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Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain

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The art of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain was all about his private life, but written in a code as obscure as T.S. Eliot's. Now Charles Cross has cracked the code in the definitive biography Heavier Than Heaven, an all-access pass to Cobain's heart and mind. It reveals many secrets, thanks to 400-plus interviews, and even quotes Cobain's diaries and suicide notes and reveals an unr The art of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain was all about his private life, but written in a code as obscure as T.S. Eliot's. Now Charles Cross has cracked the code in the definitive biography Heavier Than Heaven, an all-access pass to Cobain's heart and mind. It reveals many secrets, thanks to 400-plus interviews, and even quotes Cobain's diaries and suicide notes and reveals an unreleased Nirvana masterpiece. At last we know how he created, how lies helped him die, how his family and love life entwined his art--plus, what the heck "Smells Like Teen Spirit" really means. (It was graffiti by Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna after a double date with Dave Grohl, Cobain, and the "over-bored and self-assured" Tobi Vail, who wore Teen Spirit perfume; Hanna wrote it to taunt the emotionally clingy Cobain for wearing Vail's scent after sex--a violation of the no-strings-attached dating ethos of the Olympia, Washington, "outcast teen" underground. Cobain's stomach-churning passion for Vail erupted in six or so hit tunes like "Aneurysm" and "Drain You.") Cross uncovers plenty of news, mostly grim and gripping. As a teen, Cobain said he had "suicide genes," and his clan was peculiarly defiant: one of his suicidal relatives stabbed his own belly in front of his family, then ripped apart the wound in the hospital. Cobain was contradictory: a sweet, popular teen athlete and sinister berserker, a kid who rescued injured pigeons and laughingly killed a cat, a talented yet astoundingly morbid visual artist. He grew up to be a millionaire who slept in cars (and stole one), a fiercely loyal man who ruthlessly screwed his oldest, best friends. In fact, his essence was contradictions barely contained. Cross, the coauthor of Nevermind: Nirvana, the definitive book about the making of the classic album, puts numerous Cobain-generated myths to rest. (Cobain never lived under a bridge--that Aberdeen bridge immortalized in the 12th song on Nevermind was a tidal slough, so nobody could sleep under it.) He gives the fullest account yet of what it was like to be, or love, Kurt Cobain. Heavier Than Heaven outshines the also indispensable Come As You Are. It's the deepest book about pop's darkest falling star. --Tim Appelo

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The art of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain was all about his private life, but written in a code as obscure as T.S. Eliot's. Now Charles Cross has cracked the code in the definitive biography Heavier Than Heaven, an all-access pass to Cobain's heart and mind. It reveals many secrets, thanks to 400-plus interviews, and even quotes Cobain's diaries and suicide notes and reveals an unr The art of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain was all about his private life, but written in a code as obscure as T.S. Eliot's. Now Charles Cross has cracked the code in the definitive biography Heavier Than Heaven, an all-access pass to Cobain's heart and mind. It reveals many secrets, thanks to 400-plus interviews, and even quotes Cobain's diaries and suicide notes and reveals an unreleased Nirvana masterpiece. At last we know how he created, how lies helped him die, how his family and love life entwined his art--plus, what the heck "Smells Like Teen Spirit" really means. (It was graffiti by Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna after a double date with Dave Grohl, Cobain, and the "over-bored and self-assured" Tobi Vail, who wore Teen Spirit perfume; Hanna wrote it to taunt the emotionally clingy Cobain for wearing Vail's scent after sex--a violation of the no-strings-attached dating ethos of the Olympia, Washington, "outcast teen" underground. Cobain's stomach-churning passion for Vail erupted in six or so hit tunes like "Aneurysm" and "Drain You.") Cross uncovers plenty of news, mostly grim and gripping. As a teen, Cobain said he had "suicide genes," and his clan was peculiarly defiant: one of his suicidal relatives stabbed his own belly in front of his family, then ripped apart the wound in the hospital. Cobain was contradictory: a sweet, popular teen athlete and sinister berserker, a kid who rescued injured pigeons and laughingly killed a cat, a talented yet astoundingly morbid visual artist. He grew up to be a millionaire who slept in cars (and stole one), a fiercely loyal man who ruthlessly screwed his oldest, best friends. In fact, his essence was contradictions barely contained. Cross, the coauthor of Nevermind: Nirvana, the definitive book about the making of the classic album, puts numerous Cobain-generated myths to rest. (Cobain never lived under a bridge--that Aberdeen bridge immortalized in the 12th song on Nevermind was a tidal slough, so nobody could sleep under it.) He gives the fullest account yet of what it was like to be, or love, Kurt Cobain. Heavier Than Heaven outshines the also indispensable Come As You Are. It's the deepest book about pop's darkest falling star. --Tim Appelo

30 review for Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    *This review is dark and full of gifs. I have a special relationship with Kurt Cobain. Yes it's as weird as it sounds. Kurt died in 1994, and in 1994 I was a child, far too young to know him. It wasn't until I was in my teens that I was introduced to Nirvana. The thing was that listening to Nirvana had changed me, and I really liked that change. Kurt Cobain's angst-ridden lyrics spoke to my rebellious teenage soul. Who exactly was Kurt Cobain? He was a talented musician. He was sensitive. He *This review is dark and full of gifs. I have a special relationship with Kurt Cobain. Yes it's as weird as it sounds. Kurt died in 1994, and in 1994 I was a child, far too young to know him. It wasn't until I was in my teens that I was introduced to Nirvana. The thing was that listening to Nirvana had changed me, and I really liked that change. Kurt Cobain's angst-ridden lyrics spoke to my rebellious teenage soul. Who exactly was Kurt Cobain? He was a talented musician. He was sensitive. He liked to complain about things. He spoke out for gay and women's rights. He loved his family. Let me just make something clear. Kurt and Eddie Vedder weren't enemies - and here's proof. So end this needless controversy. While not perfect, Cross' book is probably one of the best and most authentic music biographies. Heavier Than Heaven perfectly captures the musical and life journey of a troubled artist. There's no sugar-coating or avoiding Kurt's issues. He struggled with emotional, mental and physical pain. In the end, Kurt allowed his inner demons to defeat him. And there's nothing glamorous or gentle about that. Yes Kurt, you did die a long time ago. But you will never be forgotten.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Val Shameless ⚓️ Steamy Reads ⚓️

    DNF @ 27% First of all, ANA... I know Kurt is your spiritual animal homie and soul mate...so please don't slay me for abandoning and not loving this thing... But, quite frankly, this book is portraying Kurt as a bit of a whiny liar to me...and after my tragic experience with THIS Red Hot Chili Peppers book - and my subsequent inability to listen to anymore of their music after attempting to read it - I don't want to risk disliking Kurt and not being able to listen to my favorite Nirvana songs. I wo DNF @ 27% First of all, ANA... I know Kurt is your spiritual animal homie and soul mate...so please don't slay me for abandoning and not loving this thing... But, quite frankly, this book is portraying Kurt as a bit of a whiny liar to me...and after my tragic experience with THIS Red Hot Chili Peppers book - and my subsequent inability to listen to anymore of their music after attempting to read it - I don't want to risk disliking Kurt and not being able to listen to my favorite Nirvana songs. I would rather maintain my love for their music than risk it by finishing this book... Sorry!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lorrie

    I just noticed the average rating for this book was 4 stars. Yuck. The author does a decent job putting together Kurt Cobains' life and rise to fame. In the last chapters he takes "creative license" in describing Kurts' last moments, all the way to his suicide. It's disgusting. No one was there (that we know of). He has no right.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kye Alfred Hillig

