By: Samantha D'Alessandro
I was born in 1998 and even though that year rides the tail end of the 90s era, I still like to consider myself a 90s kid. I grew up on rock and roll and became particularly enticed with the grunge scene at a very young age. Fast forward to a few years ago, I came across some documentaries about Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain. At the time, I had very little knowledge of Cobain’s death; I had just heard that he committed suicide and was one of the many members of the 27 Club.
After being introduced to the theory that maybe Cobain did not commit suicide, after all, I decided it was a necessity for me to find out everything I possibly could about the circumstances of his death. When it comes to conspiracy theories such as this one that pinpoints serious allegations on an individual, it is extremely important for society to be properly educated on the facts because of the magnitude of the crime and the influence that such a famous victim has on many generations, and this seems to be the exact problem with the conspiracy. Much of the information surrounding Cobain’s death has been neglected or disregarded due to media control and fabrication of media from higher powers in the music industry and his wife, Courtney Love, herself. Covering aspects of Cobain’s childhood, relationship, success, and death as well as comparing and contrasting different media productions of the story, will provide a clear view as to what really happened to Cobain.
I will explore the facts behind this conspiracy in-depth and make the necessary observations between Love’s control over media output and attempts to silence the deafening truth behind her husband’s demise. In the words of Love’s own father, “I don’t think he killed himself. I think that somebody killed him” (Kurt & Courtney).
The 90s is a decade that is idolized and immortalized by modern pop culture, perhaps for the warm, fuzzy nostalgic feeling it gives to those included in the Millennial and early Generation Z brackets. Some reminisce the 90s with its iconic television series, its unique fashion choices, or even some of its catchy R&B and rap tunes. But something very peculiar began happening in the city of Seattle, Washington, that would rock the 90s music scene quite literally.
Seattle is known most predominantly for two characteristics: its never-ending, gloomy weather and grunge culture. Grunge is a music genre that is hooded under the umbrella genre of alternative music. The music itself is characterized as combining, “the distorted guitar riffs of heavy metal with the emotional rawness of punk” (“Oxford Dictionary of Music”). In an article titled, “Why Seattle? An Examination of an Alternative Rock Culture Hearth”, Thomas. L. Bell claims, “Music conceived as a medium for generational self-definition has not been examined from a spatial perspective” (36). There are two important points Bell is touching upon in this sentence, the first being self-definition and expression through music and the second being the influence on music based on geographical configuration.
There is no doubt that grunge is much more than just music. It consists of multiple elements, including fashion and its own value system. The music itself is heavily influenced by elements of dark emotions, mental illness, rejection of societal norms, attitude, and rebellion. When Bell uses the term generational self-definition, he is referring to grunge music being the emotional expression and definition of a whole generation created by and for that generation itself. This gives listeners a preview into the lives and struggles of individuals who have lived through that generation.
Aside from the musical expression of one's self, Bell mainly focuses his statement on the geographical configuration as a major influence on grunge. He states, “The geographical ‘scene’ within which various genres of alternative music are formulated determines much of the overt content." He goes on to compare the “nihilism of the Los Angeles scene” and the “hard-edged sociopathy of Bronx-based rap” to the local attitudes of each place. Seattle is quite popularly known for its overwhelmingly gloomy weather, miserable attitude, and lack of productive activities as described in Love and Death: The Murder of Kurt Cobain and by Cobain himself, in the published copy of his journals. This somber environment that the entirety of Seattle's grunge bands grew up in is heavily translated throughout their style of music and lyrics.
In many ways, Kurt Cobain was the last rockstar. I don’t mean that to diminish the numerous other great musical talents of the last twenty years, but there has not been any single performer in rock ’n’ roll since with Kurt’s combination of raw talent, charisma, ambition and most important, songwriting genius.
After Kurt Cobain’s tragic death in 1994, grunge began to recede into the shadows of popular culture. Although grunge music lives on in today's’ society, it is significantly less relevant as a subculture than it was back in the early 90s and is not currently being produced as new music.
Kurt Cobain was born and raised in Aberdeen, Washington to parents, Donald and Wendy Cobain in February of 1967. It was known throughout the community that Cobain’s family was not wealthy and was often portrayed as “trailer trash” because of where they resided. An old acquaintance of Cobain recalled, “Kids used to tease him ‘cause he was from a poor family. He didn’t have the popular stuff other kids had. He struggled cuz of his mom - that was well known. She didn’t treat him good.” Cobain’s parents divorced when he was only eight years old in 1975, leaving him to live with his mother and her new boyfriend who was known to be very abusive towards both Kurt and his mother.
