Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain

( 143 )

Overview

It has been twenty years since Kurt Cobain died by his own hand in April 1994; it was an act of will that typified his short, angry, inspired life. Veteran music journalist Charles R. Cross fuses his intimate knowledge of the Seattle music scene with his deep compassion for his subject in this extraordinary story of artistic brilliance and the pain that extinguished it. Based on more than four hundred interviews; four years of research; exclusive access to Cobain's unpublished diaries, lyrics, and family photos; ...

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Overview

It has been twenty years since Kurt Cobain died by his own hand in April 1994; it was an act of will that typified his short, angry, inspired life. Veteran music journalist Charles R. Cross fuses his intimate knowledge of the Seattle music scene with his deep compassion for his subject in this extraordinary story of artistic brilliance and the pain that extinguished it. Based on more than four hundred interviews; four years of research; exclusive access to Cobain's unpublished diaries, lyrics, and family photos; and a wealth of documentation, Heavier Than Heaven traces Cobain's life from his early days in a double-wide trailer outside of Aberdeen, Washington, to his rise to fame, success, and the adulation of a generation. Charles Cross has written a preface for this new edition, in which he recounts some of the events regarding Kurt Cobain and this book in the past two decades since his death.

More than the history of a rock and roll star, Heavier Than Heaven is a portrait of creative genius and the will to turn pain into art.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Published to coincide with the tenth anniversary of Nirvana's landmark Nevermind album, this is an engaging, comprehensive biography of the group's resident genius, the much-lamented Kurt Cobain. Utilizing more than 400 interviews and Cobain's unpublished diaries, Heavier than Heaven recounts the meteoric rise and sudden descent of the Seattle-based singer.
<b>The Los Angeles Times</b> - "HEAVIER THAN HEAVEN sets a high
"One of the most moving and revealing books ever written about a rock star."--The Los Angeles Times
From the Publisher
"One of the most moving and revealing books ever written about a rock star."—The Los Angeles TimesThe Los Angeles Times, "HEAVIER THAN HEAVEN sets a high, new standard."—Rolling Stone
Biography
A rich personal history of the tormented singer/songwriter . . . a much needed and clearer picture of this unlikely, unwilling rock god.
USA Today
A powerful portrait.
New Yorker
A compelling new biography.
Seattle Post Intelligencer
A fascinating read that manages to be respectful . . . and also critical. The short, unhappy life of Kurt Cobain now has its worthy biographer.
John Marshall
The short unhappy life of Kurt Donald Cobain now has its worthy biographer. —Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Robert Christgau
. . . a compelling new biography of Cobain . . . —The New Yorker
Jeff Burlingame
Heavier Than Heaven will likely stand forever as the definitive Kurt Cobain biography. —Aberdeen Daily World
Justin Waite
Shakes up the prevailing conceptions of Cobain . . . A compelling biography. —Biography magazine
Mark Lindquist
No other Cobain book matches Heavier Than Heaven for research, accuracy, and insider scoops. —The Seattle Times
Eric Nuzum
. . . this is the first to take an authoritative, journalistic, and scrupulous look at the history of Cobain and his band. —Public Arts
Jeff Baker
Dozens of books have been written about Cobain and his band . . . Heavier Than Heaven is the best, by far. —Portland Oregonian
Chris Nelson
Insightful, painstakingly researched . . . Cross' rendering of Cobain's childhood and family history is fascinating. —The Seattle Weekly
J.D. Considine
Exhaustively researched . . . More riveting and suspenseful than a biography has the right to be. —Blender
Rasmus Holmen
An excellent description of Kurt Cobain's life, all of it's major events, and his part of Nirvana. —Nirvanaclub.com
USA Today
A powerful portrait.
Anthony DeBarros
Definitive . . . Cross untangles the soul of a man. A powerful portrait. —USA Today
E! Online
A well-researched, well-written piece of rock journalism.
CNN.com
Many treatments have surfaced . . . none has dug as deep or as close to home as Cross' work.
Publishers Weekly