    This booked disturbed me a bit. I know everyone wants to rape the corpse of Cobain but not me and admitting this is embarrassing but hey, we're all friends here. Reading it I saw a lot of myself in Kurt Cobain and it worried me. Am I going to blow my brains out? I certainly hope not. Maybe I related to him in the way that a lot of people did. Maybe he's just a common guy who was thrown into something bigger than him. At any rate Charles Cross really did his research and created a book that I ate This booked disturbed me a bit. I know everyone wants to rape the corpse of Cobain but not me and admitting this is embarrassing but hey, we're all friends here. Reading it I saw a lot of myself in Kurt Cobain and it worried me. Am I going to blow my brains out? I certainly hope not. Maybe I related to him in the way that a lot of people did. Maybe he's just a common guy who was thrown into something bigger than him. At any rate Charles Cross really did his research and created a book that I ate like chocolate cake. Sad.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    I saw Nirvana in concert 4 months before Cobain took his life. After hundreds of live shows it still stands as one of my all time favorites. In fact it was the first concert I ever crowd-surfed at. I was able to get up close and personal with the band and, in doing so, saw that Kurt rarely looked up at the crowd. His eyes were glued to the floor most of the night. This book helped me to understand why. Given his recurrent heroin addiction, the debilitating stomach pain he'd fought for years, the I saw Nirvana in concert 4 months before Cobain took his life. After hundreds of live shows it still stands as one of my all time favorites. In fact it was the first concert I ever crowd-surfed at. I was able to get up close and personal with the band and, in doing so, saw that Kurt rarely looked up at the crowd. His eyes were glued to the floor most of the night. This book helped me to understand why. Given his recurrent heroin addiction, the debilitating stomach pain he'd fought for years, the constant fighting with Courtney, and his unhappiness with fame I can imagine that Kurt felt a pretty heavy burden on his shoulders during those years. That being said I feel like Kurt's style of thinking only contributed to his misery. This book isn't just a treatise on the life of Cobain. It is a psychological profile of Kurt Cobain; lifting the hood over the engine and taking a look at all the rusty gears and the worn out spark plugs. Cross does an amazing job of truly understanding the way Cobain thought. As much as I idolized Kurt for most of my teenage and college years I now see that Cobain's style of thinking was as someone who saw himself as an innocent victim and he tended to be a bit paranoid. While many American kids experience the divorce of their parents most are able to put it in context at some point in their lives. Cobain never got over his parents divorce and saw his father's subsequent marriage as a betrayal; that dad was kicking Kurt out of his life. I'm sure that losing this relationship was sad but most of us would be able to develop enough understanding to move past it. For Kurt this sadness simply shifted in to anger and pushing his father away. This was the start of a "victim mentality" that never seemed to go away. I see Kurt's victimhood as his biggest failing and something that set the stage for later victimhood. Ultimately, I developed a love/hate relationship with this book. While it was impeccably researched and extremely intriguing I felt really sad by the time I finished it. I developed a lot of empathy for Kurt throughout the reading and was devastated by the end of the book to think of all of that amazing talent wasted through suicide. Very sad indeed.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    this book is almost equal parts fiction and Courtney Love approved versions of "actual events." it gives some information, but it should be taken with a grain of salt. there are TONS of proven historical errors. i don't blame the author for the misinformation, however, as he had to have everything cleared by Courtney Love. he did lose his credibility, though. i can't believe they used him on "busted circuits and ringing ears: the TAD story" dvd that came out a year ago. if you are a Nirvana fan, this book is almost equal parts fiction and Courtney Love approved versions of "actual events." it gives some information, but it should be taken with a grain of salt. there are TONS of proven historical errors. i don't blame the author for the misinformation, however, as he had to have everything cleared by Courtney Love. he did lose his credibility, though. i can't believe they used him on "busted circuits and ringing ears: the TAD story" dvd that came out a year ago. if you are a Nirvana fan, you should probably read this to get what little insight you can. but, if you have any doubts as to HOW Kurt died, you will notice how many errors there are in the telling of this story. Cross takes a LOT of liberties in describing Kurt's final moments. as a guy who doesn't quite buy the "Kurt killed himself by shooting himself in the head after he took a LEATHAL dose of heroin and THEN somehow managed to put all of his paraphernalia away in it's box, THEN take the shotgun, (that had NO fingerprints on it) put it in his mouth and pull the trigger," story, i can't help but feel like this book makes me feel like i'm being lied to.

  7. 5 out of 5

    tinabot

    I published this on a music blog group called Future Rockstars of American (which is now dead I think): I finished reading the biography of Kurt Cobain, Heavier Than Heaven written by Charles Cross, just in time for what would have been his 41st birthday. My conclusion?Kurdt (that’s how he liked to spell it) was a jerk! Cortney Love had the crowd call him worse things when she read his suicide note to them. I was not an active and avid fan of Nirvana when their singer Kurt Cobain killed glam rock I published this on a music blog group called Future Rockstars of American (which is now dead I think): I finished reading the biography of Kurt Cobain, Heavier Than Heaven written by Charles Cross, just in time for what would have been his 41st birthday. My conclusion?Kurdt (that’s how he liked to spell it) was a jerk! Cortney Love had the crowd call him worse things when she read his suicide note to them. I was not an active and avid fan of Nirvana when their singer Kurt Cobain killed glam rock with his nonsensical screams and pop structured punk grunge tunes. I liked their music though, and I remember wondering, “Why is he singing about girl’s deoderant?” As I listen to the Nirvana albums today, I realize that I know practically every song. I guess you can’t be a teen in the early nineties and escape the impact Nirvana had on that generation. I try to imagine what I would have done if the idol of my own teen years, Tori Amos, had committed suicide while I was in the midst of using her music and voice as a resonator for my young soul. I would probably have sobbed in grief silently under my bed covers with her album on repeat, or maybe I would have smashed her cds on the street in effigy at the betrayal. Whatever the physical actions, I know for sure that the piercing and torturous scream in my head would have been: “WHY?! WHY?! WHY?! WHY?! WHY?!….” That’s exactly what Courtney Love screamed as she waded her hands in the blood of her beloved dead husband and saved a piece of his shotgun shattered skull. His suicide was simply a pattern that he had repeated his whole life since his mother left his father when he was 7 years old. Before that event, he was a little boy that didn’t want to sleep because he didn’t want to leave his family. After that, he was a self-destructing, relationship sabotaging jerk. To be fair, Kurdt wasn’t all bad. He was an animal lover who took in strays and loved having a bathtub full of turtles in the middle of his dwelling. His home always smelled like the bottom of a litter tray. He was incredibly respectful of women, more feminist than the feminist punker girl love interest that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was written about. His song “Polly” is as poignant a song about rape as Tori Amos’s “Me and A Gun (and a man on my back).” He really, really loved his parents and sister, which is why he reacted so strongly to the breaking of his idyllic home life. He cared deeply for his grandparents and other relatives. He really, deeply, truly loved his wife and daughter. Why else would he name his albums In Utero the year after his marriage and daughter’s birth? Though a drug addict, he called Courtney and cried when drug addicts worshipped him at a concert. He couldn’t stand being an icon for drug use. Kurdt was charismatic, drawing people into his life with his sincere kindness and empathy as well as the siren song of his art. But he was a control freak. He would create something real and genuine then quickly destroy it himself before someone else could. It was his way of protecting himself from loss. He broke everything precious to him the way he smashed his guitars. He had attempted suicide multiple times. As I read the biography, I had thought that I would become so invested in its main character that I would be very sad for him when he died. Unexpectedly, there were three other moments instead that were intensely painful to vicariously witness. First was a short conversation he had with his estranged father where they actually exchanged an awkward and heartfelt “I love you.” Then there was the moment when he held his daughter for the last time and whispered into her ear before he went off to kill himself. Finally, there was Cortney’s reaction to his death. She had covered herself in layers of his clothes that still had the lingering scent of his body. Like all deaths, it’s the ones left behind that suffer. Cross did a great job allowing readers a glimpse into Cobain’s life and mind. I’m a bigger fan of Nirvana after reading the book. As I read his descrīption of Kurdt in the actual act of suicide, the image of him abandoning family, friends, and millions of adoring fans who had linked their hearts and souls with his caused me to whisper under my breath: “How could you?” Granted it wasn’t like all of his family, friends, and fans were perfect people, but it is heartbreaking to see so many hearts break.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Desy