Despite these struggles that he had experienced at such a young age, Cobain claimed that he was a happy and energetic kid. In 1993, he told his biographer, Michael Azerrad, “I was a very happy child. I was constantly screaming and singing. I didn’t know when to quit…” (Wallace and Halperin, 8). His aunt, Mary, recalled similar behaviour when asked about Kurt by Nick Broomfield, providing early recordings of Kurt singing Beatles songs and screaming as young as two years old in the documentary film, Kurt & Courtney. Many biographers and storytellers often fall on the cliche that the divorce of Cobain’s parents was the root cause of his spiral into rebellion and mischief. Although this traumatic event did have an impact on him especially as a young child, the true root of his behavioural issues resulted from many other events that occurred after the divorce.
It is no secret to anyone who knew Kurt or even die-hard Nirvana fans, that Cobain’s relationship with his parents, post-divorce, was far from functional. He began this stage of his life living with his mother. Cobain’s grandfather, Leland, recalls “She didn’t really have much use for him until he became famous. She didn’t want anything to do with him” (Wallace and Halperin 9). Lacking the nurturing motherly figure that any eight-year-old needs and enduring constant abuse from his mother’s boyfriend, it was at the request of this boyfriend that Cobain’s mother sends him off to live with his father without hesitation. As Leland’s story goes, the beginning of life with his father was very pleasant for Cobain. He and his father would spend quality time together and participate in activities such as fishing and a variety of other father-son endeavours. He was finally receiving the nurturing and parenting that he had been robbed of when he was living with his mother. Leland says, “I think Kurt was about the happiest he’d ever been." Unfortunately, this would not last for long, as Don, Cobain’s father, had remarried. Don’s new wife had children of her own that she had brought into the marriage and became Cobain’s step-siblings. The trouble started when Don began to treat Cobain very differently than his step-siblings in terms of discipline. He was becoming familiar with the feeling of abandonment and isolation at a very young age.
By the time Cobain was fifteen years old, his relationship with his parents had deteriorated to the point where he was constantly being sent back and forth between them and eventually was sent to live with several relatives including his grandparents. A particularly odd living situation that Cobain had experienced was a period of time in which he resided with his schoolmaster after being kicked out of the home he was living in. He remained living with his schoolmaster for about a year and even took up rotational family chores and offered to help around the house. His mother and father were never contacted during his stay (Kurt & Courtney). One of Cobain’s most distinct living conditions was immortalized in a song by Nirvana called Something In The Way. It is understood that he found the inspiration for this song after living under a bridge at the end of his street. According to Love and Death: The Murder of Kurt Cobain, this was not an uncommon practice for the youth of Aberdeen. Despite being rejected by almost everyone he had lived with during his childhood and adolescence, Cobain remained very close with his grandparents. When questioned on the cause of his death, Leland had one thing to say for certain: “Kurt didn’t commit suicide. He was murdered. I’m sure of it."
The angsty, honest grunge band that would one day be known as one of the most iconic 90s groups of all time, all began when Cobain was fifteen years old, recording early music on his aunt’s production equipment. Cobain was known to be quite creative, not only in a musical sense but artistically as well. It can be seen in his journals, his ability to create and illustrate controversial and detailed cartoon strips. He got his first guitar at age fourteen and soon fell in love with making and recording music, taking influence from bands such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and many more iconic rockstars. Cobain had first met Nirvana bassist, Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen when he was still in high school. Together, the two of them founded what would eventually become Nirvana.
Nirvana’s original three members consisted of Kurt Cobain as the lead singer and guitarist, Krist Novoselic as the bassist, and Aaron Burckhard as the drummer. They cycled through many names before they had settled on the title of Nirvana. Some of the names included concepts such as Skidrow, Pencap Chew, Ted Ed Fred and Bliss (Soaked in Bleach). The first studio album ever released by Nirvana was called Bleach. This album was released in 1989, only two years after the band had originally formed. In 1990, drummer Aaron Burckhard was replaced by the now-famous Foo Fighters singer, Dave Grohl. Only a year after obtaining a new drummer, the band released their album titled Nevermind. Little did they know this album would shake the grunge world as they knew it.
In 1992, Nevermind became the number one hit on the Billboard 200 and became the best-selling album in the United States. Nirvana almost instantly curated a cult-like following of fans who adored their down-to-earth, gritty, honest music. The honesty and straight forward lyrics of their songs resonated deeply with fans who could relate to similar experiences and really connect on an emotional level to the music being produced.