"And there had never quite been a rock star like Kurt Cobain," Cross eulogizes in this celebrity biography. Unfortunately, Cross, former editor of the Rocket, a Northwestern music and entertainment weekly, never proves his claim. Instead, Cobain's story, culled from more than 400 interviews with friends, family and colleagues and exclusive access to Cobain's unpublished diaries, sounds wholly ordinary, from boilerplate adolescent bitterness about his parents' divorce ("I hate Mom, I hate Dad. Dad hates Mom, Mom hates Dad. It simply makes you want to be so sad") and malt liquor, punk rock-adorned angst to the tawdry details of his drug addiction. "Even in this early stage of his career, Kurt had already begun the process of retelling his own story in a manner that formed a separate self," writes Cross as he carefully dispels some of Cobain's self-made myths, including claims of living under a bridge, "tales... about his constant abuse at the hands of Aberdeen's rednecks" and harboring an aversion to fame. The many unenlightening observations are often painted thick with sensationalism; other times, Cross trawls the bottom for sources whose credibility and relevance are dubious at best. (For instance, he interviews Cobain's drug-addicted ex-babysitter, Cali, and some of her girlfriends, yielding a depressing she-said-he-said of Kurt's final days.) Conspiracy theorists will speculate about the conditions under which Cross gained access to Cobain's private journals. Complete with gossip and meticulous references, the biography will catch the devotees, though, like junk food, it may leave them feeling unnourished. 16 pages b&w photos. (Aug. 15) Forecast: Released on the 10th anniversary ofCome As You Are and with radio giveaways, this book will sell well. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
"I'm going to be a superstar musician, kill myself, and go out in a flame of glory." So spoke 14-year-old Kurt Cobain, who could not possibly have anticipated how prophetic his statement would become. Cobain, as leader of the band Nirvana, almost single-handedly wrestled alternative rock into the mainstream via the group's massive 1991 album, Nevermind. Three years later, Cobain rebelled against the phenomenal fame he had ambitiously sought and, physically and psychologically decimated by heroin addiction and a mysterious stomach ailment, fatally shot himself at age 27. Former editor of Seattle's influential music magazine the Rocket, Cross followed the Nirvana juggernaut from the beginning, and though he nearly bludgeons the reader with tales of Cobain's debauched excesses, one is still drawn to the artist's forceful personality. Cross transcends Christopher Sandford's 1995 Cobain biography, Kurt Cobain (Carroll & Graf, 1996) by conducting over 400 interviews and gaining access not only to the singer's widow, Courtney Love, but also to the musician's private journals, which provide fascinating insights into Cobain's troubled mind. The sordid details of Cobain's addiction and suicide and Cross's occasionally over-the-top dramatics are sometimes more than the reader can stomach, but ultimately this is a carefully crafted and compelling tragedy that serves as a necessary foil to Michael Azerrad's authorized Nirvana biography, Come As You Are (Doubleday, 1993). Lloyd Jansen, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Music journalist Cross ("Nevermind", not reviewed, etc.) treats the short, strange, unhappy life of musician Kurt Cobain with intelligence and an insider's perceptiveness. Terrible though it was, Cobain's suicide by shotgun in 1994 would never be categorized as a surprise. As Cross explains, Cobain had a lifelong affair with the act, indifferently gabbing about it as a teenager, writing and painting pictures of it, putting it in song lyrics, making a run for it in Rome-only to have his girlfriend find him comatose and rush him to a hospital. Cross picks up Cobain's life story on day one and follows it through his dreadful youth: divorced parents, one inept and the other an alcoholic, never any physical or emotional space for him, finally living out of a cardboard box as a high-schooler. It doesn't take much for Cross to convince readers of the psychological pain that Cobain endured and why he might turn to booze, then LSD, marijuana, cough syrup, and heroin. Certainly, fame was no tonic, nor, ultimately, was his marriage to fellow musician Courtney Love, or his daughter Frances. The best, or at least most telling, material here comes from interviews with friends-Cross had access to Cobain's notebooks, but he has the good sense to appreciate that they contain a good amount of posturing-who describe a wildly creative guy who could also be a "world-class whiner," someone who cultivated the grunge look, an anti-star who wanted to know why MTV didn't run his video more often, a nihilist who never could shake his shame and self-loathing. Too many demons were crawling around in his skull to ever let him bask in his artistry or the love of the few people who really cared about him. It's asthough Cobain's life was one long session with a particularly evil hair shirt. A flash of musical brilliance-"beautiful, haunting, disturbing"-suffocated by a life so relentlessly grim you wouldn't wish it on a sworn enemy.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786884025
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 8/21/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 75,716
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

