim McCarthy & Flameboy

Godspeed by Barnaby Legg & Jim McCarthy & FlameboyCR: Omnibus Press

This explicit, starkly visual homage to Cobain combines biographical details with interpretations of the artist's internal struggles. Barnaby Legg and Jim McCarthy constructed their story accordingly, while the vivid, nightmarishly provocative art came courtesy of Flameboy.

Kurt Cobain: The Last Session by Jesse Frohman & Glenn O'Brien & Jon Savage


Get inside of Cobain's final photoshoot with Nirvana, which took place in August 1993. In The Last Session , 90 stunning photographs present a dazzling final visual memory of the man, capturing him in a plethora of extreme, intense emotional states.

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best biography kurt cobain

What is the best Kurt Cobain biography to read?

best biography kurt cobain

I'm assembling my summer reading list and want to add a biography of Cobain but I'm not sure which one to choose so which is the best one in your opinion?

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Nirvana: The Biography by Everett True. It's uncompromising, and he makes sure to include a lot of opposing viewpoints on things. I think it's also the most authentic, because True was the first journalist to cover Nirvana and the "grunge" scene, so his access to subjects is pretty incredible.

That being said, he was close friends with Courtney and Kurt, and so for that reason he's probably not the most objective reporter. He also inserts his own opinions as a music critic into the fray, which is entertaining if you share his views and probably annoying if you don't. Even with those things in mind, it's easily the best biography of the band for fans of the band, and I think True paints the best portrait of Cobain.

As far as what's currently available, Come As You Are is by far the best. Heavier Than Heaven is okay, but Cross editorializes too much. There are a couple of others but they just rehash those two. The book version of Montage of Heck should be out by summer I think, which may be worth a read judging from the early film reviews. Anyway, I'm rambling... If you haven't read a Nirvana book yet, definitely start with Come As You Are.

I never felt like any of the editorializing, as you put it, gave a distorted picture of anything, though. I did find him saying that the entirety of Nevermind was written about Tobi Vail to be kind of lacking in proof but whatever.

But yeah, start with those two, OP.

everett true

I really like Cobain Unseen, It comes with a lot of cool inserts. Not to mention it has a decent amount of pictures which satisfies my horrible attention span.

probably Heavier than Heaven

Heavier then heaven is pretty good. I have read it about 4 or 5 time because I like it so much. I generally don't read too many books so I think it's good you might too.

Thanks for all the suggesetions. I'm gonna take a look at heavier than heaven and also Come As You Are. Nirvana: The Biography seems quite biased and hasn't got the best reviews. I'm also gonna check my local library.

' nirvana' by everett true covers it, tho at times biased.

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Top 7 Reveling Nirvana Books & Best Kurt Cobain Biographies (2023)

If you are a true punk rock lover, you probably know about Nirvana, Generation X’s flagship band and their legendary lead singer and songwriter Kurt Cobain. Chances are you have heard of these names, even if you are not a true fan.

But do you know their story? Be it behind their success, fallout, or personal lives. Having been a fan myself, I have curated a list of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana books that get to the bottom of their experiences- the good, the bad, and the ugly. So, let’s rock and roll.

best biography kurt cobain

Serving the Servant, by Danny Goldberg (2019)

This is a riveting Kurt Cobain biography to fill you in on his life and Nirvana’s journey. Danny was Cobain’s manager, and he gives a different perspective in this book. Instead of focusing on the dark side of Kurt’s life, he reflects on the lovely, insightful tender-hearted singer who was full of life and talented despite his untimely death.

When Danny took on the band, he had no idea that it would become one of the most sensational bands in America and that Kurt would be a legend in pop culture. Only comparable to the likes of Michael Jackson and John Lennon. This was just the beginning of a timeless story.

In this book, Danny reveals the success of the Nevermind album, the incredible life of Kurt meeting and marrying Courtney Love, and the critics that came with the ups and downs of their relationship. He also talks about hidden memory files and interviews with Kurt.

You will get to know about Kurt's inner circle and marvel at his love and ambition for music. Danny intriguely captures what other previously published books overshadowed: the portrait of a legendary artist and not a ‘tortured soul, troubled boy’ narrative.

best biography kurt cobain

Heavier than Heaven, by Charles R. Cross (2019)

Heavier than Heaven is one of the most gruesome and deeply revealing biography books of Kurt Cobain you will ever come across. It is a page-turner describing the actual events of the Nirvana band, with Kurt Cobain’s photos and all the happenings surrounding his addiction and drug abuse up to the point of his demise.