Nirvana’s legacy has been compared to musical megastars such as John Lennon and Michael Jackson. There is one similar component among these musicians who leave behind iconic legacies and wildly loyal fanbases. The initial mass fan followings are activated by something called counter-culture, which can be described as “construct[ing] an alternative culture that contests mainstream societal beliefs and values while desiring to influence social change."
This can also be seen as a form of rebellion which is an extremely relevant component of grunge culture to begin with. Counter-culture is also characterized as “a form of subculture with their own shared conventions, values and rituals…” , which is ironically similar to the definition of grunge culture. Nirvana fans can be seen demonstrating ritualistic behaviour even decades after the iconic singer passed away by visiting the bridge that influenced Something in the Way and leaving heartwarming and inspirational messages about the band and Cobain.
Nirvana wrote about emotions and opinions that mainstream artists were not singing about and their messages were very clear and raw. Many of these lyrics were seen as being quite controversial, an example of this being the song titled Rape Me or the music video and lyrics of the song titled Heart-Shaped Box which mocked Jesus type figures on crosses and strange hooded people. Cobain has commented a number of times on how his lyrics have been misunderstood or read too deeply by fans. He wrote in his journal, “My lyrics are a big pile of contradictions. They’re split down the middle between very sincere opinions and feelings I have and sarcastic and hopefully - humorous rebuttles…”
Kurt & Courtney
Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love are known to be one of the most iconic 90’s couples on the grunge scene. To really understand the significance of this extremely famous relationship in terms of Cobain’s tragic death, Love’s past must be explored to a certain degree. She was born Courtney Michelle Harrison to parents Hank Harrison and Linda Carroll, in San Francisco, California circa 1964. Similar to Cobain, Love’s parents divorced when she was very young and still in need of nurturing and support from her parents. Also similarly to Cobain, Love was tossed around and shuffled from place to place as a young child, but on a much more extreme level as she was not just shuffled between family members.
By the time Love was seven, her mother had married her third husband and they all lived together in Oregon where her mother and stepfather ran a hippie commune. Shortly after this neglectful experience, her mother and stepfather decided to move to a sheep farm in New Zealand. In the time they were gone, she was sent to live with one of her mother’s therapists and after proving to be too much of a problem child, she was shipped back to her mother in New Zealand. After many tries by her mother to hand her off to friends, Love’s behaviour became so unbearable that she was finally sent to a boarding school in Australia and then later to a reform school called Hillcrest (Wallace and Halperin 31). When Love was fifteen years old, her father, Hank Harrison, received custody of her and she went to live with him for over a year.
Love’s first experience with the music industry started in Liverpool. She began selling acid as her gateway into the music scene and soon became a groupie for local bands. Throughout her career as a groupie in the UK, she fabricated much of the events and experiences that she had in order to create a life for herself that never actually existed. Irish magazine Hot Press wrote in a profile, “It’s fairly typical Courtney behaviour to lie or exaggerate…”
This same trait was also reported and noticed by many other music professionals that she had dealt with over the years as well as many family and friends and not to mention, was being documented by her own private investigator Tom Grant, during Cobain’s disappearance. During her stay in the UK, she also became obsessed with Sid Vicious from The Sex Pistols and his infamous relationship with Nancy Spungen. As she continued to move around and make her way up in the music industry as a groupie, it became well known that she had an explosive temper and quite often did not hesitate to get physical with anyone getting in her way. She created a reputation for herself as being very aggressive and violent, in other words, people knew not to mess with Love. Her father, Hank Harrison, told director Nick Broomfield, “Courtney has had a reputation for being extraordinarily violent for a great many years”, when questioned about his daughter’s erratic behaviour.
In 1991 the couple started becoming very involved in each other’s lives. Cobain had been a heroin user before he had met Love, as a result of an undiagnosed stomach condition that caused him excruciating pain. He allegedly only used heroin occasionally to help subside his pain so he could live day-to-day life comfortably, however, by the time he and Love had begun dating, they were both full-fledged heroin addicts. Many fans and critics believe that Love’s already very present addiction and influence drove Cobain to a full-blown heroin addiction.
Cobain and Love were married in 1992, shortly after they had begun dating the year before. This was conveniently around the exact same time that Nevermind became the best-selling album in the United States. They were married in Hawaii with a very non-traditional ceremony. Neither Cobain nor Love had any family members present. The wedding party consisted only of Nirvana drummer, Dave Grohl and Cobain’s best friend Dylan Carlson. As Cobain and Love spent more time together, she became more and more involved in Nirvana, eventually causing major distress between the members. Because of the conflict and chaos that she had brought to the band, Krist Novoselic and his wife were not present at the wedding as they did not support Cobain and Love’s extremely toxic relationship.