CHARLES R. CROSS was editor of The Rocket, the Northwest's highly regarded music and entertainment magazine and the first publication to do a cover story on Nirvana. He is also the author of Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix; Led Zeppelin: Heaven and Hell; Backstreets: Springsteen, the Man and his Music; Nevermind: The Classic Album; and Here We Are Now: The Lasting Impact of Kurt Cobain. His writing has appeared in Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Spy, among many other publications. He lives in Seattle.

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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One


YELLING LOUDLY AT FIRST


ABERDEEN, WASHINGTON
FEBRUARY 1967-DECEMBER 1973


He makes his wants known by yelling loudly at first, then crying if the first technique doesn't work.
—Excerpt from a report by his aunt on the eighteen-month-old Kurt Cobain.


Kurt Donald Cobain was born on the twentieth of February, 1967, in a hospital on a hill overlooking Aberdeen, Washington. His parents lived in neighboring Hoquiam, but it was appropriate that Aberdeen stand as Kurt's birthplace—he would spend three quarters of his life within ten miles of the hospital and would be forever profoundly connected to this landscape.

    Anyone looking out from Grays Harbor Community Hospital that rainy Monday would have seen a land of harsh beauty, where forests, mountains, rivers, and a mighty ocean intersected in a magnificent vista. Tree-covered hills surrounded the intersection of three rivers, which fed into the nearby Pacific Ocean. In the center of it all was Aberdeen, the largest city in Grays Harbor County, with a population of 19,000. Immediately to the west was smaller Hoquiam, where Kurt's parents, Don and Wendy, lived in a tiny bungalow. And south across the Chehalis River was Cosmopolis, where his mother's family, the Fradenburgs, were from. On a day when it wasn't raining—which was a rare day in a region that got over 80 inches of precipitation a year—one could see the nine miles to Montesano, where Kurt's grandfather Leland Cobain grew up. It was a small enough world, with so few degrees of separation that Kurt would eventually become Aberdeen's most famous product.

    The view from the three-story hospital was dominated by the sixth busiest working harbor on the West Coast. There were so many pieces of timber floating in the Chehalis that you could imagine using them to walk across the two-mile mouth. To the east was Aberdeen's downtown, where merchants complained that the constant rumbling of logging trucks scared away shoppers. It was a city at work, and that work almost entirely depended on turning Douglas fir trees from the surrounding hills into commerce. Aberdeen was home to 37 different lumber, pulp, shingle, or saw mills—their smokestacks dwarfed the town's tallest building, which had only seven stories. Directly down the hill from the hospital was the gigantic Rayonier Mill smokestack, the biggest tower of all, which stretched 150 feet toward the heavens and spewed forth an unending celestial cloud of wood-pulp effluence.

