Kurt Cobain: 15 facts about the Nirvana legend

22 February 2020, 19:30 | Updated: 22 February 2020, 19:31

: Kurt Cobain from Nirvana performs live on stage at Paradiso in Amsterdam, Netherlands on November 25 1991
: Kurt Cobain from Nirvana performs live on stage at Paradiso in Amsterdam, Netherlands on November 25 1991. Picture: Frans Schellekens/Redferns/Getty Images

The late Nirvana frontman's birthday was on 20 February - let's mark the occasion with some stories from his eventful life.

  1. Kurt started singing at the age of two.

    By the age of four, he’d written a song about a trip to the park.

    Kurt Cobain as a young boy
    Kurt Cobain as a young boy. Picture: Shutterstock
  2. Kurt has a sister, Kimberly

    Kimberly is three years younger, born on 24 April 1970.

    Kurt Cobain with his sister Kimberley
    Kurt Cobain with his sister Kimberley. Picture: Shutterstock
  3. Kurt was arrested a couple of times as a teenager

    The first was for spraying graffiti on the wall of a bank in 1985, including the immortal phrase:”Ain'T goT no how waTchamacalliT”. The second was for walking across a roof “while intoxicated” in May 1986 - and here’s the mug shot. Bad Kurt.

    The mugshot of Kurt Cobain in Aberdeen, Washington from May 1986.
    The mugshot of Kurt Cobain in Aberdeen, Washington from May 1986. Picture: Bureau of Prisons/Getty Images
  4. Kurt worked for a period as a swimming instructor for pre-school kids

    Cobain’s journals also revealed that his CV consisted of very little: “maintenance, basic odd jobs, carpet cleaning”. Could this gig have inspired the cover of Nevermind?

    Nirvana artefacts and exhibits are seen at the opening of 'In Bloom: The Nirvana Exhibition', marking the 20th Anniversary of the release of Nirvana's Nevermind album, at the Loading Bay Gallery on September 13, 2011
    Nirvana artefacts and exhibits are seen at the opening of 'In Bloom: The Nirvana Exhibition', marking the 20th Anniversary of the release of Nirvana's Nevermind album, at the Loading Bay Gallery on September 13, 2011. Picture: Samir Hussein/Getty Images
  5. The first gig Kurt went to was a terrible hair metal band

    Although he later went around claiming that his first concert was the cult favourites The Melvins or punk legends Black Flag, several friends say Kurt’s first gig was actually poodle rocker Sammy Hagar and his band Quarterflash at the Seattle Center Coliseum in March 1983.

    Sammy Hagar at the UIC Pavilion, Chicago, Illinois, March 11,1983.
    Sammy Hagar at the UIC Pavilion, Chicago, Illinois, March 11,1983. Picture: Paul Natkin/Getty Images
  6. Kurt loved Close Encounters

    As a young teenager, Kurt loved the Steven Spielberg film Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and could recite the dialogue off by heart, even copying Richard Dreyfuss’s obsessive mashed potato sculpting from the film.

    Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, poster, 1977
    Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, poster, 1977. Picture: LMPC via Getty Images
  7. Nirvana originally had several awful band names…

    Some of the names that Kurt and his colleagues originally traded under included Pen Cap Chew, Ted Ed Fred, Skid Row (later picked up by a New Jersey rock band) and the charmingly-titled Fecal Matter. Thankfully, they settled on Nirvana. Who’d want FECAL MATTER across their t-shirt?

    Nirvana in Seattle, circa 1990: Chad Channing, Krist Novoselic, Kurt Cobain.
    Nirvana in Seattle, circa 1990: Chad Channing, Krist Novoselic, Kurt Cobain. Picture: Mark and Colleen Hayward/Getty Images
  8. Kurt liked the Sex Pistols more than The Clash

    According to his Journals, while the first punk album he bought was The Clash’s Sandinista, he preferred the music of John Lydon and co. He said that the Pistols were “one million times more important than The Clash”.

    Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, 1990
    Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, 1990. Picture: Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage/Getty Images
  9. Krist Novoselic didn’t go to Kurt and Courtney’s wedding

    The bassist and his wife Shelli Dilley weren’t part of the eight person guest list when Kurt and Courtney tied the knot in Hawaii on 24 March 1992 because Novoselic thought the Hole frontwoman was a bad influence on Cobain. Their daughter Frances Bean was born on 18 August that year.

    Krist Novoselic performing live onstage with Nirvana in November 1991
    Krist Novoselic performing live onstage with Nirvana in November 1991. Picture: Paul Bergen/Redferns/Getty Images
  10. Frances Bean has famous godparents

    The godfather of Kurt and Courtney's daughter is Michael Stipe of R.E.M., while her godmother is Drew Barrymore.

    Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and daughter Frances Bean Cobain at the MTV Video Music Awards, 1993
    Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and daughter Frances Bean Cobain at the MTV Video Music Awards, 1993. Picture: Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images
  11. The very first Nirvana single was a cover version

    The track Love Buzz (backed with Big Cheese) was released on the super-cool Sub Pop label in November 1988. The track is a cover of a 1969 song by the Dutch band Shocking Blue, who are better known for their hit Venus, later covered by Bananarama.

  12. Bob Dylan claimed that Polly was the best Nirvana song

    According to one Nirvana biography, the legendary singer-songwriter heard the band play Polly at a gig. The song details the abduction and rape of a young girl, told from the point of view of the attacker and is based on a true incident. After hearing the lyrics, Dylan announced: “That kid has heart”.

  13. Kurt performed a gig after OD-ing on heroin earlier that day

    According to Nirvana PR Anton Brookes, Cobain took a stronger-than-usual dose of heroin on the afternoon of 23 July 1993, before the band were due to play New York’s Roseland Ballroom as part of the New Music Seminar. Despite turning blue, the singer recovered and went on to play the show AND do a magazine photo shoot. "Believe it or not, Nirvana were very professional when they needed to be,” Brookes said.

    Kurt Cobain in 1993
    Kurt Cobain in 1993. Picture: Stephen Sweet/Shutterstock
  14. Kurt’s favourite book was Perfume by Patrick Süskind

    Subtitled “The Story Of A Murderer”, this 1985 historical novel tells the story of a perfumer’s apprentice who has no body odour, but kills women to steal their scent. It inspired Cobain to write the song Scentless Apprentice, which appears on In Utero.

    Nirvana in the studio, c. 1990
    Nirvana in the studio, c. 1990. Picture: Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images
  15. The fourth Nirvana album would have been more acoustic

    Kurt claimed in 1993 that the follow-up to In Utero was going to be “pretty ethereal, acoustic, like R.E.M.'s last album". He was referring to Automatic For The People and had struck up a friendship with Michael Stipe.

    MTV Live and Loud: Nirvana Performs Live - December 1993
    MTV Live and Loud: Nirvana Performs Live - December 1993. Picture: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images

    After Kurt's death. Stipe and his bandmates tried to heal the pain they felt over not being able to help the singer by recording the song Let Me In on their next album Monster.