Revisiting AP’s Kurt Cobain memorial cover story, 20 years later

April 4, 2014 by AltPress

Revisiting AP’s Kurt Cobain memorial cover story, 20 years later

Tabitha Soren of MTV News grabbed the exclusive later, as a distraught Love read passages of Cobain’s suicide note. Love had cut off a lock of her husband’s hair, recalling how he had never liked to wash it. The following evening at a candlelight vigil at the Seattle Center, a tape of Love reading more of Cobain’s suicide note for 5,000-plus fans gathered there. Organized by three local radio stations, the memorial service also featured tape-recorded messages from bandmate Krist Novoselic and an uncle of Cobain’s, a prayer from the Cobain family priest, and tributes from various local DJs. Afterwards, the crowd jumped into the International Fountain nearby.

AP's Kurt Cobain Memorial Story: Thousands of fans gather at the Seattle Center for Kurt's memorial

Love’s tape, of course, made the greatest impression. Her voice racked with emotion, and still obviously deep in shock, she informed the silent gathering, “I don’t really think it takes away from his dignity to read this, considering that it’s addressed to most of you.” At times her voice broke, and many of her words were barely intelligible. But her anger broke through as well, as she interjected her own comments in response to the content of the note. At one point she managed to have the crowd shout “asshole” to her late husband’s memory, saying, “He’s such an asshole. I want you all to say ‘asshole’ really loud.”

Meanwhile, at Seattle’s Unity Church, a private funeral was attended by around 200 of Cobain’s family and friends. Mirroring the larger public event, tributes were read, and once again, Love read from his suicide note. A tape of some of Cobain’s favorite songs were played, and those present said a final farewell. Cobain’s body was cremated.

Later, Love also briefly attended the vigil, sat with a group of fans, and reportedly passed around a picture of Cobain. People nearby said she was visibly upset, mumbling about how good a father Cobain was.

In her taped broadcast, she had sobbed, “I’m really sorry you guys. I don’t know what I could have done. I wish I’d been here. I wish I hadn’t listened to other people, but I did.”

As with all suicides, those left behind not only feel the pain of loss, but also the guilt of not preventing the suicide to begin with: “Why didn’t I realize? What could I have done differently?” Cobain made the decision to end his life, but the real tragedy was that it was so transparently clear he was set on this path, yet still no one was able to prevent it.

What transpired to make him leave rehab has yet to be revealed. But the “why” of his action is the easiest part to understand. His troubled childhood, drug problems and stormy relationship with Love are already well-documented. His hatred of publicity, his loathing of his life as a star and his unhappiness with the band are equally well known. What event triggered his suicide attempt in Rome remains an enigma, as does what finally drove him to follow through on what he had tried and failed to do there. At the vigil, as Love’s speech was being played before the crowd, a line from her husband’s final note read, “The worst crime I could think of would be to pull people off by faking it, pretending as if I’m having 100 percent fun,” to which she bitterly responded, “Well, Kurt the worst crime I can think of is for you to just continue being a rock star when you fucking hate it—just fucking stop.”

The goose that laid the golden egg was kept shut up in a room, away from prying eyes. It was the girl in Rumpelstiltskin who needed a twisted, ugly dwarf to inspire her to magic, and no matter how much inspiration Cobain’s later writing drew from Nirvana’s place in the media maelstrom, the songs for which he’ll be best remembered, the Nevermind album, were written before the world started prodding and poking in his life.

Then there are Cobain’s bandmates. What will Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl do next? Arguably, Nirvana’s success has already made them wealthy enough that they’ll never need work again. But needing to work and wanting to work are two different things. Will their own careers recover from such a literal mortal blow? Or are they doomed to forever haunt the footnotes of pop history, faithful retainers to the sacred St. Kurt, and hemmed with a tint of disgust. In India, grieving Hindu widows acknowledge their newfound uselessness by climbing aboard their late husband’s pyres. Will it be “proper” for Novoselic and Grohl to continue making music? Or should they, too, take their bows?

AltPress Kurt Cobain Memorial Story

Three-and-a-half months ago, Nirvana performed a phenomenal show at the LA Forum. Afterwards, many of those backstage commented that they “had never seen Kurt so happy in his life.” Backstage he was joking around, dissing Eddie Van Halen to his face. Everyone was having fun, but as one insider said, “I think he was a manic-depressive. When he got down, he obviously got way down.” After the tour he obviously went down fast.

And so Kurt Cobain is dead at 27. The rock star who never wanted to be a star is now a bigger star than ever. The very private person thrust brutally into the very public glare ultimately died away from the crowd. ALT

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