Cobain and Love had quite the opposite personalities, which runs consistently with the famous saying that opposites attract. Cobain was very quiet and mild-mannered, he generally kept to himself and was very unproblematic. He also was known for being embarrassed by fame and extremely humble about his lifestyle. Although he had a best-selling album and was doing extremely well for himself, he shied away from the glamour and luxuries of being famous. Love, on the other hand, was the exact opposite. She was very loud and abusive with her language, and her behaviour was extremely exaggerated and dramatic. She was known to have a hot temper and an incredibly controlling demeanour.
Love was a lover of attention and fame. She wanted expensive cars, extravagant homes, and luxury fashion. She thrived off of being famous, after all, it was her life long dream to make it big in the music industry. The couple was known to constantly have disagreements and more often then not, significant fights over finances and fame.
Ever since Love had experienced the punk and underground music scene of the UK, she had developed an unhealthy obsession with Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols and his relationship with Nancy Spungen. Vicious and Spungen were famous for their extremely volatile relationship and twisted death. Spungen was murdered in their home in 1978 and Vicious was charged, however, he had died from a heroin overdose before the case went to trial. The similarities between Vicious and Spungen and Cobain and Love are uncanny, minus a few details.
Love and Cobain were known to have a very public and toxic relationship because of their status in the entertainment industry. Besides the evident drug and alcohol addictions, their relationship was extremely chaotic and abusive. Cobain took the relationship very seriously and when asked about it in an interview included in the documentary Kurt & Courtney, this is what he had to say: “My attitude about life and children changed once I had a mate and was in love.” He goes on to explain how meaningful and fulfilling it is to have someone you love in your life. To express how in love Cobain really was, Cobain wrote a letter in his journal that started like so, “Courtney, when I say I love you, I am not ashamed, nor will anyone ever ever come close to intimidating, persuading, etc. me into thinking otherwise." Cobain thought that he had found his lifemate and, that kind of companionship after being rejected as a child, gave his life a whole new meaning.
Love’s contribution to the relationship was not as warm and caring. Love was very selfish and looked after fulfilling her needs before anyone else. Hank Harrison shared a poem with Nick Broomfield that Love had written before even meeting Cobain. It was called “Future Date” and part of it went like so, “I’ll destroy anyone in my way/ I’ll kill everyone/ Every lousy lay…”. The poem perfectly displays Love’s hunger for fame and her selfish attitude about getting there. It also hints towards her violent nature and willingness to potentially kill to get what she wants. She was known to be extremely verbally abusive towards Cobain, calling him degrading names like “stupid”, “idiot” and frequently cursed at him in fits of rage. Additionally, Love was very manipulative and controlling, not only of Cobain, but of Nirvana, her band Hole, and the media as well.
Towards the end of Cobain’s life, his relationship with Love had come to a breaking point. After their daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, was born in 1992, the couple struggled very much with drug addictions and dishonesty. In the film, Kurt & Courtney, Cobain’s best friend, Dylan Carlson, is seen reminiscing a particularly ironic story about the couple’s addiction issues. Carlson acted as their heroin dealer, making him the closest to them when their addictions were at their height. Carlson recalls a time when Cobain had called him to put in his request for drugs. During the conversation, Cobain had asked Carlson to keep the drug use a secret from Courtney. While on the same phone call with Cobain, Carlson’s other line began to ring and, sure enough, when he picked it up, it was Love. Love had also called Carlson to request drugs and, ironically, also asked him to keep it a secret from Cobain. This kind of deceitful behaviour began to escalate and spread into other aspects of their relationship.
Cobain and Love never agreed about anything when it came to finances and fame, as mentioned before. These arguments about such an important aspect of their extremely public relationship eventually grew to the point where Love was buying luxury vehicles behind Cobain’s back and Cobain refused to use them and demanded they be returned because it was not in his character to be flashy and over the top with his wealth. The deceit began to spread into their financial arguments and eventually into their romantic lives as well when Love became suspicious that Cobain was cheating on her.