    Yet as Aberdeen buzzed with motion, at the time of Kurt's birth its economy was slowly contracting. The county was one of the few in the state with a declining population, as the unemployed tried their luck elsewhere. The timber industry had begun to suffer the consequences of offshore competition and over-logging. The landscape already showed marked signs of such overuse: There were swaths of clear-cut forests outside of town, now simply a reminder of early settlers who had "tried to cut it all," as per the title of a local history book. Unemployment exacted a darker social price on the community in the form of increasing alcoholism, domestic violence, and suicide. There were 27 taverns in 1967, and the downtown core included many abandoned buildings, some of which had been brothels before they were closed in the late fifties. The city was so infamous for whorehouses that in 1952 Look magazine called it "one of the hot spots in America's battle against sin."

    Yet the urban blight of downtown Aberdeen was paired with a closeknit social community where neighbors helped neighbors, parents were involved in schools, and family ties remained strong among a diverse immigrant population. Churches outnumbered taverns, and it was a place, like much of small-town America in the mid-sixties, where kids on bikes were given free rein in their neighborhoods. The entire city would become Kurt's backyard as he grew up.

    Like most first births, Kurt's was a celebrated arrival, both for his parents and for the larger family. He had six aunts and uncles on his mother's side; two uncles on his father's side; and he was the first grandchild for both family trees. These were large families, and when his mother went to print up birth announcements, she used up 50 before she was through the immediate relations. A line in the Aberdeen Daily World's birth column on February 23 noted Kurt's arrival to the rest of the world: "To Mr. and Mrs. Donald Cobain, 2830 1/2 Aberdeen Avenue, Hoquiam, February 20, at Community Hospital, a son."

    Kurt weighed seven pounds, seven and one-half ounces at birth, and his hair and complexion were dark. Within five months, his baby hair would turn blond, and his coloring would turn fair. His father's family had French and Irish roots—they had immigrated from Skey Townland in County Tyrone, Ireland, in 1875—and Kurt inherited his angular chin from this side. From the Fradenburgs on his mother's side—who were German, Irish, and English—Kurt gained rosy cheeks and blond locks. But by far his most striking feature was his remarkable azure eyes; even nurses in the hospital commented on their beauty.


It was the sixties, with a war raging in Vietnam, but apart from the occasional news dispatch, Aberdeen felt more like 1950s America. The day Kurt was born, the Aberdeen Daily World contrasted the big news of an American victory at Quang Ngai City with local reports on the size of the timber harvest and ads from JCPenney, where a Washington's Birthday sale featured $2.48 flannel shirts. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? had received thirteen Academy Award nominations in Los Angeles that afternoon, but the Aberdeen drive-in was playing Girls on the Beach.

    Kurt's 21-year-old father, Don, worked at the Chevron station in Hoquiam as a mechanic. Don was handsome and athletic, but with his flattop haircut and Buddy Holly-style glasses he had a geekiness about him. Kurt's 19-year-old mother, Wendy, in contrast, was a classic beauty who looked and dressed a bit like Marcia Brady. They had met in high school, where Wendy had the nickname "Breeze." The previous June, just weeks after her high-school graduation, Wendy had become pregnant. Don borrowed his father's sedan and invented an excuse so the two could travel to Idaho and marry without parental consent.

    At the time of Kurt's birth the young couple were living in a tiny house in the backyard of another home in Hoquiam. Don worked long hours at the service station while Wendy took care of the baby. Kurt slept in a white wicker bassinet with a bright yellow bow on top. Money was tight, but a few weeks after the birth they managed to scrape up enough to leave the tiny house and move into a larger one at 2830 Aberdeen Avenue. "The rent," remembered Don, "was only an extra five dollars a month, but in those times, five dollars was a lot of money."

    If there was a portent of trouble in the household, it began over finances. Though Don had been appointed "lead man" at the Chevron in early 1968, his salary was only $6,000 a year. Most of their neighbors and friends worked in the timber industry, where jobs were physically demanding—one study described the profession as "more deadly than war"—but with higher wages in return. The Cobains struggled to stay within a budget, yet when it came to Kurt, they made sure he was well-dressed, and even sprang for professional photos. In one series of pictures from this era, Kurt is wearing a white dress shirt, black tie, and a gray suit, looking like Little Lord Fauntleroy—he still has his baby fat and chubby, full cheeks. In another, he wears a matching blue vest and suit top, and a hat more suited to Phillip Marlowe than a year-and-a-half-old boy.