Through this book, Charles takes you through an exquisite craft of exposing Kurt’s private life- from the deep secrets revealed in more than 400 interviews, quotes and suicide notes. There is also an unreleased masterpiece by Nirvana in this book.

You will find scrutinized details of Kurt’s lies and how they played a part in his death. You will also see how Cobain’s love life became entangled with his art and some of the stories behind his popular hits.

Cross also unleashes gripping details about Cobain’s childhood trauma. Despite Kurt being a contradictory and famous teen athlete, he had suicidal genes from his relatives.

Find out the truth about Kurt sleeping with his best friend and stealing a car even as a millionaire. These thoughts may be disturbing, but you will relish how Cross puts to rest some of the misconceptions about Kurt’s life with interesting truths.

best biography kurt cobain

Nirvana, by Everett True (2009)

This book is thorough and refreshing for any Kurt Cobain enthusiast. Everett engages you with the story of Kurt Cobain and the Nirvana band intensely. The book outwardly gives an inside account of how young musicians get into the music industry and suddenly become poisoned with fame and self-obsession because of attention.

Everett was among the first interviewers of Kurt Cobain, and he covered the first scenes of the Seattle music scene. He also had an interview with Nirvana in the late 80s. Having brought famous bands into the international limelight, he introduced Kurt to Courtney Love. He was also the one who pushed Kurt into the stage of the Reading Festival in 1992 while in a wheelchair. So be sure to get authentic details about Kurt, Nirvana and their highs and lows.

Everett narrates performing with the Nirvana band and how he moved to several stages in different events. You will enjoy the author's inclusive and authentic voice as he talks about the evaluation of the band that has suffered criticism since 1994.

This book covers the life of Kurt, quotes, other drug dealers, seminars, music scenes, allies and close acquaintances in his life. It is a masterpiece if you want to truly see Kurt’s life through a friend’s point of view and will generally make you think about the development and effects of mental health issues.

best biography kurt cobain

Kurt Cobain, by Brett Morgen (2016)

Cobain’s first story was told through an HBO documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck . This book was a sequel to the documentary, and its author was responsible for this film. The book not only accompanies Brett’s documentary but also delves further into discussing the film’s material. It is a realistic presentation and illumination of Nirvana’s legendary portrait and frontman, Kurt Cobain. The book also captures the contradictions that build up in Kurt’s character.

It features exclusive interviews to showcase Kurt’s archives as displayed in the film using incredible visions, rare photography, and Kurt’s journals. You will appreciate Brett’s points of view about the film’s creation and his ideas on Cobain’s mythos. With details that take you into and beyond the film, you will see the unparalleled ideas of Kurt Cobain’s world.

At its core, this book is the perfect complement to documentaries that may have influenced or changed your views about Kurt with the actual guts of his tale.

best biography kurt cobain

Love & Death, by Max Wallace (2005)

This book is for you if you only know about Kurt’s death from the internet. It will give you a different lens and broaden your mind about the situation. It is a groundbreaking yet chilling investigation of Kurt Cobain. It includes exclusive access to case tapes and imperative evidence to paint a picture of how everything happened. The details in this book will keep you intrigued and even make you wish that Kurt’s case could be reopened.

It was April 8, 1994, when a body was found in a room in Seattle. As per the authorities, this was an open-and-shut suicidal case. However, few knew that the body belonged to Kurt Cobain, Nirvana’s frontman. Contrary to what many have long believed, Kurt had been murdered.

This book draws evidence from case tapes that Courtney Love’s P.I gathered. This ensued after her husband’s escape from drug rehab. The book also uses police reports and forensic evidence to devour the long-standing theory that Kurt committed suicide.

Love & Death is a stunning representation and a convincing argument that the events surrounding Kurt’s death and the truth are yet to come out. It presents a plausible explanation of why Kurt is gone, most notably not in a theoretical way or through conspiracy.

best biography kurt cobain

Kurt Cobain, by Hourly History (2021)

This book will help you discover the remarkable life Kurt Cobain lived and also fill in your knowledge gaps regarding his experiences. As you may know, Kurt crafted songs and, more specifically, a narrative that would later become a generation’s anthem. However, you might be shocked that none of it was what he deliberately set out to do. Some say he was an accidental genius.