In 1994, Nirvana began what would be their last tour ever. After a show in Rome, Cobain experienced an accidental overdose on some over the counter drugs. News outlets originally thought that he had died, however, he was rushed to the hospital and was treated. The media, and Love herself, had made assumptions that this overdose may have been an attempt at suicide, but all rumours were quieted when it was confirmed accidental. During this time, Love became extremely controlling, forcing Cobain to attend rehabilitation and threatening him when she herself was still an avid drug user. It was at this point that Cobain decided he could not handle the toxicity any more and threatened Love with a divorce. Shortly after this incident, Cobain would be found dead at his Seattle home.
Kurt Cobain’s body was found on the morning of April 5th, 1994, by an electrician who was scheduled to work on the Seattle home that day. He was found in a room above the garage with a shotgun wound to the head. He was found with the shotgun, a box of bullets, his wallet, a tin full of narcotic paraphernalia, and a note. To any average person, this scenario points out all the aspects of suicide and that is exactly how it was reported in the media. However, decades after Cobain had been laid to rest, fans, journalists, and even law enforcement professionals have conspired about what really happened and the truth behind Cobain’s suspicious death.
The investigation was originally taken on by the Seattle Police Department’s Sergeant Donald Cameron, who was known to be a very reliable and highly esteemed officer within the department. He was joined by a medical examiner, Dr. Nikolas Hartshorne, who performed the autopsy and toxicity tests on Cobain’s body. The case was closed the same day the body was found before any evidence or tests had been processed. Sgt. Cameron had concluded that Cobain’s cause of death was, in fact, suicide. Cobain’s close friends and family became very suspicious of this conclusion as it seemed that the investigation was rushed, not done thoroughly, and was just assumed a suicide because of the circumstances presented. This is suspicious because Cobain never displayed signs of suicidal behaviour to the people closest to him. The only person who was adamant that Cobain was suicidal was his wife, Courtney Love, who Cobain had recently threatened with divorce and was trying to run away from prior to his death.
What makes this investigation even more suspicious is that Sgt. Cameron was eventually fired from the Seattle Police Department for conspiring to steal money from an active case. This huge blow to his reputation stirred up suspicion around Cobain’s case and how reliable Cameron’s investigation really was. Three months after Cameron’s termination, Dr. Hartshorne died in a sky diving accident which he was known to be studying and was extremely well educated in the sport.
Perhaps the most crucial evidence in finding the truth came from a private investigator by the name of Tom Grant. Before Grant’s vast collection of evidence can be explored, there is another social phenomenon that must be explained in relation to Cobain’s death. This phenomenon is often referred to as fan conspiracy. It has been noted throughout music history that whenever a superstar experiences a sudden or suspicious death, their devoted fans are the first ones to begin theorizing and creating conspiracies to try and reveal the “truth” behind these deaths, no matter how far fetched or obnoxious some theories may be.
Theory and Evidence
One of the most popular theories related to Cobain’s death is that Courtney Love played a significant role in his assassination. The reason for its insanely widespread popularity and belief may just be because of the enormous amounts of recorded evidence of motive and intent, collected by Tom Grant, as well as the extensive research that has been done by directors and authors such as Nick Broomfield, Benjamin Statler, Max Wallace, and Ian Halperin, whose work will be the prime resource of information regarding this case.
Tom Grant was originally hired by Courtney Love, the day after Cobain’s disappearance, to investigate a stolen credit card. Upon meeting her, Grant was informed that this urgent phone call was not about the credit card, it was about her famous husband's mysterious disappearance and Love’s explanations and demeanour regarding the situation were very inconsistent. The first greeting she gave him was, “You leak this to the press, I’ll sue the fuck out of you." This was her very first attempt at controlling what the world would know about Cobain’s disappearance and death. It was at this point that Grant decided it would be in his best interest to record every meeting with Love from that point on and that is when his investigation began to turn against her.
Within the first few meetings with Love, Grant noticed that she spoke a great deal about Cobain being suicidal and how worried she was that he was going to try to kill himself. These statements become contradictory when other people close to Cobain such as Dylan Carlson and Leland Cobain have gone on record saying that Cobain never displayed signs of suicidal behaviour especially after his daughter was born. Love seems to be one of the only people who is insistent that Cobain was in a suicidal state of mind when he left the rehabilitation centre in California.
Included in her tangents about Cobain being suicidal, she also brought up the divorce just as frequently. She stated on tape, “If me and Kurt got into a divorce and it came down to a custody battle, I’d win in a second, he wouldn’t even put up a fight." This statement itself contradicts the statements of many of Cobain’s close friends and family that expressed his love for his daughter more than anything else in the world. It also begins to shine a light on Love’s very selfish intentions, placing doubts in some peoples’ minds about how genuine her concern for Cobain might be.
