There are plenty of conspiracy theories about Kurt Cobain’s death that say the Nirvana singer did not commit suicide, but was murdered (Read about them HERE). However, Nirvana’s former manager calls those fan theories “ridiculous.”
On April 5. 1994, Kurt Cobain committed suicide at his home in Denny-Blaine, a neighborhood in eastern Seattle, Washington. Three days later, Cobain’s dead body was discovered by electrician Gary Smith. Like so many other legendary musicians, Kurt Cobain died at the age of 27. Now, on the 25th anniversary of the iconic singer’s death, the former manager of Nirvana gives the world new insights into the last days of Cobain’s semi-charmed life.
[protected-iframe id=”1cd51d3c804e29eb28539afad88a4736-97886205-93291949″ info=”//z-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/onejs?MarketPlace=US” ]
Danny Goldberg was Nirvana’s manager in the early 1990s and he has known the members of the world-renowned grunge band since nearly the beginning. In Goldberg’s new book, Serving the Servant: Remembering Kurt Cobain, he explains the highs and lows of Kurt Cobain and divides the singer’s life into three distinct categories: “before Nevermind,” “the immediate aftermath,” and “the dark side.” “I’m talking from the point of view of really admiring, loving the guy,” Goldberg said of his new book.
The year was 1990, when Goldberg first met Cobain and his two Nirvana bandmates Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic. Nirvana first started in 1987 when Cobain and Novoselic were attending Aberdeen High School. Grohl was added as the drummer of Nirvana after he was introduced to Kurt and Krist by the Melvins, which was one of the first Seattle grunge bands.
“For the first part of that meeting, he hardly said anything. Krist did a lot of the talking. Then, at one point, I asked them, ‘Do you want to stay on the indie label?’ — because you never know with punk bands,” Goldberg wrote in his book. “And Kurt suddenly piped in, ‘No.’ Making it clear that he knew what he wanted, that he wanted to leave the indie and be on a major, and it also made it clear to me that he was the boss.”
Goldberg immediately noticed that Cobain was definitely in charge of the band. “Kurt wrote the songs, he was the lead singer, he was the lead guitar player, he storyboarded the videos, he designed the album covers and he made the decisions.” Goldberg said Cobain had a “comprehensive, crystalline understanding” of how to connect and resonate with large audiences, whether that was in his music, videos or album artwork.
Goldberg said Cobain had a natural gift of being able to “combine what he liked best about several genres and fuse them into one coherent identity.” “Culturally, he was deeply influenced by the American punk rock scene of the ’80s, but he also had a great appetite for pop,” Goldberg said. “All of the guys in Nirvana did. They all loved the Beatles. And it was like a guilty pleasure, they would coyly call it the ‘B word.'”
“It’s that combination of darkness, idealism, humor, compassion, cynicism,” Goldberg said of what made Cobain unique. “The totality of it connected so intimately with fans they felt that they weren’t the only crazy people, somehow there were these [musicians] that were popular that understood them. That was his gift.”
However, Cobain also had his demons… drug addiction. The first time that Goldberg realized that Kurt had a heroin addiction was in January of 1992. This was a critical time for the band since they released Nevermind in September of 1991, the band’s first album on a major label, DGC Records a subsidiary label of Geffen Records.
Nevermind hit #1 on the Billboard charts on January 11, 1992. The album also had success with the critics, Billboard declared that “Nirvana is that rare band that has everything: critical acclaim, industry respect, pop radio appeal, and a rock-solid college/alternative base.”
In January 1992, Nirvana was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live and played two songs from Nevermind, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Territorial Pissings.” After the band’s appearance on SNL, Goldberg saw Cobain struggling to stay conscious and was completely withdrawn.
The next day, Goldberg began organizing an intervention to get Kurt help with his heroin addiction. He enlisted the help of doctors and drug counselors to attempt to persuade Cobain and his wife Courtney Love to go into rehab for their drug abuse. This was especially important for Love because she had just learned that she was pregnant with the couple’s only child, Frances Bean Cobain.
“There were seven or eight of us that confronted them at Cedars Sinai hospital,” Goldberg wrote in his book. “It was pretty much ‘please, don’t do this to yourselves, this is not good for you.’”
“It was quite a clear emotional plea from everybody, forcing them to realize that it was not an invisible problem,” Goldberg revealed. “The short-term results were within a month or two they both seemed clean and in a good frame of mind. But Kurt continued to struggle with drugs for the rest of his life, on and off. There was no silver bullet for him.”
The author said that the first intervention was successful, especially for Courtney who didn’t have any more drugs during her pregnancy despite media reports that stated otherwise. However, Cobain eventually started doing heroin again.
Goldberg notes that Kurt was not depressed all the time and there was plenty of time that Cobain was creative, funny, and warm. But Kurt could go from funny to depressed in minutes. Goldberg wrote that Kurt understood that the drugs were ruining his life and it tortured him.
“There was part of him that hated himself for doing heroin. He felt guilty about it and also felt particularly bad that it was publicly known, it was a bad example to his fans, and there was part of him that just was in so much pain and that was apparently one of the things that could address it, both the emotional and physical pain. It was a constant struggle. But he wasn’t stoned all of the time, he was clean a lot of the time, he was very creative a lot of the time, he was a very kind person a lot of the time. He was complicated.”
“She was really worried about Kurt, said it was the worst she’d ever seen him and so forth,” Love said of her husband. In early March of 1994 during Nirvana’s European tour, Kurt overdosed on champagne and Rohypnol in Rome. Love said it was a suicide attempt. In another cry for help during that time, police were called to Cobain’s house after Kurt locked himself in a room with guns and a bottle of pills.
On March 25, 1994, Goldberg, Love, and eight other friends including Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear, attempted another intervention in 1994 at Cobain’s home in Seattle. On March 30, Cobain checked into the Exodus Recovery Centre in Los Angeles, but then jumped over the perimeter fence and flew back to Washington. A week later, Kurt committed suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot.
“I loved him very, very much,” Goldberg says. “How close you were depended on which day the week, and which hour of the day. There were times when we really had a brotherly kind of intimacy, and there were times when he would have an opaque look in his eyes and I couldn’t get through to him.”
“I felt enormous grief, as I still do, but I just see it as a disease that no one can cure. If somebody died of cancer at 27, you wouldn’t be angry with them; you would just mourn them,” said Goldberg. “And I think this was a mental illness that nobody knew how to cure.”
“I’ll never get over it. Nobody who cared about him will. And no one who cared about less famous people who killed themselves will ever get over it. But it’s what happened, it’s part of the mystery of the human condition, and I love him anyway, I’m glad he was alive for those 27 years, I wish he hadn’t done it, but I’m glad I got to know him, and that the world got to know his music.”
When it comes to the conspiracy theories that allege that Kurt Cobain did not commit suicide but was actually murdered, Goldberg absolutely dismisses them. “It’s ridiculous. He killed himself,” Goldberg confidently proclaimed. “I saw him the week beforehand, he was depressed. He tried to kill himself six weeks earlier, he’d talked and written about suicide a lot, he was on drugs, he got a gun. Why do people speculate about it? The tragedy of the loss is so great people look for other explanations. I don’t think there’s any truth at all to it.”
As far as Cobain’s legacy, Goldberg said, “He’s one of the greats. He’s somebody that touched people very deeply and very widely, which is a handful of people. Bob Marley’s on that list, John Lennon, Dylan, Edith Piaf, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday. He’s on that list of the greats.”