Kurt’s idea of life and art was always a continuous consciousness stream. He was never fixated on changing a generation, even when he made songs. His idea was only to play music and let his subconscious mind go beyond as he made memorable lyrics.

Kurt certainly changed the world, and his words evidently still resonate with many today, and this may be all you know. However, this book has more details about Kurt’s life covered in different topics like his troubled childhood, global success, superstar reluctance, how he went from guns to guitars, his marriage, disappearance, death, and more. This book is not just for Kurt or Nirvana’s fans, but it has valuable insights about life in general.

best biography kurt cobain

Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, by Andrew Earles (2016)

This is the book you need to get your hands on if you want to get the ins and outs of Nirvana- the band whose ride was comprehensive but all too brief. This updated edition gives you the illustrated story about this legendary band and its members Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl.

Kurt Cobain and Nirvana gives an account of the band’s history with a fresh perspective to let you know more about the band that brought about the return of punk-inspired rock.

The book features backstage and performance photography, ticket stubs, the band’s singles, handbills, gig posters and a lot of other memorabilia that complements Nirvana’s story. It will also hook you up with gear breakdowns, album reviews, and Cobain’s mini synopses of his favorite albums.

The content is well-researched and excellently put together, making this book a must-have if you were or are still a Nirvana fan or collector.

The Verdict

There you have it. These books will give you a fresh perspective into the life of Kurt Cobain and the Nirvana band in the purest form. They will help you extensively celebrate Kurt’s life and the band’s and appreciate their hard work in creating music that really rocked.

Check out also the best Led Zeppelin books .

Joel Stafford

My profession is online marketing and development (10+ years experience), check my latest mobile app called Upcoming . But my real passion is reading books both fiction and non-fiction. I have several favorite authors like James Redfield or Daniel Keyes . If I read a book I always want to find the best part of it, every book has it's unique value.

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best biography kurt cobain

Your complete Kurt Cobain reading guide: Journals, biographies, and more

Your complete Kurt Cobain reading guide: Journals, biographies, and more

Reading to Remember

Journals by kurt cobain, heavier than heaven by charles r. cross, love & death: the murder of kurt cobain by max wallace and ian halperin, kurt cobain: montage of heck by brett morgen, godspeed by barnaby legg & jim mccarthy & flameboy, kurt cobain: the last session by jesse frohman & glenn o'brien & jon savage.

Your complete Kurt Cobain reading guide: Journals, biographies, and more

7 great books to read about Kurt Cobain

best biography kurt cobain

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Bestselling Reviews

Bestselling Reviews

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🔝 Best books about Kurt Cobain to read in 2023: best reads

The best book about Kurt Cobain

Are you looking for for tips to buy the best book by Kurt Cobain?

Bestselling Reviews has reviewed a list of the must read ones. Here are the best books about Kurt Cobain, advisable and available in the market.

Table of Contents

Bestselling books about Kurt Cobain: our recommendations


Kurt Cobain's Journals is an insightful and captivating look into the life of the iconic musician and frontman of the band Nirvana. Through his personal writings, Cobain offers a unique and intimate look into his thoughts, struggles, and creative process. The book is a collection of Cobain's personal journals, letters, and drawings, compiled and edited by his widow, Courtney Love. It offers an honest and raw look into Cobain's innermost thoughts and feelings, as well as his creative process. The journals provide an intimate glimpse into Cobain's life, his struggles with depression and addiction, and his thoughts on fame and the music industry. The book is a must-read for any fan of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. It offers an invaluable insight into the life and mind of an iconic artist. It's an interesting and revealing look at the creative process of a legendary musician, as well as a poignant reminder of the tragedy of his untimely death. Overall, Kurt Cobain's Journals is an essential read for any fan of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain. It offers an intimate and honest look into the life of a beloved artist, and provides an invaluable insight into his creative process. Highly recommended.

Journals by Kurt Cobain (2002-11-04)

Journals by Kurt Cobain (2002-11-04)

I recently read Kurt Cobain's Journals, a collection of his writings from the late 80s to the early 90s. The book was a fascinating look into the mind of one of the most influential musicians of our time. Cobain's writing is raw, honest, and often heartbreaking. He writes about his struggles with depression and addiction, his thoughts on fame and the music industry, and his hopes for the future. He also reveals his thoughts on music, his relationships with other famous figures, and his observations on the world around him. The book is a must-read for anyone interested in the life and times of Kurt Cobain. It's an intimate look into the mind of a creative genius, and a reminder of why he was so beloved. His words are powerful and thought-provoking, and his story is one of strength and resilience. Overall, Kurt Cobain's Journals is an essential read for any fan of the late rock star. It's an intimate look into the life of an icon, and a reminder of why he was so loved and respected. Highly recommended.

Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain

Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain

I recently read Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain by Charles R. Cross, and I was thoroughly impressed. The book is an in-depth look at the life of the late Nirvana frontman, from his childhood to his untimely death. Cross does an excellent job of painting a picture of Cobain and his struggles with depression, drug addiction, and fame. The book is well-researched and full of interesting facts and anecdotes about Cobain's life. It's an emotional read, but it's also informative and entertaining. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the life of Kurt Cobain.

Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana

Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana

I recently had the pleasure of listening to the audiobook of Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana by Michael Azerrad. The audiobook was narrated by Kurt Loder and Michael Azerrad, and I must say that their performances were top-notch. They were able to bring the story to life and make it come alive. The book tells the story of the rise and fall of the legendary band Nirvana, from their early days in Aberdeen, Washington to their eventual success and fame. The book covers the personal lives of the band members, their relationships with each other, and the events that led to the band's eventual dissolution. I found the book to be both informative and entertaining. Azerrad does a great job of providing a detailed account of the band's history, while also providing insight into the personal lives of the members. The narration by Loder and Azerrad was also very engaging, which made the book even more enjoyable. Overall, I highly recommend Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana to anyone who is interested in learning more about the band and its members. It's a great read, and the audiobook is definitely worth checking out.

Kurt Cobain: About A Son

Kurt Cobain: About A Son

Kurt Cobain: About A Son is an amazing and unique book that captures the life and career of the late rock star Kurt Cobain. The book is a compilation of interviews and conversations with Kurt Cobain that were conducted by journalist Michael Azerrad. The interviews were conducted over a period of three years, and they provide a unique insight into the life of this incredible artist. The book is very well written and is an absolute must read for any fan of the late Kurt Cobain. The interviews provide an intimate look into the life of Kurt Cobain, and they allow readers to gain a better understanding of his thoughts and feelings. The book also provides an interesting look into the music industry, and the struggles that Kurt had to face in order to achieve success. Kurt Cobain: About A Son is an incredibly powerful and moving book that should be read by anyone who is a fan of Kurt Cobain. It provides an intimate look into the life of this incredible artist, and it allows readers to gain a better understanding of his thoughts and feelings. This is a must read for any fan of Kurt Cobain and his music.

Books about Kurt Cobain on offer

Best book about kurt cobain: our choice.

Choosing the best book about Kurt Cobain could be a little bit more complex than you believe. Still, based on our judgment, Journals at the price of $17.49 results the best book about Kurt Cobain currently for sale:

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Kurt Cobain died on April 5, 1994, leaving behind a legacy of work that has continued to inspire intense appreciation and curiosity.

By Gavin Edwards

Twenty-five years ago, on April 5, 1994, Kurt Cobain died at the age of 27 , a victim of suicide. He left behind the epochal rock music he made as the singer and guitarist for Nirvana, piles of journals and artwork, and a final note that didn’t clear up the contradictions of his short life. Which was probably how he wanted it: The previous year, he had painted on the wall of his rented Seattle home, in large red block letters , “None of You Will Ever Know My Intentions.”

Many Nirvana biographies rehash the basics of Cobain’s story or peddle conspiracy theories that he was murdered, but there are also plenty of ways to go deeper. Here’s what to read, listen to, watch and explore:

‘Journals’ ( Riverhead )

With nearly 300 pages of photo replicas of Cobain’s personal journals and letters (and doodles, sketches and song lists), this 2002 book is funny, painful and shockingly intimate: a guided tour of the singer’s own churning psyche. “Its hard to decipher the difference between a sincere entertainer and an honest swindler,” Cobain wrote. Here’s what The New York Times’s Neil Strauss wrote when the book came out.

‘Come as You Are’ ( Three Rivers )

This deeply reported 1993 biography by Michael Azerrad, first published while Cobain was alive, was the original bible for Nirvana fans. Its strongest passages evoke the life of young Cobain in Aberdeen, Wash., a child of divorce who would sometimes spend the weekend killing time at a local logging company where his father worked: “He would get into his dad’s van and listen to Queen’s ‘News of the World’ over and over again on the eight-track. Sometimes he’d listen so long that he’d drain the battery and they’d have to find someone to jump-start the engine.”