Love’s suspicious and inconsistent behaviour continually accelerated as Grant’s investigation went on. Shortly after hiring him, she filed a missing person report for Cobain under his mother’s name. This became a huge problem in regards to accurate reporting and media coverage because every story that was published or aired about the report was providing the world with false information. This can be seen as the beginning of Love’s dictator-like control of the media and fabrication of Cobain’s death.
After achieving little to no progress in finding Cobain, Grant had finally convinced Love to allow him to move the search to Seattle where it might be more beneficial. Love never made the trip to Seattle to aid in the investigation because she was allegedly working on some very important dealings with her band, Hole, as their new album was set to release the week that Cobain’s body was found. Grant’s experience in Seattle was mostly accompanied by Cobain’s best friend, Dylan Carlson, who knew Cobain possibly better than anyone.
During his investigation, Love was still calling all the shots and making all the decisions even though she was not present. Grant states, “Courtney always wanted to go through Dylan, she wanted to talk to Dylan on the phone and have Dylan give me the instructions.”
He also made note of how she deliberately gave him information but left out small integral details that she would strategically reveal later. This suspicious transfer of information between Love and Grant raises more questions about Love’s intentions behind launching this investigation and demonstrates perfectly her desire to control and manipulate information in her favour.
While still searching for Cobain in Seattle, Grant and Carlson learned that a body had been found in Cobain’s Seattle cabin. Grant was immediately suspicious as to why Carlson had never mentioned the greenhouse room where Cobain’s body was found, during their prior search of the house. Upon arrival at the house, Grant asked to speak to the officer in charge of the case to share some useful information that he had gathered during his search. He was declined and asked to call the station later with whatever information he had. He states, “I was dumbfounded by that. If I were a police officer investigating the dead body and somebody told me there was somebody outside that had been in the house the night before, I’d tell them, ‘Hold him’." At this point, Grant was convinced that something was not adding up in this situation that he was now very involved in. Being an ex-police officer of high standing, he began to pick up on the lazy and messy investigation that was being performed by the Seattle police department.
Grant began to analyze the evidence himself since it had not been properly processed by Sgt. Cameron and the Seattle police department. The first inconsistency that he noticed was a discrepancy in the police report that stated the door of the greenhouse was locked shut and that Cobain had locked himself in, this being what was put out in the media. This was not true, Grant explains, “it’s not a deadbolt, it’s a twist lock. Anybody could have twisted that lock and pulled the door shut behind ‘em when they left."
Grant, being a retired police officer takes the time to examine every detail and not rule out any possibilities, whereas Sgt. Cameron simply overlooked these facts. As well as the lock discrepancy, it was reported in the media that a stool wedged the door shut from the inside when the fact was, it was simply sitting in front of a different set of doors in the room.
The next key piece of evidence in stepping closer to the truth behind Cobain’s death was found in the toxicology report that was processed after the cause of death had been announced to the public. This report indicated that Cobain’s body was found with 1.52 mg per litre of blood, of heroin in his system (Kurt & Courtney). In Soaked in Bleach, Dr. Cyril H. Wecht explains that “to reach 1.52 mg per litre, you’re talking about an amount that would certainly have exceeded 200 mg that were injected into [him].” This is considered to be three times the amount that would be lethal to a human being.
According to Grant, “we’re talking about evidence indicating it would have been impossible to pick up the shotgun." This incredibly solid evidence has raised very many important questions in the case as Cobain would have gone unconscious before even being able to remove the needle from his arm, let alone position a shotgun and pull the trigger. As an attempt to discount this evidence, another doctor had compared the use of oral methadone to intravenous heroin which scientifically cannot be compared as they are two different drugs and were administered in very different ways.
In the medical and law enforcement fields, there is a term that is sometimes brought up in cases called cadaveric spasm. This term refers to “an uncommon form of rigor mortis that sets in instantaneously following death." This function of the human body basically preserves the exact position the body was in upon decease. Although uncommon, this is exactly what had happened to Cobain’s body with the shotgun positioned in his hand exactly the way it would have been the moment it was shot. Having said this, the shotgun was gripped by Cobain’s left hand, upside down, barrel upwards towards his head and the butt below towards his feet. Grant explains where the bullet was found upon arrival at the scene as being on Cobain’s left side. He goes on to state, “The exit chamber is clearly on Cobain’s right side, if it was fired upside down as it was found and the cadaveric spasm confirms." This means that the bullet should have exited the chamber and landed somewhere on Cobain’s right side.