    Baru selesai baca kemarin malam. Akhirnya selesai juga baca kisah si motornya Nirvana ini :D. Meski yang gua baca itu versi terjemahan bahasa Indonesianya, kayaknya gua pengen beli juga yang versi aslinya. Bytheway. Buku ini cukup rinci nyeritain kisah hidup Kurt Cobain. Tentu beserta Nirvana n keluarganya. Pokoknya semua yang dirasa pernah ada hubungan dengan Kurt, dituangkan secara kronologis di buku ini. Si penulisnya melakukan 400 wawancara selama empat taun dengan orang-orang yang pernah ber Baru selesai baca kemarin malam. Akhirnya selesai juga baca kisah si motornya Nirvana ini :D. Meski yang gua baca itu versi terjemahan bahasa Indonesianya, kayaknya gua pengen beli juga yang versi aslinya. Bytheway. Buku ini cukup rinci nyeritain kisah hidup Kurt Cobain. Tentu beserta Nirvana n keluarganya. Pokoknya semua yang dirasa pernah ada hubungan dengan Kurt, dituangkan secara kronologis di buku ini. Si penulisnya melakukan 400 wawancara selama empat taun dengan orang-orang yang pernah bersinggungan jalan dengan jalan hidup Kurt, sebelum buku ini akhirnya jadi. Jadi ya setidaknya buku ini bisa lah dijadiin gambaran awal mengenai kisah kehidupan Kurt. Gua sendiri selagi dan setelah baca buku ini jadi ngerasa kasian sama Kurt. Ternyata ada orang yang begitu merasa kesepian. Padahal dia rockstar tenar. Banyak anak muda yang menjadikannya pahlawan. Banyak fans-nya yang begitu 'look-up to him'. Tapi kok ya itu semua ga ngebantu dia keluar dari masalahnya: drugs. Padahal ga sedikit yang mencintai dia, meski dengan cara mereka masing-masing -yang bisa dibilang rada aneh juga. Buat yang ngaku fans berat Kurt Cobain (dan otomatis Nirvana juga -lu ga bisa nyebut Kurt Cobain tanpa Nirvana, dan sebaliknya), buku ini harus dibaca! Ambil sisi postifnya, buang jauh-jauh sisi negatifnya -yang banyak itu. Jadiin buku ini sebagai satu pelajaran: jangan pernah, JANGAN PERNAH sekali pun -bahkan untuk coba-coba- make narkoba! GA ADA gunanya sama sekali. Satu lagi: jangan bunuh diri. Dosa :D. Apapun masalah yang lu hadapi, seberat apapun masalah yang lu pikul, masih ada Tuhan yang bakal nolong kita kalo kita bener-bener berusaha dan berdoa. Tuhan kita baik, kok :-) percaya, deh. Tambahan: Ternyata, kematian Kurt masih dipertanyakan: bunuh diri atau dibunuh? :-)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Montgomery

    Kurt Cobain was a constant whiner and self-mythogist who constantly complained that fame was thrust upon him. Cross spends the first half of the biography debunking the Cobain myths and demonstrating how heavily Kurt courted mainstream success. The second half of the book documents Cobain's downward spiral- it's really amazing that he had to kill himself with a shotgun when he got so close so many times with his "heroine." Fucked up, sad read about a man I idolized when I wasn't yet old enough t Kurt Cobain was a constant whiner and self-mythogist who constantly complained that fame was thrust upon him. Cross spends the first half of the biography debunking the Cobain myths and demonstrating how heavily Kurt courted mainstream success. The second half of the book documents Cobain's downward spiral- it's really amazing that he had to kill himself with a shotgun when he got so close so many times with his "heroine." Fucked up, sad read about a man I idolized when I wasn't yet old enough to know better.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Elaine Mullane

