Sunday, April 5, 8967
Kurt Donald Cobain (February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994) was an American songwriter and musician, best known as the lead singer and guitarist of the rock band Nirvana.
Since their debut, Nirvana, with Cobain as a songwriter, sold over twenty-five million albums in the US, and over fifty million worldwide.
With the lead single Smells Like Teen Spirit from Nirvana's second album Nevermind (1991), Nirvana entered into the mainstream, popularizing a subgenre of alternative rock called grunge. Other Seattle grunge bands such as Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden also gained wider audiences, and as a result, alternative rock became a dominant genre on radio and music television in the United States during the early-to-middle 1990s. Nirvana became considered as the "flagship band" of "Generation X", and Cobain, as its frontman, found himself anointed by the media as the generation's "spokesman."
Cobain was uncomfortable with the attention and placed his focus on the band's music, believing the band's message and artistic vision to have been misinterpreted by the public, challenging the band's audience with its third studio album In Utero (1993).
During the last years of his life, Cobain struggled with drug addiction, illness and depression, his fame and public image, as well as the professional and lifelong personal pressures surrounding himself and his wife, musician Courtney Love. On April 8, 1994, Cobain was found dead at his home in Seattle, the victim of what was officially ruled a suicide by a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head. The circumstances of his death have become a topic of fascination and debate.
Nirvana was an American rock band that was formed by singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, Washington in 1987. Nirvana went through a succession of drummers, the longest-lasting being Dave Grohl, who joined the band in 1990.
Nirvana's brief run ended with Cobain's death in April 1994, but the band's popularity continued in the years that followed. In 2002, You Know You're Right, an unfinished demo from the band's final recording session, topped radio playlists around the world.
In Utero is the third and final studio album by the American grunge band Nirvana, released on September 13, 1993, on DGC Records. Nirvana intended the record to diverge significantly from the polished production of its previous album, Nevermind (1991). To capture a more abrasive and natural sound, the group hired producer Steve Albini to record In Utero during a two-week period in February 1993 at Pachyderm Studio. The music was recorded quickly with few studio embellishments, and the song lyrics and album packaging incorporated medical imagery that conveyed frontman Kurt Cobain's outlook on his publicized personal life and his band's newfound fame.
Soon after recording was completed, rumors circulated in the press that DGC might not release the album in its original state, as the record label felt that the result was not commercially viable. Although Nirvana publicly denied the statements, the group was not fully satisfied with the sound Albini had captured. Albini declined to alter the album further, and ultimately the band hired Scott Litt to make minor changes to the album's sound and remix the singles Heart-Shaped Box and All Apologies.
Heart-Shaped Box is a song by the American grunge band Nirvana, written by vocalist and guitarist Kurt Cobain released as the first single from the group's third studio album In Utero in 1993. It was one of two songs from the album mixed by Scott Litt in order to augment the original production by producer Steve Albini. While Nirvana's label DGC Records did not release a physical single for sale in the United States, "Heart-Shaped Box" received much American radio airplay.
Kurt Cobain wrote Heart-Shaped Box in early 1992. Cobain forgot about the song for a while, but began working on it again when he and his wife Courtney Love moved to a house in the Hollywood Hills.
In a 1994 Rolling Stone interview, Love said she overheard him working on the song's riff in a closet. She said she asked him if she could use the riff for one of her songs, to which he replied, "Fuck off!" and closed the closet door. "He was trying to be so sneaky", said Love. "I could hear that one from downstairs."
The couple shared a journal in which they would write lyrics; Cobain biographer noted that Love's songwriting sensibility informed Cobain's on the song.
The song's name came from a heart-shaped box Love had given Cobain. However, Cobain had originally titled the song Heart-Shaped Coffin.
Nirvana had difficulty completing the song. Cobain attempted to have the rest of the band complete the song during jam sessions. He said, "During those practices, I was trying to wait for Krist and Dave to come up with something but it just turned into noise all the time." One day Cobain made one last attempt at completing the song. Cobain was able to come up with a vocal melody and the band finally finished writing the song. Cobain said that when they completed Heart-Shaped Box "We finally realized that it was a good song."