The Seattle police department claims that the gun was originally shot upwards, putting the exit chamber on the left, and had flipped upside down when shot. This is impossible because the cadaveric spasm confirms that the gun was positioned upside down. To further prove this illogical circumstance, Grant explains, “In order for the scenario the Seattle police stated occurred, Cobain’s wrist would have to bend at an angle that is anatomically impossible." The evidence that Grant has explained regarding the physical surroundings of the scene were majorly overlooked by the Seattle police, causing major controversy and uproar among fans and the media.
The legality aspect of the case presents yet another series of suspicious actions on Love’s behalf with the analysis of the highly controversial, inconsistent, suicide note that was found along with Cobain’s body. When investigating the death as a homicide, it is common that the accused will have a motive or intent to commit the crime at hand. Rosemary Carroll was Cobain and Love’s entertainment lawyer and was extremely informative to Grant when he was investigating the legalities behind this case. He had reached out to her in hopes of finding some information regarding the proposed divorce and Cobain’s will.
Nick Broomfield, director of Kurt & Courtney, had interviewed one of Cobain and Love’s many ex-nannies about the atmosphere and conversations that were being had in the house, weeks prior to Cobain’s death. During this interview, she had stated that there was a lot of talk about Cobain’s will and that “[Love] just totally controlled him”. Upon meeting with Carroll, Grant immediately picked up on some suspicious behaviour that was executed by Love and Cobain before his disappearance. Carroll informed him that Love had asked her if there was any way to work around her and Cobain’s prenuptial agreement in the event of a divorce. She also told him that “about that same time Kurt had also called her and asked her if he could have Courtney’s name taken out of the will."
When Broomfield questioned Grant about the divorce for his documentary, Grant responded with, “if there’s a divorce in the works, Courtney’s going to get half of everything at best. If he ends up committing suicide, Courtney ends up with everything." This statement solidifies the root motive for murder if Love was the mastermind behind Cobain’s death. Love was willing to do anything to make herself successful and, if she and Cobain had divorced, she would lose half of the lifestyle she had gotten so used to.
Kurt Cobain’s suicide note is probably one of the most confusing and telling pieces of evidence. Carroll had not been allowed to see the note prior to speaking with Grant because Courtney would not allow her, however, she did allow Carroll’s husband, Danny Goldberg to view it. It translates as suspicious considering Carroll is their lawyer so the note would have relevance in regards of her seeing out the division of Cobain’s will. When she was finally granted permission by Grant, she formed her opinion almost immediately. She states, “that suicide note is a collage of things that he had written before and of someone copying him writing."
Immediately upon observation of the note, Carroll had concluded that it was forged and given her relationship with the couple and her profession as a lawyer, this reaction was groundbreaking. To confirm her statement of the note being forged, Carroll provided evidence to Grant of a piece of paper that was left at her home in one of Love’s backpacks, that appeared to have practice handwriting on it in an attempt to match Cobain’s in some of his personal notebooks. The note had mostly spoken about music and the band and how Cobain was not happy with his life after all the success. It also implied that he wanted to quit music and Nirvana. The last few lines of the note that mention anything even remotely close to suicide are written in a noticeably different handwriting than the rest of the note. This simple observation correlates with Carroll’s conclusion as it seems the majority of the note was traced or copied from previously written pieces by Cobain and the last few lines mentioning suicide were completely made up by another person. Grant’s investigative work in regards to this case has changed the way a mass amount of people view Cobain’s death but, it appears his professionalism and quality work could not beat the tyranny of Courtney Love on the media.
Courtney and The Media
In the months following Cobain’s death, the suicide of three Canadian males made its way into the news. It was determined that the trio committed suicide as a direct result of Kurt Cobain’s death. It was stated in a notebook owned by one of the boys, “When Kurt Cobain died, I died with him… We have lived our lives and this life is not for us. Goodbye."
This unfortunate incident was part of another social phenomenon that was being anticipated by healthcare professionals everywhere, after the death of Cobain. This was referred to as the suicide crisis. Thankfully, the crisis did not happen to the extent that was anticipated and it is thought to be because of the way the story was handled in the media, as well as the diligent work of Suicide Crisis Clinics being involved in the media coverage regarding Cobain’s death.