    In May 1968, when Kurt was fifteen months old, Wendy's fourteen-year-old sister Mari wrote a paper about her nephew for her home economics class. "His mother takes care of him most of the time," Mari wrote. "[She] shows her affection by holding him, giving him praise when he deserves it, and by taking part in many of his activities. He responds to his father in that when he sees his father, he smiles, and he likes his dad to hold him. He makes his wants known by yelling loudly at first, then crying if the first technique doesn't work." Mari recorded that his favorite game was peekaboo, his first tooth appeared at eight months, and his first dozen words were, "coco, momma, dadda, ball, toast, bye-bye, hi, baby, me, love, hot dog, and kittie."

    Mari listed his favorite toys as a harmonica, a drum, a basketball, cars, trucks, blocks, a pounding block, a toy TV, and a telephone. Of Kurt's daily routine, she wrote that "his reaction to sleep is that he cries when he is laid down to do so. He is so interested in the family that he doesn't want to leave them." His aunt concluded: "He is a happy, smiling baby and his personality is developing as it is because of the attention and love he is receiving."

    Wendy was a mindful mother, reading books on learning, buying flash cards, and, aided by her brothers and sisters, making sure Kurt got proper care. The entire extended family joined in the celebration of this child, and Kurt flourished with the attention. "I can't even put into words the joy and the life that Kurt brought into our family," remembered Mari. "He was this little human being who was so bubbly. He had charisma even as a baby. He was funny, and he was bright." Kurt was smart enough that when his aunt couldn't figure out how to lower his crib, the one-and-a-half-year-old simply did it himself. Wendy was so enamored of her son's antics, she rented a Super-8 camera and shot movies of him—an expense the family could ill afford. One film shows a happy, smiling little boy cutting his second-year birthday cake and looking like the center of his parents' universe.

    By his second Christmas, Kurt was already showing an interest in music. The Fradenburgs were a musical family—Wendy's older brother Chuck was in a band called the Beachcombers; Mari played guitar; and great-uncle Delbert had a career as an Irish tenor, even appearing in the movie The King of Jazz. When the Cobains visited Cosmopolis, Kurt was fascinated by the family jam sessions. His aunts and uncles recorded him singing the Beatles' "Hey Jude," Arlo Guthrie's "Motorcycle Song," and the theme to "The Monkees" television show. Kurt enjoyed making up his own lyrics, even as a toddler. When he was four, upon his return from a trip to the park with Mari, he sat down at the piano and crafted a crude song about their adventure. "We went to the park, we got candy," went the lyrics. "I was just amazed," recalled Mari. "I should have plugged in the tape recorder—it was probably his first song."

    Not long after he turned two, Kurt created an imaginary friend he called Boddah. His parents eventually became concerned about his attachment to this phantom pal, so when an uncle was sent to Vietnam, Kurt was told that Boddah too had been drafted. But Kurt didn't completely buy this story. When he was three, he was playing with his aunt's tape machine, which had been set to "echo." Kurt heard the echo and asked, "Is that voice talking to me? Boddah? Boddah?"

    In September 1969, when Kurt was two and a half, Don and Wendy bought their first home at 1210 East First Street in Aberdeen. It was a two-story, 1,000-square-foot house with a yard and a garage. They paid $7,950 for it. The 1923-era dwelling was located in a neighborhood occasionally given the derogatory nickname "felony flats." North of the Cobain house was the Wishkah River, which frequently flooded, and to the southeast was the wooded bluff locals called "Think of Me Hill"—at the turn of the century it had sported an advertisement for Think of Me cigars.

