On April 5, 1994, the world lost Kurt Cobain, who, at age 27, had committed suicide at his Seattle home with a 20-gauge shotgun. His body was found two days later by an electrician.
Cobain’s body had been found to contain high traces of heroin and Valium when he died, though at the time of his death, Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic dismissed the idea that his drug habit was the reason he killed himself.
“Just blaming it on smack is stupid,” Novoselic told a Seattle newspaper at the time. “Smack was just a small part of his life.” Indeed, Cobain had long suffered from clinical depression, having been diagnosed with it in high school.
“Kurt could just be very outgoing and funny and charming,” Butch Vig, who produced Nirvana‘s landmark 1991 album Nevermind, told Rolling Stone. “And a half hour later, he would just go sit in the corner and be totally moody and uncommunicative.”
In the days leading up to Cobain’s suicide, plenty of family and friends had expressed major concern for the rock star, who wasn’t returning anyone’s calls — his mother, Wendy O’Connor filed a missing person’s report, and his wife Courtney Love, who was herself detoxing from drugs at the time, hired a private investigator to try and track him down.
Weeks prior to his death, friends and family had also attempted to enact a full-scale intervention to curb his heroin use. Love had threatened to leave him, and Novoselic and Nirvana guitarist Pat Smear said they would break up the band if he didn’t check in to rehab.
Cobain went—but he didn’t stay, walking out of a California clinic two days after he admitted himself on April 1, instead returning to Seattle.
On April 5, he locked himself in a room above his garage and shot himself in the head. According to the medical examiner report, his body was identifiable only by his fingerprints. A radio station was the first to broadcast the news, which shook not just the music industry, but the entire world.
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He left a suicide note; at the end he wrote, “Please keep going Courtney for Francis,” referring to their then 2-year old daughter Frances Bean. “For her life will be so much happier without me. I love you. I love you.”