    Charles R. Cross's Heavier Than Heaven isn't just one of my favourite biographies; it's one of my favourite books. A few years ago, when I had my own music blog, I had the incredible opportunity to interview Cross. I thought I would include that piece here as a tribute to this wonderful book about one of music's most iconic and dearly missed figures. Seattle is a place I have been obsessed with from an early age. Cameron Crowe’s 1992 film Singles (and its incredible soundtrack) is partly to blame Charles R. Cross's Heavier Than Heaven isn't just one of my favourite biographies; it's one of my favourite books. A few years ago, when I had my own music blog, I had the incredible opportunity to interview Cross. I thought I would include that piece here as a tribute to this wonderful book about one of music's most iconic and dearly missed figures. Seattle is a place I have been obsessed with from an early age. Cameron Crowe’s 1992 film Singles (and its incredible soundtrack) is partly to blame for this. The Washington city is famous for many things: its coffee, its rainy weather, the Space Needle, the Experience Music Project, and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. Seattle is also noted for its famous people- the city is the motherland of the famous computer wizard and Chairman of Microsoft Corporation, Bill Gates, the birthplace of rock legend Jimi Hendrix and the last place the late Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain, called home. I finally got to visit Seattle in the summer of 2007. I was visiting my college friends in Vancouver and we planned a weekend roadtrip to take in “Rain City”. One of our first stops when we arrived was the Experience Music Project (EMP), a museum in Seattle dedicated to the history and exploration of popular music. EMP is especially famous for its permanent exhibition, the Northwest Passage, which is dedicated to the history of music in the Pacific Northwest, including bands from the grunge music genre, and the life and work of Jimi Hendrix. EMP has also held various exhibitions on other popular music acts, including Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Kurt Cobain. The museum is also famous for its Guitar Gallery, dedicated to the history of the guitar, and its massive sculpture entitled Roots and Branches, made largely out of musical instruments, especially guitars. It was such a great experience to get to see EMP and learn all about the history of Seattle music. The part of me and my friends’ trip that excited me the most, however, was getting to see the house that stands at 171 Lake Washington Boulevard E., the house where, on 5th April 1994, Kurt Cobain would take his own life. There is a kind of morbid curiosity in seeking out Cobain's former house in the Denny-Blaine district of Seattle. It’s not just about being in the place where Cobain lived but also being in the place where he died. My friends and I knew only the address, driving up and down Lake Washington Blvd. E. for over twenty minutes before we found it. The large house sits on a blind corner on a winding road, lying just up the hill from the Western shore of Lake Washington. It is situated almost directly across the lake from the $100 million house later built by the aforementioned Bill Gates. Standing outside the front gate of the mansion, it was hard not to marvel at how far Cobain had come before his death, from his humble beginnings in the small logging town of Aberdeen in Washington. When I visited Seattle, the infamous greenhouse where Cobain had died was long gone. It was demolished in 1996, a year before Cobain’s wife, Hole frontwoman Courtney Love, sold the house. She was quoted as saying that the constant stream of distraught fans was too much for her to handle and that the building had become "bigger than the Space Needle." On the day that I stood outside Cobain’s former home, things were much quieter. Love sold the house to new owners in 1997 when she and Cobain’s daughter, Frances Bean, moved to Beverly Hills in California. The new owners have done all they can to enforce what little privacy they have in the former home of someone so famous. They have fenced and landscaped the property, as well as adding a security gate with an electronic call box, which is much more common in the Hollywood Hills than in Seattle's Denny-Blaine. Security cameras are mounted at various points on the exterior of the house, which makes it quite impossible to get anything other than a limited view of the house. Believe me- I tried. Even climbing a tree in the neighbouring Viletta Park (or “Kurt’s Park” as it’s more commonly called) didn’t help a huge amount. Though he was gone thirteen years when I visited his former home, Cobain’s legacy is still very much there. Viletta Park’s two benches are covered with the graffiti from fans who have visited the site in the years since Cobain’s death. The comments are an incredible read; some are words of love and respect, some words of anger from young people who feel huge loss and loneliness as a result of Cobain’s death. Some fans have left Nirvana lyrics, poetry and even verbal abuse regarding Cobain’s wife. There were also remnants of colourful wax from someone having burned candles at the time I visited. It was in this park that Love talked to the throngs of fans that gathered immediately after Cobain’s death. It felt both strange and surreal to be at Cobain’s former home, to sit in Viletta Park and be just inches from the gate through which his body was carried out just thirteen years previous. My trip to Seattle wouldn’t have been the same without that experience, without seeing the last place that Cobain called home. Seattle is the birthplace of the music style known as “grunge”, which was made famous by Nirvana, as well as local bands such as Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam, hence the term “Seattle Sound”. Since the grunge era, Seattle is a vibrant hub of American music, hosting a diverse and influential music scene which many influential bands, labels and music venues call home. The record label Sub Pop- the first to sign Nirvana and Soundgarden- is also based in Seattle. One person who is particularly familiar with the city’s rich music history is music journalist and author Charles R. Cross. Charles R. Cross was born in Virginia, where he spent much of his childhood. When his father became a professor of psychology, the family travelled to a variety of university towns, including Richmond, New York, Connecticut and lastly Washington, where Cross attended high school. He later graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle with a degree in Creative Writing. While in university, he served as Editor of the Daily in 1979, and caused a whole lot of ruckus when he left the front page of the newspaper blank. The only type was a small line that read “The White Issue,” in deference to the Beatles’ White album. After college, Cross served as Editor of The Rocket, the Northwest’s music and entertainment magazine, from 1986 through 2000. The Rocket was hailed as “the best regional music magazine in the nation” by the L.A. Reader. Cross wrote stories on such seminal Northwest bands as the Sonics, the Wailers, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, the Screaming Trees, and hundreds, if not thousands, of lesser known bands. In addition to The Rocket, Cross’s writing has appeared in hundreds of magazines including Rolling Stone, Esquire, Playboy, Spin, Guitar World, Q, Mojo, Salon, Spy, Uncut, NME, Request, No Depression, Revolver, Ray Gun, Creem, and Trouser Press. He has written for many newspapers and alternative weeklies including the London Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Oregonian, the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and Seattle Weekly. He has lectured and read at universities and colleges around the world, and has frequently been interviewed for film, radio, and television documentaries including VH1’s “Behind the Music.” Cross is the author of seven books, including the New York Times bestseller Heavier Than Heaven, 2005’s Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix, the revealing Cobain Unseen and his most recent release, Led Zeppelin: Shadows Taller Than Our Souls. Cross is also Associate Editor of Backstreets Magazine, an internationally circulated quarterly that focuses on Bruce Springsteen and related Jersey Shore artists, which he also founded in 1980. Cross’s interest in music stemmed from a very early age, taking in a range of music genres or, as he himself says, “everything that was around at the time”. Asked what he listened to in particular, he named Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Carole King, James Taylor, the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen as the acts that had the most influence on him growing up. Being a huge fan of rock, Seattle was immediately a place Cross felt comfortable. In one of his many articles that he wrote for the Seattle Times, Cross wrote "Seattle has always had more of an appetite for hard rock than other cities". When I questioned him on this he stated that this was because “it's a blue-collar town with shipyards and Boeing plants- that kinda blue-collar fan has always liked to rock”. In particular, writing about Northwestern bands has always been hugely important to Cross. Since he first began writing, he has been compelled to write about the bands that he truly loves. When I asked him who were his favourite bands to write about or interview, he answered: “Well, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, definitely, but I also loved the Walkabouts, the Screaming Trees, and other underrated bands”. Another thing that Cross has always been interested in is biography, especially writing about the lives of people in music. His biographies on Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain provide true insight into the lives of both men, particularly the latter, which has been described as one of the most revealing and intimate accounts of one of music’s most influential figures. When I asked him what first drew him to this particular genre he replied: “I have always loved biography and reading things like the Charles Lindbergh biography by A. Scott Berg and Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller definitely influenced me. And of course Peter Guralnick's Elvis books...” When I spoke to Cross, he was fresh from reviewing the Soundgarden reunion gig at the Showbox at the Market in Seattle for Rolling Stone magazine. When I asked Cross about the show, Soundgarden’s first since their break up in 1997, he said it was “exciting”. “There was a sense of spontaneity”, he added, “that suggested anything could happen”. Cross also commented that although it was a “great show”, it also made him feel “sad” that we will “never see a Nirvana reunion show”. In the city that Cross calls home, it is impossible not to be reminded of the fact that Nirvana, one of the greatest and most influential bands the world has ever seen, are no more. As he stated in the opening chapter of Heavier Than Heaven, Cross lives less than a mile from Stan Baker Shooting Sports on Lake City Way, the store where the Nirvana singer and guitarist purchased the shotgun that was responsible for his death. I asked Cross if that was unsettling, to which he replied: “It can be creepy. I guess it can be both haunting and inspiring depending on the weather”. Regardless of the weather, Seattle is rife with reminders of Cobain and Nirvana, from the aforementioned Stan Baker’s and independent record label Sub Pop to the many music venues scattered around the city where the band played whilst trying to make it big. Cross and Nirvana's path first intersected in 1989, when The Rocket, which Cross was editor of at the time, did the first cover story on Nirvana. Witnessing first-hand their transition from underground band to being one of, if not the, most famous bands of all time is something that very few people can boast about. When I asked him what his first impressions of the Nirvana were, Cross answered: “I liked them because of their pop side. I, like everyone else in Seattle, thought Mudhoney would be the bigger band at the start. I think one thing that’s important for people to remember is that early on the band were pretty darn ragged. They toured America five times before they became famous. I certainly had followed the band very closely and saw them live a number of times. I loved the early band stuff, was a big fan of the material from the beginning”. I also asked Cross about his first encounter with Cobain: “I was editor of The Rocket, which at the time was the music magazine in Seattle. Kurt had actually used our magazine on at least three different occasions advertising for a drummer. Every time Nirvana would lose a drummer, he’d come in the office and place an ad- ‘Band seeks drummer’. So, I knew him casually from the scene”. It was clear Cross had much interaction with the Nirvana frontman during his rise to fame but I was eager to find out what kind of relationship he had with Cobain. “Even as his biographer and someone who knew Kurt, I wasn’t his best friend. And I was editor of a music magazine. We were always gonna have the kind of relationship where he was gonna be sort of suspicious. He clearly respected what I did. I had the benefit of a biographer of going through Kurt’s personal effects and things. He kept copies of my magazines and articles that I had done among his stuff. That, I guess, is the ultimate compliment that a music star could pay a journalist. So, I was respected in the world he was in”. Cobain’s death in 1994 affected people all over the world and will continue to be remembered as one of the most devastating days in music history. Naturally, I asked Cross where he was at the moment he heard that Kurt Cobain's body had been found. “I was in my office at the Rocket. I knew before it went public; I was one of the first people to find out. I had contributed to a radio show here in Seattle and when the electrician who was working at Kurt's house found his body, that electrician's company called the radio station. I think the infamous words were, ‘You're gonna owe me some great Pink Floyd tickets for this news.’ That radio station called me before they went on air to see if they could confirm it because they knew I was sort of closer to that scene than they were. So, I remember hearing the news to this day. My reaction was, ‘No. It can't be Kurt.’ But at the same time, it's part of the denial. I knew it was him. Everyone in the Seattle scene knew he had struggles. I kept hoping that the body that was discovered would not be Kurt, that it would be mistaken and instead would be one of his drug-buddy friends. And of course, that wasn't the case. It was heart-breaking to get the news, just like it was for everybody who was a Nirvana fan”. While researching and writing his books on Cobain, Cross was given access to the Cobain estate, allowing him the opportunity to sift through intimate pictures and personal items, many of which he included in Cobain Unseen. I asked Cross about this experience. “Courtney controls the Kurt Cobain estate, which basically by an estate, is a bunch of stuff in a storage locker. But she trusted me. When I wrote my 2001 biography of Kurt, which pre-dated Cobain Unseen, she gave me access to his material. Cobain Unseen somewhat grew out of discussions around that book where I kept saying, ‘the stuff in Kurt’s locker is amazing stuff. You ought to let the world see it...he was an amazing artist.’ At one point she came to me and said, ‘OK. You can do the book.’ So, I was given access to the archives, with no parameters put on the use of Kurt’s stuff”. I also questioned Cross on whether it ever felt like he was delving too deep with his work, if he ever felt uncomfortable going though Cobain’s things, to which he replied: “There were things I left out. With every book, what you leave out is just as important as what you put in”. In his journals, which were first printed in 2002, Cobain’s struggles were clear for anyone to see, or to read about rather. He battled with a chronic, undiagnosed stomach problem, he struggled with addiction and he was tormented by the demons of his past, particularly his parents’ divorce. He also battled constantly with the pressures of fame, the idea of being completely exposed and feeling like he was losing most of his privacy by moving further and further into the limelight. I was particularly interested in two contradictory statements Cobain wrote in his journals: "Don't read my diary when I'm gone" and "Please read my diary...Look through my things, and figure me out". I asked Cross which of these statements did he think was the most truthful and did he ever battle with the question of whether or not Cobain would have wanted his thoughts, words and drawings to be made available to the world. “I did, yes, but Kurt left his diaries out open on his coffee table so that said something to me. One of the more difficult things as a biographer was looking through Kurt’s journals and seeing how often he would write about his addiction and essentially beg God to please help him with it. He did not want to continue to suffer and basically wrote in his journals, ‘God, I will do anything. Please, please, please help me.’ Unfortunately, that help did not come”. As well as writing about Cobain, Cross has written extensively on Jimi Hendrix. His book Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix provides an in-depth account of the life of the rock legend, capturing him perfectly. During his research for this book, which included interviewing over 325 people, Cross rediscovered the place where Hendrix’s mother, Lucille Jeter Hendrix, was buried which, oddly enough, lies only 40ft from where Hendrix himself now lies in Greenwood Memorial Park in Renton, Washington. The gravesite of Lucille Hendrix was lost because the standard welfare marker of her day, an inscribed brick, became buried in decades of mud from the area's notorious heavy rains. Cross delivered a moving eulogy for Lucille when a proper headstone was dedicated at the site. I asked Cross how it felt to uncover something so significant: “Eerie... My son was with me and he still talks about it and he was just a toddler at the time”. Cobain and Hendrix had many things in common- they both were left-handed guitar players, both died at 27, had four-year musical careers and had battled drug addiction. They also both lived in Seattle, a city with one of the most notable music scenes in the world. I asked Cross if he felt enough had been done to honour both men in Seattle. “The answer is no. The city should honour them more. In the UK, they’ve got their blue plaques; we should have something like that here”. The last thing I asked Cross was how he thought Kurt Cobain should be remembered, to which he replied: “Well, I think first and most importantly, he will be remembered for those songs. I think that's the reason we're talking about him still today. The quality of that songwriting I think will last and has lasted. That is ultimately the way I think he will be remembered. I think he will be remembered for creating this incredible body of work. The circumstances of his death and all those other things matter far less now sixteen years later. It's truly those songs and that music that is his legacy. Kurt was very unique and that’s the thing I think we miss now so long after his death. The great sadness is that we can’t hear that voice again. That’s the thing I miss. It’s sad for anyone who’s a fan of the music. Kurt was the biggest rock star in the world the year before he died. Sixteen years later, I’m not sure there is another rock star who is as enigmatic and compelling. He remains one of rock’s legendary figures. There has not been one single figure that I think ranks with Cobain since his death. That’s not to say there aren’t people putting out great records and there aren’t people that I love their music, but there’s nobody that combines that personal charisma, the musical quality and most importantly the songwriting genius that Kurt Cobain had. That’s the reason I think his legacy has endured”. Charles R. Cross still lives in Seattle. He continues to write for numerous publications, both Seattle-based and beyond.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Célia

