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ISSUE 117 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 4/9/2004

Controversy follows Cobain, 10 years later

By Byron Vierk
Staff Writer

Friday, April 9, 2004

Ten years ago Apr. 9, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was found dead in a room above the garage of his Lake Washington, Wash. home, the victim of an apparent suicide.

Ten years later, Cobain's death still resonates deeply with music fans. Nirvana was not just a rock group who reinvented what it meant to be a rock star; they were the spearhead of an entire pop culture phenomenon that, despite the notable contributions of other Seattle groups, would never have been as big without them. Cobain and Nirvana were the driving forces behind what came to be known as grunge rock, bringing about a renaissance of rock and the demise of pop-excessive glam metal.

Cobain is revered because of his amazing music contributions, yet his death remains the most famous aspect of his career. In death, Cobain secured his place in the pantheon of rock's tragic heroes, yet, to this day, there are those who contest that Cobain killed himself.

Unlike other popular conspiracy theories, the suspicions that Cobain met with foul play are based upon documented -- and shocking -- evidence. The circumstances leading up to, and those following Cobain's death have been the subjects of books, television specials and even films. Many believe that Cobain did not commit suicide, including Tom Grant -- the man whom Cobain's wife Courtney Love hired to find Kurt after his "escape" from rehab in late March of 1994 -- as the police report still indicates to this day.

An examination of the evidence and documentation in the case reveals startling inconsistencies and multiple lapses in police work that are both fascinating and appalling. The 20-gauge shotgun that Kurt supposedly used to kill himself was entirely free of fingerprints, leading some investigators to believe that the weapon had been scrubbed, or sterilized.

Kurt's suicide note was written in two different handwriting styles, which would indicate two different authors -- a fact confirmed by multiple handwriting experts -- and does not carry a suicidal tone until the last several lines, which appears not to have been written in Cobain's hand.

Perhaps most convincing, however, was the presence of excessive amounts of heroin in Cobain's bloodstream -- more than twice the lethal dose. Such an amount of heroin would not only cause a near-instantaneous overdose, even in the most frequent of users, but would cause unconsciousness almost immediately. The paradox of the case emerges: how could Cobain have pulled the trigger with such an amount of heroin in his system?

Prior to his death, Cobain was not happy with the music business. Those closest to him, with the exception of Courtney Love, insist that Cobain was not suicidal, but merely disenchanted with fame. When Cobain pulled Nirvana out of the headlining spot at Lollapalooza in `94, the message was clear: Cobain wanted out. Many, including Grant, suspect that Courtney Love herself had a direct hand in the murder of Cobain, due to the money she would stand to inherit.

In addition to music, Cobain also grew tired of Courtney. Married under a pre-nuptial agreement -- signed when Cobain was just another Seattle musician struggling to get by -- Cobain could divorce Courtney and keep all the money he had made with Nirvana. Should Cobain happen to die, however, Courtney would be his primary benefactor.

For many people, there is simply too much motive surrounding the Nirvana founder's death to accept that Cobain, the almost-savior of rock 'n' roll, could have killed himself at the height of his popularity and the zenith of his creativity. The fact is, Cobain never liked the fame that society showered upon him. He was from a broken home, constantly in and out of abusive relationships. While it may be easy to blame his death on Courtney Love, depression or Heroin, all one really needs to do is listen to his music to know -- and feel -- why Cobain could no longer bear to live.

While Nirvana's success only lasted three short years, Cobain and his band both defied and defined what it meant to be a rock star. And for that, we'll always remember him.

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