‘Heavier Than Heaven’ ( Hachette )

Charles R. Cross, formerly the editor of the Seattle music paper The Rocket, covered the Nirvana story from early on — and conducted over 400 interviews for this thorough, definitive 2001 biography. Cobain’s widow, the musician Courtney Love, granted Cross extensive interviews and access to Cobain’s archives, including arcana such as a visual assignment he completed during his final stay in rehab: “For ‘surrender,’ he drew a man with a bright light emanating from him. For ‘depressed,’ he showed an umbrella surrounded by ties.” Read The New York Times review .

‘Takeoff: The Oral History of Nirvana’s Crossover Moment’ ( Cuepoint )

When Nirvana’s “Nevermind” hit No. 1 soon after its 1991 release, it shocked the band members and their grunge cohort, who had assumed that at best, the group would be underground heroes. Its multiplatinum success also opened the doors for many Nirvana-bes. This oral history by Nick Soulsby tells that story from the viewpoint of Nirvana’s college-rock peers, such as Gary Floyd of opening act Sister Double Happiness remembering Nirvana’s “road manager telling everyone backstage one night the CD had hit 1 million sales that day. They seemed almost embarrassed.”

‘The Dark Side of Kurt Cobain’ ( The Advocate )

Cobain loudly and frequently declared himself as an ally of gay people (and women, and people of color), so it was fitting that he gave one of his best interviews in this 1993 cover story with The Advocate, telling Kevin Allman, “I’ve always been a really sickly, feminine person anyhow, so I thought I was gay for a while because I didn’t find any of the girls in my high school attractive at all.”

‘Kurt Cobain, The Rolling Stone Interview: Success Doesn’t Suck’ ( Rolling Stone )

In Cobain’s last major interview, he informed David Fricke that he had wanted to call Nirvana’s “In Utero” album “I Hate Myself and I Want to Die,” “but I knew the majority of the people wouldn’t understand.” He insisted that the suicidal sentiment was only a joke: “I’m a much happier guy than a lot of people think I am.”

‘Never More’ ( The Village Voice )

After Cobain’s death, Ann Powers filed a raw dispatch from Seattle, reporting how the tragedy affected his friends and the neighbors who had never met him. “The kids I found who did mourn Cobain, hovering behind police lines at the house where he’d died or building shrines from candles and Raisin Bran boxes at the Sunday night vigil organized by three local radio stations, seemed to think of him more as a lost friend than as a candidate for that dreaded assignment, role model.”

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‘Nirvana — The Moon, New Haven 1991’

On Sept. 26, 1991, just two days after the release of “Nevermind,” Nirvana played a great, sweaty show at a tiny club in New Haven — and miraculously, it was captured on this remarkably high-quality amateur video. The set featured just a few songs from the unfamiliar “Nevermind,” leaning heavily on the band’s 1989 debut, “Bleach.” Cobain, the bassist Krist Novoselic, and the drummer Dave Grohl all performed with joy and abandon, looking more at home in a filthy black room with a low ceiling than they ever did in arenas.

‘Live at Reading’

In the summer of 1992, when Nirvana played this storied U.K. festival, the band was divided by arguments over royalties and reports of Cobain’s heroin habit. Responding to the mood, Cobain came onstage in a wheelchair, wearing a hospital gown and a blond wig, and began the set with an out-of-tune cover of Bette Midler’s “The Rose.” At the end of the show, the group systematically destroyed its equipment. In between, almost as an afterthought, it delivered an hour and a half of full-blast rock.

‘Drain You’

When Jimmy McDonough, the author of the 2002 book “Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography,” wanted to show Young a live Nirvana performance after Cobain died, this 1993 clip from an MTV “Live and Loud” concert was the one he chose. “When you see the way he was,” an impressed Young said, “there’s no way he could ever get through the other end of it. Because there was no control to the burn. That’s why it was so intense. He was not holding back at all.”