    It was a middle-class house in a middle-class neighborhood, which Kurt would later describe as "white trash posing as middle-class." The first floor contained the living room, dining room, kitchen, and Wendy and Don's bedroom. The upstairs had three rooms: a small playroom and two bedrooms, one of which became Kurt's. The other was planned for Kurt's sibling—that month Wendy had learned she was pregnant again.

    Kurt was three when his sister Kimberly was born. She looked, even as an infant, remarkably like her brother, with the same mesmerizing blue eyes and light blond hair. When Kimberly was brought home from the hospital, Kurt insisted on carrying her into the house. "He loved her so much," remembered his father. "And at first they were darling together." Their three-year age difference was ideal because her care became one of his main topics of conversation. This marked the beginning of a personality trait that would stick with Kurt for the rest of his life—he was sensitive to the needs and pains of others, at times overly so.

    Having two children changed the dynamic of the Cobain household, and what little leisure time they had was taken up by visits with family or Don's interest in intramural sports. Don was in a basketball league in winter and played on a baseball team in summer, and much of their social life involved going to games or post-game events. Through sports, the Cobains met and befriended Rod and Dres Herling. "They were good family people, and they did lots of things with their kids," Rod Herling recalled. Compared with other Americans going through the sixties, they were also notably square: At the time no one in their social circle smoked pot, and Don and Wendy rarely drank.

    One summer evening the Herlings were at the Cobains' playing cards, when Don came into the living room and announced, "I have a rat." Rats were common in Aberdeen because of the low elevation and abundance of water. Don began to fashion a crude spear by attaching a butcher knife to a broom handle. This drew the interest of five-year-old Kurt, who followed his father to the garage, where the rodent was in a trash can. Don told Kurt to stand back, but this was impossible for such a curious child and the boy kept inching closer until he was holding his father's pant leg. The plan was for Rod Herling to lift the lid of the can, whereupon Don would use his spear to stab the rat. Herling lifted, Don threw the broomstick but missed the rat, and the spear stuck into the floor. As Don tried in vain to pull the broom out, the rat—at a calm and bemused pace—crawled up the broomstick, scurried over Don's shoulder and down to the ground, and ran over Kurt's feet as he exited the garage. It happened in a split second, but the combination of the look on Don's face and the size of Kurt's eyes made everyone howl with laughter. They laughed for hours over this incident, and it would become a piece of family folklore: "Hey, do you remember that time Dad tried to spear the rat?" No one laughed harder than Kurt, but as a five-year-old he laughed at everything. It was a beautiful laugh, like the sound of a baby being tickled, and it was a constant refrain.


In September 1972, Kurt began kindergarten at Robert Gray Elementary, three blocks north of his house. Wendy walked him to school the first day, but after that he was on his own; the neighborhood around First Street had become his tuff. He was well-known to his teachers as a precocious, inquisitive pupil with a Snoopy lunchbox. On his report card that year his teacher wrote "real good student." He was not shy. When a bear cub was brought in for show-and-tell, Kurt was one of the only kids who posed with it for photos.

    The subject he excelled in the most was art. At the age of five it was already clear he had exceptional artistic skills: He was creating paintings that looked realistic. Tony Hirschman met Kurt in kindergarten and was impressed by his classmate's ability: "He could draw anything. Once we were looking at pictures of werewolves, and he drew one that looked just like the photo." A series Kurt did that year depicted Aquaman, the Creature From the Black Lagoon, Mickey Mouse, and Pluto. Every holiday or birthday his family gave him supplies, and his room began to take on the appearance of an art studio.

    Kurt was encouraged in art by his paternal grandmother, Iris Cobain. She was a collector of Norman Rockwell memorabilia in the form of in the middle, not a single strand out of place. With her perfect posture and the manner in which her wrists hang over the arms of the chair, she looks like a queen.

    Three-year-old Kim sits on her mom's lap. Dressed in a long, white dress with black patent leather shoes, she appears as a miniature version of her mother. She is staring directly at the camera and has the appearance of a child who might start crying at any moment.

