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Twenty years after his death, Kurt Cobain’s hometown keeps rocker’s legacy alive

Twenty years after the Nirvana frontman killed himself, Aberdeen celebrates connection to star

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 April, 2014, 9:14pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 April, 2014, 9:14pm
AFP

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The road sign outside town reads, "Welcome to Aberdeen. Come As You Are." The Nirvana song title greets fans from around the world flocking to pay homage to Kurt Cobain.

Twenty years after the grunge band's frontman killed himself, the run-down town in Washington state two hours from Seattle in the US northwest is keen to ensure that the legacy of its most famous son lives on.

Mayor Bill Simpson rejects criticism that it is wrong to celebrate the life of a drug addict who committed suicide when his daughter was still a toddler.

"Everybody says 'Oh, Kurt was a druggy, and 'Kurt was a nasty man.' But you know, the more I've read, the more I've studied about him, he was a pretty down-to-earth guy, very caring, a very loving individual," Simpson said.

Cobain died at age 27 when Nirvana was at the height of its powers, scoring global hits including Come as You Are and Smells Like Teen Spirit. He had come a long way in a few short years: from the bleak streets of Aberdeen to international fame and fortune, and a luxury house in Seattle.

It was at that house - in a room above the garage - that his body was found on April 8, 1994.

Cobain shot himself in the head. Coroners found large quantities of heroin in his system, and said his body had probably been there for days. They estimated he had died on April 5.

Cobain thus entered the so-called "27 Club" - the grim roster of stars to die of drugs or alcohol abuse at age 27 that includes Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, the Rolling Stones' Brian Jones and, more recently, Amy Winehouse. As with those other music greats, dying only elevated Cobain's celebrity status. "It's like James Dean: he was an acclaimed actor, and then he died young in a tragic accident and that made him iconic," said Gillian Gaar, a Seattle journalist and author of Entertain Us: the Rise of Nirvana.

Gaar compared Cobain to artists like Neil Young, Carlos Santana and Bob Dylan - all of them had huge early fame but then went on to enjoy success later in their careers. The big tragedy of Cobain's early death "is the sense of potential unfulfilled," she said.

Cobain formed Nirvana in 1987 with bassist Krist Novoselic while at school in Aberdeen. Dave Grohl later joined as drummer after a series of candidates failed to work out.

It was 1991's "Nevermind" album that really catapulted them to stardom. Their third, "In Utero" in 1993, was also a hit.

Nirvana's success was accompanied by personal cause for joy for Cobain - he married singer Courtney Love in 1992, and had a baby daughter, Frances, with her in August of that year.

But the pressures of fame were clearly getting to him, as he struggled with depression. A drug overdose in Rome in March 1994 was described by Love as his first suicide attempt.