‘Nirvana — Munich, Germany’

Nirvana’s last concert, on March 1, 1994, at a cavernous airport terminal that had been converted into a club, was an ordeal for a burned-out Cobain: He wanted to end the band, he wanted to divorce Love, he wanted to score drugs at the Munich train station. But the show (rendered here with just the first 10 minutes of video but a full 80 minutes of audio) was one final scream of pain, ending with “Heart-Shaped Box.” “Hey, wait, I got a new complaint,” Cobain sang, never meaning it more.

‘Kurt Cobain — Different Vocals’

This video collects live moments when Cobain dramatically altered his usual performances of familiar songs for various punk-rock reasons such as needing to shout over out-of-tune instruments (on “Come as You Are”) or just wanting to mess with a TV countdown show that was forcing him to mime playing his guitar (on “Smells Like Teen Spirit”).

‘MTV Unplugged in New York’

Playing acoustically for 44 minutes, Nirvana paid tribute to influences ranging from David Bowie to the Meat Puppets, and showed the delicate beauty behind its distorted guitars. And with the final song, a cover of Leadbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night,” Cobain gave one of his greatest vocal performances; it felt powerful enough to bring the curtain down on all of human existence.

Documentary Footage

‘Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck’ ( Amazon )

Cobain’s daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, served as executive producer on this authorized documentary feature directed by Brett Morgen. Mike Hale wrote in his Times review in 2015, “Mr. Morgen was given access to Cobain’s archives — ‘art, music, journals, Super 8 films and audio montages’ — and his exhilarating, exhausting, two-hour-plus film, both an artful mosaic and a hammering barrage, reflects years of rummaging through that trove.”

‘One of Kurt Cobain’s Final Interviews’

In this 26-minute WatchMojo interview from 1993, filmed with the Seattle waterfront as a backdrop, Cobain was bearded and scabby, smoking one cigarette after another. He was also relaxed and thoughtful, laughing at questions about his rock-star status that on a different day would have made him bristle. He explained, “Either I’ve accepted it or I’ve gone beyond insane.”

‘8 Fragments for Kurt Cobain’

The poet Jim Carroll, famous for the autobiographical book “The Basketball Diaries” and the autobiographical song “People Who Died,” wrote and performed this poem after Cobain’s death, trying to make sense of the senseless. It begins, “Genius is not a generous thing/In return it charges more interest than any amount of royalties can cover/And it resents fame/With bitter vengeance.”

‘About a Boy’ ( Penguin )

The death of Cobain haunts Nick Hornby’s second novel, shattering some of its characters and binding some of them together. The 12-year-old Marcus tries to make sense of the news he sees plastered all over the front pages of the evening papers: “He wondered if his mum was O.K., even though he knew there was no connection between his mum and Kurt Cobain because his mum was a real person and Kurt Cobain wasn’t; and then he felt confused, because the newspaper headline had turned Kurt Cobain into a real person somehow.”

‘Skip to the End’ ( Insight )

This evocative 2018 science-fiction graphic novel by the writer Jeremy Holt and the artist Alex Diotto tells the story of a grunge band called Samsara (clearly inspired by Nirvana) and a guitar that functions as a time-travel device. The metaphor works not only because of the urge Nirvana fans have to create an alternate timeline where Cobain survived, but because recorded music is itself a time-travel device, teleporting people both to the moment when it was made and the moment when it first touched a listener’s soul.

‘Last Days’ (Streaming Services)

The filmmaker Gus Van Sant was a kindred spirit to Cobain: an independent artist from the Pacific Northwest who somehow wandered into the cultural mainstream. So it seemed natural in 2005 when he made a movie about (a thinly fictionalized version of) Cobain, played by Michael Pitt. In her Times review , Manohla Dargis called the movie a “mesmerizing dream” and said “Mr. Van Sant’s refusal to root around in Cobain’s consciousness, to try to explain why and how he created, suffered and died, is a radical gesture, both in aesthetic and in moral terms.”

How The New York Times Covered Nirvana

In 1991, Karen Schoemer was supposed to interview Cobain; he didn’t show up, so she wrote about “Nevermind” instead . Novoselic provided a few quotes: “We just want to play,” he said, “and put out what we consider good records.” A few months later, Simon Reynolds dissected some of the album’s songs: “‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ could be this generation’s version of the Sex Pistols’ 1976 single, ‘Anarchy in the U.K.,’ if it weren’t for the bitter irony that pervades its title.”

In 1992, Schoemer mused on Nirvana’s set on “Saturday Night Live,” a performance that she said “showed an astounding lack of musicianship” while later acknowledging that the band had released “quite simply, one of the best alternative rock albums produced by an American band in recent years.”