    Those who know me best are aware that, besides books, music is my other big passion. There is not a single day that I don't feel the need to get carried away by songs that make me remember places, situations, persons and emotions. I don't constantly try to hear new bands or artists, because I'd rather stick with the ones I already love. Nirvana is one of those bands. Most of you probably have heard of Nirvana, the most memorable band of the 90's, also because the tragedy that ended up the band, b Those who know me best are aware that, besides books, music is my other big passion. There is not a single day that I don't feel the need to get carried away by songs that make me remember places, situations, persons and emotions. I don't constantly try to hear new bands or artists, because I'd rather stick with the ones I already love. Nirvana is one of those bands. Most of you probably have heard of Nirvana, the most memorable band of the 90's, also because the tragedy that ended up the band, but what really stands out for me is the ethereal and timeless music. Heavier Than Heaven tells the story of the man who created Nirvana, from his childhood until the tragedy surrounding his death. This book also accounts for the story of Nirvana. Although I'm not catholic, reading this book was a little like reading Jesus Christ story: even though I know the end, it's impossible to avoid the desire that it had been otherwise. While I was reading about Kurt Cobain's life, I realised the devastating impact that a divorce during the childhood can have in a particularly sensitive and different child. Sometimes, there are profoundly defining events in our lifes and, if we don't have the mental structure that allow us to carry on, the consequences can be catastrophic. I've read the story of a man who grey in the middle of contradictions inside himself, like spending his whole life wanting to be loved and then succumb when he had the entire world at his feet. I followed the story of a genius (he was one, like it or not) that without his peculiar character and the traumatic events that he had to go trough, wouldn't have left us what he did. It's also an account (sometimes shocking) of what drug addiction can make to a person. I can't avoid feeling sad reading this tragic tale, but sometimes we have to stand face to face with others' struggles so we can learn to put things in perspective and learn. Here's what I learned: life is our most valuable gift. Since this biography was writen based in interviews (Dave Grohl and Kurt's mother notably stayed out), there is a lot of subjectivy here. Sometimes, I think the author took too much liberties in his assumptions. I don't recommend this book lightly, but I think it's a must read for any Nirvana fan and for anyone who cares about the imperfect human being.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kirk

    Interesting fact No. 1: KC's first concert was not the Melvins or some such punk band, but Sammy Hagar, who has shown surprisingly restraint in not naming a brand of tequila after the now-Converse branded icon. That's just one reason why this book about The Voice of Your Generation is valuable: it's proof that no one is born punk or even cool, but that it's an attitude one accrues by hanging around the right crowd. That's why the real heroines here aren't named Courtney but first girlfriend Trac Interesting fact No. 1: KC's first concert was not the Melvins or some such punk band, but Sammy Hagar, who has shown surprisingly restraint in not naming a brand of tequila after the now-Converse branded icon. That's just one reason why this book about The Voice of Your Generation is valuable: it's proof that no one is born punk or even cool, but that it's an attitude one accrues by hanging around the right crowd. That's why the real heroines here aren't named Courtney but first girlfriend Tracy Marander and Bikini Kill drummer Tobi Vail, from whom KC learned most of his sexual politics. I agree with the GoodReader who said this bio's strongest in the early years where a lot of the mythology is parsed. Toward the end it just gets sad---i.e. the home movie of Kurt and Courtney bathing the baby with a syringe in the background hanging on the toothbrush rack. I sense a big revisionary wave coming on about Nirvana. Twenty years later the music still socks a punch but there seems a need out there to make it seem far less meaningful than it did from 91-94. That's too bad, because it really was, musically, an exciting time... probably the only time my generation felt like a community (even if everybody was denying there was such a thing as a generational identity). In the end, it would have been much more compelling to watch KC mature (that dreaded word) and become a survivor that to have to bear all the black velvet tributes. I guess that's why, as often as I've thumbed through the initial third of this bio, I've never been motivated to reread it to the end. The story didn't need to end this way, and only the show-bizzers get any pleasure out of it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I enjoyed this book until I got to the last chapter. Like a couple of other reviews state, the author makes it feel like Kurt is a character in a fictional story. I am absolutely fascinated by his life. The book is packed with details that left me astounded. While reading, I kept a browser open on my computer because there was always something I wanted to look into or a video to search. The author did a brilliant job of describing specific scenes and pictures, I really wish more of the pictures I enjoyed this book until I got to the last chapter. Like a couple of other reviews state, the author makes it feel like Kurt is a character in a fictional story. I am absolutely fascinated by his life. The book is packed with details that left me astounded. While reading, I kept a browser open on my computer because there was always something I wanted to look into or a video to search. The author did a brilliant job of describing specific scenes and pictures, I really wish more of the pictures he described would have been included in this book. The final chapter, however, surrounding the events around his death had me pretty upset. The author describes in great detail what Kurt did alone in his house and what he was thinking ... Why he did what he did. There is no way for the author to know this. It is unfair for the author to assume many of the things written, especially since Kurt is not here to defend himself. We will never know what was going through his head and I'm okay with that. I'm pissed that the author tried to fill that space with an assumed story. We can all make assumptions based on his journal entries and interviews, but that's all it is .... An assumption, a feeling .... Not fact.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Aimee

    Hmmmm... well, I don't read a lot of biographies. I didn't know a lot about Kurt Cobain even though I am a Nirvana fan. The book was interesting and the author seemed to have interviewed and researched a lot of facts. Mostly what I took from this book is that Kurt was a complex person plagued with self doubt, physical pain, issues of abandonment and a family history of mental illness. Oh and he made a conscious decision to be a drug addict. And, wow, did he do a lot of drugs. The parts about the Hmmmm... well, I don't read a lot of biographies. I didn't know a lot about Kurt Cobain even though I am a Nirvana fan. The book was interesting and the author seemed to have interviewed and researched a lot of facts. Mostly what I took from this book is that Kurt was a complex person plagued with self doubt, physical pain, issues of abandonment and a family history of mental illness. Oh and he made a conscious decision to be a drug addict. And, wow, did he do a lot of drugs. The parts about the song writing/lyrics were very interesting and made me want to get out those Nirvana Cds and listen to them with the context given by the book. I question some parts about Courtney Love. The author made her seem like the more stable of the two. Which seeing what a mess she has been in recent years, I just question the way the author portrayed her in the book. I think the author took a lot of liberties with the end and the suicide. Overall it was an interesting book. If you are a Nirvana fan, I'd say read it, but I wouldn't say this book is THE authority on Cobain. I might read some of the other biographies out there to compare.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Whitney

    I had read Michael Azerad's "Come as You Are," the story of Nirvana way back in the day so I knew quite a bit about Kurt's life and the history of the band. This went a lot deeper and was compiled of many sources, family members and friends of the band and was a lot more true to life. Michael Azerad's book was based on interviews with the band, so it was mostly how the band wanted to portray themselves. This book made me decide that if I had known Kurt I would have thought him a lazy, self-absor I had read Michael Azerad's "Come as You Are," the story of Nirvana way back in the day so I knew quite a bit about Kurt's life and the history of the band. This went a lot deeper and was compiled of many sources, family members and friends of the band and was a lot more true to life. Michael Azerad's book was based on interviews with the band, so it was mostly how the band wanted to portray themselves. This book made me decide that if I had known Kurt I would have thought him a lazy, self-absorbed butthead. Although he was an amazing artist. It was detailed, sad, and honest. My boyfriend Patt thought that the author came off as a little too idolizing of Kurt, but I didn't see that as much. Overall I would recommend it, there are probably many other biographies out there about Kurt but this one would most likely be the best.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Liv (Оља)