    Don stands behind the chair, close enough to be in the picture but distracted. His shoulders are slightly stooped and he wears more of a bemused look than a legitimate smile. He is wearing a light purple long-sleeved shirt with a four-inch collar and a gray vest—it's an outfit that one could imagine Steve Martin or Dan Aykroyd donning for their "wild and crazy guys" skit on "Saturday Night Live." He has a far-off look in his eyes, as if he is wondering just why he has been dragged down to the photo studio when he could be playing ball.

    Kurt stands off to the left, in front of his father, a foot or two away from the chair. He's wearing two-tone, striped blue pants with a matching vest and a fire-truck red long-sleeved shirt a bit too big for him, the sleeves partially covering his hands. As the true entertainer in the family, he is not only smiling, but he's laughing. He looks notably happy—a little boy having fun on a Saturday with his family.

    It is a remarkably good-looking family, and the outward appearances suggest an all-American pedigree—clean hair, white teeth, and well-pressed clothes so stylized they could have been ripped out of an early seventies Sears catalog. Yet a closer look reveals a dynamic that even to the photographer must have been painfully obvious: It's a picture of a family, but not a picture of a marriage. Don and Wendy aren't touching, and there is no suggestion of affection between them; it is as if they're not even in the same frame. With Kurt standing in front of Don, and Kim sitting on Wendy's lap, one could easily take a pair of scissors and sever the photograph—and the family—down the middle. You'd be left with two separate families, each with one adult and one child, each gender specific—the Victorian dresses on one side, and the boys with wide collars on the other.


Excerpted from heavier than heaven by CHARLES R. CROSS. Copyright © 2001 by Charles R. Cross. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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Table of Contents

Author's Note ix
Prologue: Heavier Than Heaven 1
New York, New York January 12, 1992
Chapter 1: Yelling Loudly at First 5
Aberdeen, Washington February 1967-December 1973
Chapter 2: I Hate Mom, I Hate Dad 15
Aberdeen, Washington January 1974-June 1979
Chapter 3: Meatball of the Month 28
Montesano, Washington July 1979-March 1982
Chapter 4: Prairie Belt Sausage Boy 38
Aberdeen, Washington March 1982-March 1983
Chapter 5: The Will of Instinct 55
Aberdeen, Washington April 1984-September 1986
Chapter 6: Didn't Love Him Enough 73
Aberdeen, Washington September 1986-March 1987
Chapter 7: Soupy Sales in My Fly 81
Raymond, Washington March 1987
Chapter 8: In High School Again 88
Olympia, Washington April 1987-May 1988
Chapter 9: Too Many Humans 104
Olympia, Washington May 1988-February 1989
Chapter 10: Illegal to Rock `N' Roll 123
Olympia, Washington February 1989-September 1989
Chapter 11: Candy, Puppies, Love 139
London, England October 1989-May 1990
Chapter 12: Love You So Much 152
Olympia, Washington May 1990-December 1990
Chapter 13: The Richard Nixon Library 167
Olympia, Washington November 1990-May 1991
Chapter 14: Burn American Flags 179
Olympia, Washington May 1991-September 1991
Chapter 15: Every Time I Swallowed 192
Seattle, Washington September 1991-October 1991
Chapter 16: Brush Your Teeth 206
Seattle, Washington October 1991-January 1992
Chapter 17: Little Monster Inside 221
Los Angeles, California January 1992-August 1992
Chapter 18: Rosewater, Diaper Smell 237
Los Angeles, California August 1992-September 1992
Chapter 19: That Legendary Divorce 253
Seattle, Washington September 1992-January 1993
Chapter 20: Heart-Shaped Coffin 267
Seattle, Washington January 1993-August 1993
Chapter 21: A Reason to Smile 281
Seattle, Washington August 1993-November 1993
Chapter 22: Cobain's Disease 296
Seattle, Washington November 1993-March 1994
Chapter 23: Like Hamlet 312
Seattle, Washington March 1994
Chapter 24: Angel's Hair 327
Los Angeles, California-Seattle, Washington
March 30-April 6, 1994
Epilogue: A Leonard Cohen Afterworld 343
Seattle, Washington April 1994-May 1999
Source Notes 353
Acknowledgments 365
Index 367
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 143 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 13, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I know, but I don't know.