In January 1993, the band recorded a demo of "Heart-Shaped Box" during sessions with Craig Montgomery in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; it was the first song recorded.
The In Utero version was recorded in February 1993 by Steve Albini in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. It was remixed, along with "All Apologies" and later "Pennyroyal Tea," by Scott Litt prior to the album's release. Cobain was unapologetic about the band's decision, and maintained that the vocals and bass were not prominent enough in the original mixes. Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic was also unhappy with the original mix of "Heart-Shaped Box." In a 1993 Chicago Sun-Times interview, he said the original effect used on the song's guitar solo sounded "like a fucking abortion hitting the floor." When the song was remixed by Scott Litt, Cobain took the opportunity to add acoustic guitar and backing harmonies.
Heart-Shaped Box released as the first single from In Utero, was augmented during mixing sessions with Scott Litt. Displeased with the sound of the song, Nirvana had Litt increase the volume of Cobain's vocals and the bass guitar, and the group added acoustic guitar and backing vocals.
Journalist Gillian Gaar described Heart-Shaped Box as "the Nirvana formula personified, with a restrained, descending riff played through the verse, building in intensity to the cascading passion of the chorus."
Cobain said the song was inspired by documentaries about children with cancer. He told biographer Michael Azerrad, "Anytime I think about it, it makes me sadder than anything I can think of."
Azerrad asserted in his biography of Nirvana, Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana, that despite Cobain's explanation, the song actually appeared to be about Courtney Love.
Charles Cross wrote in his biography of Cobain, Heavier Than Heaven, that with the lyric "I wish I could eat your cancer when you turn black," Cobain "sang in what has to be the most convoluted route any songwriter undertook in pop history to say 'I love you.'"
Cobain said that the song's chorus of "Hey/Wait/I've got a new complaint" was him giving an example of how he was perceived by the media.
Nirvana originally wanted Kevin Kerslake to direct the "Heart-Shaped Box" music video. Kerslake prepared five treatments during July and August 1993, but no shoot arrangements were made and by the end of the month, the group decided to work with Dutch photographer and video director Anton Corbijn.
Corbijn, who typically created his own ideas for videos, was initially unsure of directing the video since Cobain's treatment was so detailed. Corbijn said, "But then I looked at it and I thought that actually it was pretty good. I was very amazed by somebody writing a song and having those ideas as precise as he did."
The video begins and ends with the band in a hospital setting watching an old man being administered medication through an IV drip. The majority of the video takes place in a surreal outdoor setting that incorporates imagery from the film The Wizard of Oz.
During the song's first verse, the old man from the hospital climbs onto a crow-ridden Christian cross. The second verse introduces a young girl in a Ku Klux Klan costume reaching for human fetuses in a tree, and an overweight woman in a suit with human organs painted onto it and with angel wings affixed to her back. In the video's final cut, the band is only shown performing in the outdoor setting during the choruses, where Cobain's face moves in and out of focus in the camera.
While most of the video was devised by Cobain, Corbijn added elements such as the intentionally artificial crows, a ladder for the old man to climb onto the cross with, and a box with a heart at the top that the band performs inside of during the song's final chorus.
Corbijn created another cut of the video featuring alternate footage during the final verse, including more shots of the young girl and the woman, and scenes of Cobain lying on his back in the poppy field, with mist surrounding him. This version of the video is featured on the DVD The Work of Director Anton Corbijn.
After the video's release, Kevin Kerslake sued Nirvana, alleging copyright infringement. The case was settled out of court.
The video won two MTV Video Music Awards in 1994, for Best Alternative Video and for Best Art Direction. As the ceremony was held after Kurt Cobain's April 1994 death, the awards were accepted by Cobain's former bandmates Novoselic, Grohl, and touring guitarist Pat Smear.
Heart-Shaped Box also topped the music video category in the 1993 Village Voice critics' poll.
[8968 Clark / 8967 Cobain / 8964 Run DMC]