    DISCLAIMER If anyone tries to bash Kurt, I'll knife you. Yes, he was addicted to heroin, he was troubled and he wasn't necessarily a great person all the time, but he gave so much and his work means a lot to a lot of people. Me included. END OF DISCLAIMER I think the hardest books to rate arer biographies, autobiographies and memoir, for the simple reason that it feels like you are giving a rating to someone's life. Like, yeah, Kurt Cobain, he was like a 3 stars, i didn't like some of the things DISCLAIMER If anyone tries to bash Kurt, I'll knife you. Yes, he was addicted to heroin, he was troubled and he wasn't necessarily a great person all the time, but he gave so much and his work means a lot to a lot of people. Me included. END OF DISCLAIMER I think the hardest books to rate arer biographies, autobiographies and memoir, for the simple reason that it feels like you are giving a rating to someone's life. Like, yeah, Kurt Cobain, he was like a 3 stars, i didn't like some of the things he did. So, while I'm not sure what criteria I should exactly use for the purpose of rating a non fiction work about a person, there were elements of Heavier than Heaven that didn't sit too well with me, hence the meh rating. For starters, it really is too detailed. It's hard to get through because the text is really dense and it reads like a super long Wikipedia article. Some parts were overdone and unnecessary, and I had to take one star off. But, that being said, I liked how objective it felt, without trying to sugar coat anything. Cross portrayed Kurt as a moody, disturbed and depressed person who had a serious addiction problem, which is more or less who Kurt was. The reason why I took another star off was the way the suicide was handled. It felt too detailed and made me feel very uncomfortable, and just like many other parts of the book, as if I were going too deep into somebody else's personal life. Nirvana is a band that marked my adolescence, just like it did for generations of people. Heavier than Heaven was a fascinating book. It offered so much insight and history and I'm really glad I've finally read it, since it felt like returning to a specific part of my growing up.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Biography of Kurt Cobain: A Troubled Genius Is fame a blessing or a curse? Many people wonder what it is like to be famous. Kurt Cobain doesn’t need to. One of the themes most prevalent throughout the Biography of Kurt Cobain was that you can achieve almost anything if you keep at it. You can achieve almost anything because Kurt’s record tops the charts, he becomes famous worldwide, and he never listened to anyone who said he couldn’t do it. You can achieve almost anything if you really try becau Biography of Kurt Cobain: A Troubled Genius Is fame a blessing or a curse? Many people wonder what it is like to be famous. Kurt Cobain doesn’t need to. One of the themes most prevalent throughout the Biography of Kurt Cobain was that you can achieve almost anything if you keep at it. You can achieve almost anything because Kurt’s record tops the charts, he becomes famous worldwide, and he never listened to anyone who said he couldn’t do it. You can achieve almost anything if you really try because Kurt’s record goes number one. As the text says, “And then, as if things weren’t turbulent enough, the news came that in the next issue of Billboard magazine, Nevermind would hit the No. 1 spot, pushing out Michael Jackson’s Dangerous.” Nirvana’s album was the biggest in the U.S. at one point. Kurt Cobain went from not being able to afford gas money to being the biggest artist in the United States. He was making money and was extremely successful. If someone who was born poor and dropped out of high school can become a rock star, then many other people can do big things if they just keep trying. Another reason you can achieve almost anything is that Kurt became famous worldwide. This was proved when one of Kurt’s old friends said, “You’re really famous now, Cobain. You’re on TV, like, every three hours.” To be on TV at all is not that common. Every few hours means that you really are very famous and successful. To become that famous is a very low chance. Out of several billion people, to become a celebrity is remarkable. With all his hard work, he became one of those very fortunate few. This shows that you can be very successful if you pursue your dreams. Finally, you can achieve almost anything that you keep at because Kurt never listened to anyone who said he would fail, and never quit. Kurt’s mother Wendy told him that he should quit music. He wasn’t making money at the time, and she was unimpressed by his early material. Many others also said he should have a job to fall back on. But he didn’t listen. If he had listened, we wouldn’t have had one of the biggest rock bands of the 90’s. He didn’t give up and he achieved his dream of success and worldwide fame. Anyone can achieve almost anything because Kurt had a number one record, he became famous worldwide, and he didn’t listen to those who tried to bring him down. I can personally connect to his story because there have been moments where I have been determined to accomplish something. Several years ago, I was planning to go on a 14 mile hike. All of my friends said I wouldn’t last that long. But I didn’t listen to them and I kept my head high. I walked it the next day and proved everyone completely wrong. Kurt did the same thing by becoming a rock star and an icon of his generation. Overall, I have learned that anyone can achieve anything, no matter what background or heritage they come from, no matter what their story is. People who stay determined will achieve great things in the end.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    It is a bit of a cliche of celebrity, but Kurt Cobain really was an incredibly contradictory personality. Part of the fun of Heavier Than Heaven is trying to take all of the evidence, presented in amazing detail by Charles R. Cross, and trying to piece together what kind of person he was. As anyone casually familiar with Cobain knows, he was constantly trying to strike a balance between his strong punk sense of morality and his desire to get his music out to a large audience. Deeper than just a c It is a bit of a cliche of celebrity, but Kurt Cobain really was an incredibly contradictory personality. Part of the fun of Heavier Than Heaven is trying to take all of the evidence, presented in amazing detail by Charles R. Cross, and trying to piece together what kind of person he was. As anyone casually familiar with Cobain knows, he was constantly trying to strike a balance between his strong punk sense of morality and his desire to get his music out to a large audience. Deeper than just a creative marketing ploy, Cobain seemed genuinely torn between stardom and artistic integrity. This can be seen in the way it effected him in not only his professional life but his private life as well. Cobain seemed to always be a best friend or a bitter rival, with little in between. He hated being a junky but couldn't live without heroin. Fans of Cobain are faced with a similar conundrum. It was this delicate balance between the two worlds that made the music great; music with an edge and a palatable emotional intensity that was at the same time accessable and catchy. It perfectly straddled the line between ugly and beautiful, melodious and dischordant, gentle and rough. But at the same time these opposing forces ended up destroying him. Trying to pin down a single reason, or single instance that lead to his death would be futile. The closest we can come is saying that his inner confusion and self-loathing became too much. Fans have to deal with the fact that what made his music great is what killed him, and decide what that means to us when we listen.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    This book is the Courtney Love sanctioned version of Kurt Cobain. May be something to bear in mind while reading it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jacobmartin