Also in 1992, The Times was fooled by a former Sub Pop receptionist when a reporter called to talk about grunge culture. The resulting glossary of terms she provided — “harsh realm,” “lamestain” and “swingin’ on the flippity-flop” — did enter the pop-culture lexicon, but not the way The Times had planned . The receptionist, Megan Jasper, is now the label’s chief executive.

A year later, Jon Pareles interviewed Nirvana on the cusp of releasing “In Utero,” as Cobain complained about “Nevermind” sounding too “clean.” “Ugh,” he said. “I’ll never do that again. It already paid off, so why try to duplicate that? And just trying to sell that many records again, there’s no point in it.” Pareles also reviewed Nirvana at the Roseland Ballroom , the band’s first New York show in two years.

When Cobain died, Timothy Egan wrote our obituary and Pareles wrote an appraisal that discussed how “Nirvana was the band that brought punk-rock kicking and screaming into the mass market.”

Neil Strauss later wrote about the songs written about Cobain : “Perhaps the most touching song about Cobain was written by a 10-year-old friend of his, Simon Fair Timony. Titled ‘I Love You Anyway,’ it is performed with the former Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic joining Timony’s band, the Stinky Puffs.”

In 2004, Thurston Moore wrote a first-person piece about his relationship with Cobain and Nirvana’s rise.

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Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain

Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain

Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain

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He makes his wants known by yelling loudly at first, then crying if the first technique doesn't work.
—Excerpt from a report by his aunt on the eighteen-month-old Kurt Cobain.
Excerpted from heavier than heaven by CHARLES R. CROSS. Copyright © 2001 by Charles R. Cross. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Preface to the 2019 Edition xi

Author's Note xix

Prologue: Heavier Than Heaven 1

New York, New York January 12, 1992

Chapter 1 Yelling Loudly at First 5

Aberdeen, Washington February 1967-December 1973

Chapter 2 I Hate Mom, I Hate Dad 16

Aberdeen, Washington January 1974-June 1979

Chapter 3 Meatball of the Month 29

Montesano, Washington July 1979-March 1982

Chapter 4 Prairie Belt Sausage Boy 39

Aberdeen, Washington March 1982-March 1983

Chapter 5 The Will of Instinct 57

Aberdeen, Washington April 1984-Septembcr 1986

Chapter 6 Didn't hove Him Enough 76

Aberdeen, Washington September 1986-March 1987

Chapter 7 Soupy Sales in My Fly 84

Raymond, Washington March 1987

Chapter 8 In High School Again 91

Olympia, Washington April 1987-May 1988

Chapter 9 Too Many Humans 107

Olympia, Washington May 1988-Fcbruary 1989

Chapter 10 Illegal to Rock 'N' Roll 127

Olympic, Washington February 1989-September 1989

Chapter 11 Candy, Puppies, Love 144

London. England October 1989-May 1990

Chapter 12 Love You So Much 157

Olympia, Washington May 1990-December 1990

Chapter 13 The Richard Nixon Library 172

Olympia, Washington November 1990-May 1991

Chapter 14 Burn American Flags 185

Olympia, Washington May 1991-September 1991

Chapter 15 Every Time I Swallowed 199

Seattle, Washington September 1991-October 1991

Chapter 16 Brush Your Teeth 214

Seattle, Washington October 1991-January 1992

Chapter 17 Little Monster Inside 230

Los Angeles, California January 1992-August 1992

Chapter 18 Rose water, Diaper Smell 246

Los Angeles, California August 1992-September 1992

Chapter 19 That Legendary Divorce 262

Seattle, Washington September 1992-January 1993

Chapter 20 Heart-Shaped Coffin 277

Seattle, Washington January 1993-August 1993

Chapter 21 A Reason to Smile 292

Seattle, Washington August 1993-November 1993

Chapter 22 Cobain's Disease 308

Seattle, Washington November 1993-March 1994

Chapter 23 Like Hamlet 324

Seattle, Washington March 1994

Chapter 24 Angel's Hair 340

Los Angeles, California-Seattle, Washington March 30-April 6, 1994

Epilogue: A Leonard Cohen Afterworld 356

Seattle, Washington April 1994-May 1999

Afterword to the 2019 Edition 367

Source Notes 377

Acknowledgments 391

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