Twenty-five years after Kurt Cobain’s death, his one-time manager reflects on the contradictions that made the Nirvana frontman a grunge icon – and explains why the band’s only tour of Australia was a game changer Memories of any of those who were closest
andthat his suicide was not a moral failing, but the result of a mental illness neither he nor anyone around him was able to successfully treat or cure. (I do not use the word “illness” the way a doctor would but as a stand-in for a force that I believe was beyond anyone’s control.)
I did not play music with Kurt or share his deep connection to punk rock culture, nor did I take drugs with him. However, I worked for him on the principal creative project of his life, a body of work that reinvented rock’n’roll in global popular culture, and for many of his fans redefined masculinity as well.
Kurt had splits in his personality. He was a depressive, a junkie, a creative genius. He could be bitterly sarcastic or
despairing, but he also had a deeply romantic streak and confidence in the excellence of his art. Kurt was a slob and maintained a goofy sense of humour. He liked the same junk food he ate as a kid, and to wear pyjamas during the day. Yet his slacker affect often obscured a highly sophisticated intellect.
Kurt had contempt for those who disrespected him, and he could be grumpy and unpleasant when he was in pain, but most of the time he exuded a graciousness rare in geniuses or stars. He was (dare I say it?) a nice guy most of the time.
There is a photo of Kurt and me taken on March 6, 1992, at a concert in Los Angeles. Nirvana’s breakthrough album Nevermind had come out the previous