    Normally you would consider Kurt Cobain to be "the voice of a generation", as in, "the voice of Generation X" - when in reality, he's also A voice for various generations that came after him. The internet really destroyed the idea of a cohesive generational identity, and Kurt Cobain was one of the last pre-Napster rock stars to ever be exploited horribly by the music industry as he lay in poverty while touring in vans and generally getting high on heroin even though he was meant to be a father t Normally you would consider Kurt Cobain to be "the voice of a generation", as in, "the voice of Generation X" - when in reality, he's also A voice for various generations that came after him. The internet really destroyed the idea of a cohesive generational identity, and Kurt Cobain was one of the last pre-Napster rock stars to ever be exploited horribly by the music industry as he lay in poverty while touring in vans and generally getting high on heroin even though he was meant to be a father to his kid. Kurt Cobain to me wasn't so much a man I idolised so much as being fascinated by. What drives a musician with his level of popularity to suicide when he had a lot he could have achieved beyond the morbid goal he set for himself at a young age to become a famous rock star and commit suicide? Let me put it this way, as tragic as Hunter S. Thompson's death by his own hand was, he at least lived long enough to retain a legacy amongst several generations, and Thompson was barely MTV friendly - so he doesn't really have the same rock star burdens Kurt Cobain had. Thompson killed himself when he was round about sixty - Kurt Cobain was far younger which makes his death even more confusing because if he survived longer he could have been even more influential on the way music was made these days than the "he's popular because he's dead" vibe he tends to get picketed with by young people my age. When I was around three or four, I heard the news of his death on the radio, but the euphemism "killed himself" registered in my brain as he had an accident rather than suicide. At least that's what I remember my parents telling me. It's probably what turned me into a graveyard visit loving baby-bat without makeup when I was a kid, I wasn't cool enough to be a goth but I certainly had the 'tude. But to really immerse myself in the reading of this epic biography I listened to his music on my iTunes played on my computer nearby, all his albums I had were loaded into the player and I listened as I read, and soon enough I became immersed not just in the biography, but the music. The idea of Kurt Cobain as a musician really has to be separated from his tragic rock star legend for you to understand what this music really meant for alternative music and grunge in general. I don't mind grunge music, in fact, considering my limited musical experience I liked it in ways I couldn't appreciate properly as a teenager who listened to Nirvana played on late night Triple M radio (a Sydney rock station that in the early 2000s would play 1990s rock music like Metallica's Black Album and Nirvana stuff). At the time I had no idea Smells Like Teen Spirit was even a Nirvana song, they just played the tracks without telling you who the band was. And I guess that was why I liked Nirvana's music better than I would have if I knew anything about that music going in - Kurt Cobain's music while heavily linked to his biographical details should be enjoyed in lieu of the tragedy his life really was. Especially since the details of his life exaggerated his actual experiences - a less polite way of saying it would be that Kurt just made shit up as he was going along to justify his experience as a tortured artist who wanted his parents to look bad. Kurt Cobain may have been the Douchebag of the Decade as far as rock stars who treated their fans like scum when times were turbulent went, but he had a personality and a general style that's just fascinating to read about. Remember - this was a man who grew up without internet, so his experiences hunting down little artifacts of culture he enjoyed in his quieter moments really signify an age when you couldn't just order a realistic light up lightsaber off the internet like you can now. To be a cool dude who was into cool things, you had to know the right people and you had to really EARN it. Cobain wasn't born cool, he gradually became cool because he lived through utterly bizarre circumstances. Don't even get me started about how angry I was at Courtney Love after reading this. If there was a Twilight-esque Team Whatever contest of people who allegedly ruined rock bands, between Team Yoko Ono and Team Courtney Love, I'm bloody sorry - but Yoko Ono wins out by default because she may have tried to secure her legacy by marrying John Lennon, but you know what? Yoko Ono never bonded with Lennon over drug abuse, nor was she anywhere near as controlling as Kurt's girlfriend who was referred to in the biography by one of Kurt's associates in the music biz as "a psycho hose beast". I can honestly see why John Lennon liked Yoko a lot better than why Courtney and Kurt should have been together, because Kurt and Courtney are pretty much just as twisted a union and Edward Cullen and Bella Swan in the Twilight series. Thinking hard about it, "you're my personal brand of heroin" just got a whole lot creepier now I'm pondering it. You can't really blame Kurt Cobain for being co-dependent on this woman though, he was very naive about his sexual politics to begin with, and I'm probably going to guess that poor Kurt was validated by Courtney's clinginess to him. Kurt's no saint either though - he did some pretty messed up things too. That's the problem with worshipping rock stars. They have feet of clay, and this biography portrays those feet very well crafted in the kiln that is the writing of a decent rock star bio. I've never read a rock star bio before, and since Kurt Cobain in my mind was the one rock star I'd heard of that I knew was guaranteed to have a biography out on him, I chose this one for my brother's bookshop clerk girlfriend to send me for Christmas. I was not disappointed in this book in the least, it's a powerful study in how an artistically talented but kind of jerk-ass small town boy gets so famous without him even noticing how it affects people, because he withdrew inside himself so much nobody could really save him from himself.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Solera

    For a long time, I have wanted to read about the life of Kurt Cobain. Not only was he one of the most important pop-culture figures of my adolescence, but his enigmatic personality, cryptic lyrics and almost mythical status piqued my curiosity. Charles Cross' biography does the man and his work justice. At 365 pages, it's a little longer than I had anticipated, but not a single chapter is worth skipping. Cross describes Cobain's life with careful attention to detail, even cross-referencing specif For a long time, I have wanted to read about the life of Kurt Cobain. Not only was he one of the most important pop-culture figures of my adolescence, but his enigmatic personality, cryptic lyrics and almost mythical status piqued my curiosity. Charles Cross' biography does the man and his work justice. At 365 pages, it's a little longer than I had anticipated, but not a single chapter is worth skipping. Cross describes Cobain's life with careful attention to detail, even cross-referencing specific interview quotes with particular personality traits and anecdotal data to bring out exaggerations, contradictions, even lies. His grasp of Cobain is so exacting that you would swear the book was written by either his psychologist or father. The irony is, Cobain didn't ever attend the former, and the latter wouldn't be the best source of information. Cobain's life was turbulent, that is nothing new. The truly revealing moments though, are brought out in descriptions of Kurt with his first loves - the paradox of not caring what people thought about him, while at the same time being unhealthily self-conscious; the desire to be hip, while at the same time adhering to that punk-rock ethos of abandoning social constructs; his desire to break out and be a star, and his rejection of it once it finally came. Reading this puts his moments in the limelight into perspective. Performances that I saw on TV, in music videos or awards shows, were the brief, bright instances of everything miraculously coming together. Kurt was at his best while performing. Backstage, it was a different story. The coupling of a dysfunctional family during his adolescent years with an undiagnosed stomach condition led Kurt to seek solace in the arms of controlled substances, a history painfully well documented in this book. For anyone looking to understand the historical figure of Kurt Cobain, this book is a must buy.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hypia Sanches

    [please, ignore any spelling/grammar mistakes] If you ask me if it is possible to describe the same person as "insane" and as a "genius", I'd say yes without even blinking. And we are talking about Kurt Cobain, who, as the fans know, was a billion contradictions at once. If I already liked his band, Nirvana, after reading this biography I like their music even more. Family issues, drug addiction, depression and other factors surely played a part in Kurt's personality, there's no denying it. But ano [please, ignore any spelling/grammar mistakes] If you ask me if it is possible to describe the same person as "insane" and as a "genius", I'd say yes without even blinking. And we are talking about Kurt Cobain, who, as the fans know, was a billion contradictions at once. If I already liked his band, Nirvana, after reading this biography I like their music even more. Family issues, drug addiction, depression and other factors surely played a part in Kurt's personality, there's no denying it. But another feature is also important: his creative artistic mind. Art was the way he expressed himself the most - be it music, poetry, drawing, painting or whatever on Earth he felt like tinkering with. "Unconventional" is the first word I can think of to talk about his works; and he wasn't afraid of what others would think about his art. What frightened me reading this book was how much I could relate with Cobain's personality, and being able to relate is something that makes me like what I'm reading. According to the synopsis, this book is the result of the author's research. It refrains from delivering oppinions on anything Kurt did, and I really liked it, because it means the book won't make the reader think "Right, he was a f**d up junkie" or "OMG, he was the most amazing person ever!" - my oppinion won't be influenced by the author's. A must-read for any Nirvana/Kurt Cobain fan, or anyone who wants to know what's on a very complex, interesting mind.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I found this book fascinating, and was even teary by the very end page! Some parts were hilarious, like Steve Albini calling Courtney Love a "psycho hosebeast," and Kurt's grandfather remarking on seeing Courtney walk around their home in a slip: "She had no pants on. It sure as hell wasn't ladylike." But one of my favorite parts was a letter Kurt wrote to his ex-girlfriend and Bikini Kill member Tobi Vail at the end of 1993 when Nirvana were already huge: "I made about five million dollars last I found this book fascinating, and was even teary by the very end page! Some parts were hilarious, like Steve Albini calling Courtney Love a "psycho hosebeast," and Kurt's grandfather remarking on seeing Courtney walk around their home in a slip: "She had no pants on. It sure as hell wasn't ladylike." But one of my favorite parts was a letter Kurt wrote to his ex-girlfriend and Bikini Kill member Tobi Vail at the end of 1993 when Nirvana were already huge: "I made about five million dollars last year and I"m not giving a red cent to that elitist, little fuck Calvin Johnson. No way! I've collaborated with one of my idols, William Burroughs and I couldn't feel cooler. I moved away to L.A. for a year and came back to find that three of my best friends have become full blow heroine addicts. I've learned to hate riot grrrl, a movement in which I was a witness to its very initial inception because I fucked the girl who put out the first grrr-style fanzine and now she is exploiting the fact that she fucked me. Not in a huge way, but enough to feel exploited. But that's ok because I chose to let corporate white men exploit me a few years ago and I love it. It feels good. And I'm not gonna donate a single fucking dollar to the fucking needy indie fascist regime. They can starve. Let them eat vinyl. Every crumb for himself. I'll be able to sell my untalented, very ungenious ass for years based on my cult status." Ripping on Calvin Johnson and indie rockers - ha! Love it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Brian James

