A selection of prints by Michel Linssen from the Redferns collection, depicting Kurt Cobain (Photo by Chris Furlong/Getty Images)

Kurt Cobain’s death was an era-defining moment. A “where where you?” story for an entire generation. I’d like to tell you mine.

 

I was a freshman at Wakefield High School when Nirvana dropped Nevermind in September of ’91. I remember an upperclassman playing some of it for me on his Walkman in the band room after school. The opening to “In Bloom.” A sonic punch in the face.

 

And a welcome punch in the face. That’s what you’re looking for when you’re 14 and strange.

 

That was the first Moment That Changed Everything. For me, yes. But for everyone who had a similar experience with that album that year. Or saw the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video on MTV. You see, my story is your story, too.

 

’91 was Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. ’92 was Alice In Chains and Stone Temple Pilots. ’93 was Smashing Pumpkins. If you were there, you know. There was nothing like it. And Kurt Cobain loomed large over it all.

 

And therein lied the problem. Kurt didn’t want too loom large. But he didn’t really have a say.

 

Kurt Cobain’s Death Smashed My 17-Year-Old World Wide Open

I don’t want to rehash the reasons why. I want to get right to the moment. Kurt Cobain’s body was found by an electrician tasked with installing a security system in the singer’s Seattle home on April 8, 1994. Cobain had shot himself three days earlier.

 

Kurt Cobain’s death was the next Moment That Changed Everything. For Nirvana, for music, for a generation.

 

April 8, 1994 was a Friday. I was now a junior at Wakefield High. The first detail I remember from that day is standing outside a schoolmate’s car that was parked outside the Field House. The windows were down, the car radio tuned to 101.7 WFNX.

 

Nirvana was playing. FNX DJ Julie Kramer was saying that Kurt Cobain was dead. She was taking phone calls from shocked, sobbing fans. She’d play a phone call, then play a Nirvana song. We stood and listened. We didn’t say a word.

 

I’m ashamed to admit, the first emotion I felt was excitement. Kurt Cobain’s death was the biggest cultural moment of my young life, and here I was, experiencing it in real time. I went home and spent the afternoon glued to MTV news.

 

Pretty soon, that excitement gave way to sorrow. No more Kurt, no more Nirvana. Sure, there were plenty of other bands I loved. But what would they do? Would they break up? This was a big deal. Again, it was the next Moment That Changed Everything.

Kurt Cobain's handwritten letter to David Geffen. Kurt Cobain's death came on April 5, 1994.

(Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

 

And everything did change. Some things for the better, some things for the worse. When a larger-than-life icon takes their own life, the rest of us question what that means. Not only to us, but in the grand scheme of things.

 

Kurt Cobain’s death probably impacted my 17-year-old self in the same way it did you if you’re of a certain age. It hit, it hit hard, then life moved on. But hard hits linger and have a way of staying with us, softly in the background.

 

I feel like that’s a good place to stop. But I also feel like the right thing to do is wrap up with a handful of moments from that time. The hard hits that linger and reverberate over the years. Whether you’re 17, 47, 67, or somewhere in between.

 

So let’s look back at that fateful moment. And some of the moments that led up to it. And then, if you want more, I recently ranked all the songs on In Utero.

  • Kurt Loder Reports On Kurt Cobain's Death

    It could only be Kurt Loder on MTV News. “…an extraordinarily gifted singer, songwriter, and guitarist was found dead in Seattle on Friday morning, apparently a suicide.”

  • "Where Did You Sleep Last Night"

    “Fuck you all, this is the last song of the evening.” Kurt Cobain setting up the closer for Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged set. He saved the best, most heartwrenching moment for last. Foreboding. And foreshadowing.

  • Kurt's Last Interview

    Kurt Cobain’s last interview was conducted on January 4, 1994. The interviewer? Nardwuar the Human Serviette, a Canadian journalist and radio personality.

  • Kurt's Last Gig

    Nirvana’s last concert ever? March 1, 1994. Terminal 1. Munich, Germany.

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