In the state of Seattle, the response to Cobain’s sudden death was met with grief and tremendous sadness. The Seattle Crisis Clinic received an immediate overflow of calls and attention from media outlets requesting information regarding copycat suicides, as well as people in genuine emotional distress looking for help. A vigil was held for Cobain in Seattle where fans came to remember the iconic star and a tape recording of Love, reading Cobain’s note, was played. At this vigil ceremony, the Seattle Crisis Centre addressed the issue and brought awareness on the risk of copycat suicides. In an article examining the effects of Cobain’s death on the population of Seattle, Dr. David A. Jobes, along with a number of other doctors, explain a suicide watch that took place for seven weeks after Cobain’s death. The results state, “During this period, there were 24 suicides, only one of which appeared to be linked to Cobain." It goes on to explain that the suicide rate had reduced from the same period of time the year before. This reduction in suicides, despite the reported suicide of the most influential grunge star of the 90s, is a product of media coverage and crisis clinics, bringing awareness to the issue rather than glorifying it. Although this was beneficial in reducing suicide rates, part of this lack of glorification that is usually seen in celebrity coverage could be a result of Love’s immense manipulation of what the public would know, combined with her selfish tendencies to make sure that she was the one retaining a large amount of publicity and remained in the spotlight as the estranged widow, rather than Cobain as the broken rockstar.
Love was already very familiar with the art of manipulating the media before her master manipulation had effected the death of her husband. Aside from being known as a violent individual, there was a reason why journalists and close acquaintances were scared of Courtney Love. On many accounts, Love has been documented sending death threats and extremely vile messages to anyone who tried to reveal the less glamorous and raw side of her life. Her attacks were mainly focused on journalists, so much so that Lynn Hirschberg, a very esteemed journalist, was forced to move from her home following threats on her life by Love. It has also been documented that friends of Cobain, Love’s father, and her ex-husband were all very reluctant to speak about her in books and documentaries as they expressed fears that their lives would also be threatened.
In a very early meeting with Grant, Love revealed a carefully thought out plan to plant a fake story in the news. She said, “I planted a story in the news yesterday saying that I had OD’ed and that I was in the hospital thinking that Kurt would get scared and call me." The initial reasoning for the fake news story seems to come across as bait to try and capture Cobain’s attention, eventually luring him back home. When he had not called or returned home, Love revealed how she could manipulate the fabricated story to work in her favour. She explained, “You know I have a record coming out so selfishly, it would help sell records” as well as exposing herself claiming, “The people I had do this, I paid." This is a prime example of how Love’s power as a person of significance, and ability to fabricate information to work in her favour, has tainted the media’s reputation to write credible reports on anything to do with the Cobain case.
Once the conspiracies and investigations against Love began receiving an alarming amount of attention and coverage, damaging her carefully manufactured image, her attempts to control what was released escalated. An article was published in The Globe & Mail in November of 1996, talking about the release of a book called Who Killed Kurt Cobain? It was set to tour four cities in Canada when Love’s lawyers became involved. The article states, “Love’s lawyer sent a letter to promoter Victor Shiffman and three of the four venues where the lecture is being presented on Tuesday, saying that they would launch a suit if any libelous material was aired”. This would not be the last time that Love’s team would threaten to sue authors and directors who delved deep into the facts behind Cobain’s suspicious death.
All of these attempts at controlling the media on Love’s behalf have added to the suspicions of her involvement in Cobain’s death. More importantly, they have muddled the credibility of a large amount of media coverage related to Kurt Cobain. Dr. Cyril H. Wecht comments on the media’s influence over peoples’ opinions saying, “The news media do poison the atmosphere, and I have been involved in cases in which it was impossible, almost, to overcome the beliefs that had been created within the community because of the way in which that particular death had been reported." The line between what is real and what is fake has become non-existent due to these manipulations and that is an extremely dangerous flaw when it comes to a subject as serious as suicide or murder.
Amid connecting loose ends that were seemingly ignored by the media in relation to the circumstances that eventually led to Cobain’s untimely death, it is inevitable that Love’s efforts to control this situation right from the start has skewed the public’s views on how Cobain really died. All types of reporting call upon the importance of fact-checking and making sure that the information gathered is credible as the reporter is directly influencing and educating the public. In this case, the accuracy of reporting has been challenged by money and higher powers to alter a story to be more beneficial for specific parties. As seen in most conspiracy cases, when undesirable information is forcing its way out into the public view, higher powers will stop at nothing to cover up and hide this new breakthrough. Kurt Cobain’s life was unfortunately tragic from the beginning, and especially, to the end. After extensive research and fact-checking on this interesting conspiracy theory, I firmly believe that this was not a suicide. The facts show that the corruption of the music industry and Love’s power and control directly contributed to the murder of the most iconic rockstar of the 90s. May his legacy live on in our hearts forever and may he rest in peace.