    Not only was this book wonderfully researched, it was also powerfully written. In my opinion it's rare for a biography to be such a riveting example of storytelling, especially when so much is publicly known about the subject, but this book proved otherwise. A very moving portrait of someone who in many ways got what he always wanted, only to discover he was so ill fitted for the fame he sought. The author exhausted nearly every possible reference for this book, talking to everyone close to Kurt Not only was this book wonderfully researched, it was also powerfully written. In my opinion it's rare for a biography to be such a riveting example of storytelling, especially when so much is publicly known about the subject, but this book proved otherwise. A very moving portrait of someone who in many ways got what he always wanted, only to discover he was so ill fitted for the fame he sought. The author exhausted nearly every possible reference for this book, talking to everyone close to Kurt, as well as scouring through countless interviews and the journals to present a complete picture of an iconic figure. What comes through so strikingly is the story of a child who felt lost after the divorce of his parents and was never really able to reconcile those feelings, which show up in so many of his songs. It shows a person so driven to be accepted and adored, while possessing none of the traits one needs to cope with that adoration once it's given. Before reading the book, someone had warned me that the ending was really sad. I told them I knew how it ended, so I thought it would be okay. But the truth was, the ending was indeed very sad and moving. It really showed the struggle one faces when they decide they simply can't go on anymore and knowing they are going to devastate those closest to them.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Cross got access to Cobain’s diary and also Courtney Love herself. Love comes across better in this book than anything else I’ve read about her. Fair enough. Cobain and Love seemed very intensely and mutually in love. She endures his overdoses and tries to stop or limit his heroin abuse, his withdrawing from the world and the guns. I had always wondered if Cobain had a more stable partner and a good psychiatrist with the right meds if he coulda pulled through. This book casts doubt on my theory. Cross got access to Cobain’s diary and also Courtney Love herself. Love comes across better in this book than anything else I’ve read about her. Fair enough. Cobain and Love seemed very intensely and mutually in love. She endures his overdoses and tries to stop or limit his heroin abuse, his withdrawing from the world and the guns. I had always wondered if Cobain had a more stable partner and a good psychiatrist with the right meds if he coulda pulled through. This book casts doubt on my theory. Cobain was more troubled than even his lyrics indicated. He began ideating suicide from a young age. His mom kicked him out cuz she couldn’t handle his behavior (hers wasn't so great). He comes across as intelligent, sensitive, dorky, unhygienic, bipolar with waves of abandonment issues and something an awful lot like ADD. Anxiety-induced chronic stomach pain to add to the mess. He couldn’t manage to graduate from an US public HS in an uncompetitive small town. OTOH, he also mythologized himself before fame. In reality he crafted an image that fans fell for in droves. As Cross rightly points out, his fans believed him when he complained about his fame. Of course not! He dreamed of and planned for stardom. He craved adoration and actively sought it by many means, including creating hit after hit song. I don’t like celebrity worship. It’s bad for us and for them. Especially the way we love to tear them down and pursue them relentlessly when they are obviously troubled (Cobain, Spears, Beeber, Lewinsky, and on and on). OTOH, maybe this is a better outlet system than what went down at the Roman Coliseum? We just love to watch people get hurt and punished. Social Media amplifies our bad habits. Shameful. I always felt sad about Cobain’s suicide. I still do even as I understand him as a complicated, difficult and, at times, selfish and insincere. He would be about my age and I love his music. I thought I was above relating to a famous stranger. He loved word play and mixing the English language up. He was often socially awkward. Parties were challenging. Still a (sad) fan. On Love: “He (Cobain) needed her to be his mouthpiece. He was passive-aggressive.” “Love, for her part, was simply aggressive….” On Cobain: “His life had been reduced to an-all-too familiar pattern of intimacy, conflict and banishment, followed by isolation.” I can related to wrecking things with someone before they even get a chance to think of disappointing me. Not a successful strategy for happiness. Thank God my family is on to me! They draw me back in every time. And, hopefully, I sustain them through the good times. Suicide can also pre-empt abandonment like nothing else. I am now as certain as I can be that Dave Grohl did not write "My Hero" about Cobain! I have not read up on Nirvana. Just bits and pieces in the news and their lyrics. It is difficult for me to assess this book but I enjoyed reading it. It told A story of Cobain’s life. Probably not THE story.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Byron

    One of the best music books of all time. I wasn't reading as many books back when it was released, and no one gives a shit about Nirvana anymore, so I didn't get around to reading it until just now. Though I did read the author's other book, on Nirvana's weird legacy, a few years ago, around the 20th anniversary of Cobain's death. I know some other reviewers have complained that the author seems to know more than he could possibly know about Cobain's last few days without having been there. I not One of the best music books of all time. I wasn't reading as many books back when it was released, and no one gives a shit about Nirvana anymore, so I didn't get around to reading it until just now. Though I did read the author's other book, on Nirvana's weird legacy, a few years ago, around the 20th anniversary of Cobain's death. I know some other reviewers have complained that the author seems to know more than he could possibly know about Cobain's last few days without having been there. I noticed that too. In general, this book has a novelistic vibe, that, for the most part, made it a more entertaining read than it would have been otherwise, but at times you get the sense that the author is pulling things out of his ass. You also get the sense that this is Courtney's version of events more so than anyone else, but maybe just because she submitted to more interviews than anyone else.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Better than most rock bios. Of course I knew how it was going to end but it still broke my heart into a thousand pieces.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kye Plant

    I never really knew much about Kurt or nirvana, though I know most of their music without ever really going through a “nirvana phase”. I was never sure of why people worshipped Kurt so I decided to read this biography. fuck... I relate to his pain so profoundly. I don’t think he was anything special, personally, but I think his pain is almost universal. A sensitive, misunderstood, traumatized kid who needed love and found drugs and music instead. I’m sure if I ever met him, we wouldn’t have gott I never really knew much about Kurt or nirvana, though I know most of their music without ever really going through a “nirvana phase”. I was never sure of why people worshipped Kurt so I decided to read this biography. fuck... I relate to his pain so profoundly. I don’t think he was anything special, personally, but I think his pain is almost universal. A sensitive, misunderstood, traumatized kid who needed love and found drugs and music instead. I’m sure if I ever met him, we wouldn’t have gotten along one bit, but that doesn’t mean I don’t empathize with him INCREDIBLY. The biography is well written and a great read. Though, I kind of laugh at anyone who dedicates their life to try to understand someone else’s... how much of what was written is speculation and projection? Most of it... but what is anyone? Is there a concrete self or are we all floating projections of each other? Undecided... I still don’t worship Kurt or his music, but I have a SERIOUS soft spot for that pain. I’m sure Kurt would have laughed at and spat on this book for all of the errors it contained. Imagine if someone wrote a book about your life and speculated about your pain and why you did things... it’s bizarre and absurd. Oh god I quit.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rae

    Going into this I wasn't a huge fan Nirvana and I'm still not. I did however really enjoy this book. It started off working through his childhood and although being very revealing of his character it was very slow to get through. I powered on, hoping it would get better and was not disappointed. Kurt was such an interesting person to read about in his teens/early twenties. He was a true artist and it is clear why he was able to make such a big impact with Nirvana. As the book progressed and reve Going into this I wasn't a huge fan Nirvana and I'm still not. I did however really enjoy this book. It started off working through his childhood and although being very revealing of his character it was very slow to get through. I powered on, hoping it would get better and was not disappointed. Kurt was such an interesting person to read about in his teens/early twenties. He was a true artist and it is clear why he was able to make such a big impact with Nirvana. As the book progressed and revealed more and more about Kurt's struggle with life and drugs and fame, it was easy to look back on the earlier parts of the book and get a sense for how he felt. Charles Cross did such an amazing job researching, writing and describing all the aspects of Kurt and his life that when it finally got to the end, I literally felt like I was a ghost hovering over Kurt, seeing something I shouldn't be seeing. I closed the book and sat there for a few minutes in awe, goose bumps all over my body. Even if you aren't a fan of Nirvana as I wasn't, this is still a must read when it comes to music biographies. I only gave this 4 stars because of how slow I found the beginning but the last 2/3 made it well worth it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Josephine

    Ugh. My heart. Growing up in the 90's, I'd only just discovered & fallen in love with Nirvana shortly before Kurt died. It was really jarring. I had to ask my mom what suicide meant. Really enjoyed this book, although I still need to look into the sources & accuracy and all that. It couldn't have been easy to write.

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