    This book is compilation of a man's life from interviews and speculation. But. it is the only way to compile 27 years of the unknown into 365 pages. At the end of every beings life, the only person that truly knows what happened is the being that is living that life.

    I'm reminded of a line from the movie Donnie Darko, "Every living creature on earth dies alone."

    Kurt was unhappy. There are not too many people that I know that can truly say that they are 100% happy with their lives. Everyone chooses to deal with their level of unhappiness in different forms. People chose their own therapy by; ignoring it, changing it, embracing it, or medicating it. Kurt chose to medicate.

    It seemed like he started on the right path, choosing to use his art to medicate his unhappy existence, but that turned him to much more sinister way to cover his pain.

    I cannot speak for Kurt, because I am not Kurt. People that have suffered from depression and mental pain know the state that he was in, and they can feel sympathy for him. But every person that has suffered knows only their own hell and will never truly know what Kurt went through. As much as it is a contradiction; you have been there with him, but you will never be there with him.

    I know, it doesn't make sense.

    The book was well written and the author did a great job of piecing a shattered life together.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2012

    This Broke Me...Absolutely...In the Most Ironic Way

    This book gave me a new outlook on my struggles with psychological disorders, substance abuse and my suicide attempts. This book ruined me. It crushed me. Absolutely crushed me to think that, though I am not nor will ever be an icon such as Kurt, these events, or events similar did and absolutely could happen/ be caused by me. I do not care for the word 'tragic' as it is used far too often, but I am at a loss for words to describe how I feel about the way Cobain's life turned out. Like him, I always felt I would not live as long as I should, and though this book changed my perception toward the path my life has been travelling down- much like many others out there- I feel an ironic sense of more despair about things. A wakeup call that I am struggling to peel my way through. I am certain that elaborate on the details would not be appropriate here, but the words I read were too painful for me to read to the point of avoiding reading about the inevitable, which was the death of Kurt Cobain. I first read it with the mindset that misery loves company, but no. That is not how it grew to be. I read it from the eyes of a caring friend or family member who watched this happen, helpless.It tore at me time and time again, like reliving my own events from the outside. Therapy is an excellent way to deal with the way the mind processes things- the world, relationships, etc. But I do have to say with the deepest sorrow I have for a sad, sad little boy who loved too much to live, I was a sad, sad little girl who still feels the same, that this book inspired me to keep working at living. To not dwell on this book is impossible. Beautifully written and carefully worded, with a gentle truthfullness poured out for those living within or within the impact of mental illness. To not read this book, whether you loved, disliked or knew or know little about this lost person's life would be missing out on the opportunity to touch on what it is like to have or know someone with the same demons, and maybe save yourself, or a loved one by truly seeing the signs however quiet or how obvious they are. Rest in peace, Kurt Cobain, at last. Rest in all the peace you'd never had the chance to have.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2012

    I thought this was a very interesting biography, and probably wo

    I thought this was a very interesting biography, and probably would be even for a person who isn't a big fan of Nirvana. I am two years older than Kurt and bought &quot;Nevermind&quot; shortly after it came out. I still remember the day he was reported to be dead. It was sad and shocking, but had I known the story, I don't think I would have been shocked at all.
    This book was extremely well researched and provides a great deal of depth on Cobain's life. It has very little dialogue, which makes sense given that it would be impossible to recount who said what. Yet, I don't feel like I really knew him or understood Kurt Cobain after reading it. And, I feel sympathy for his many struggles, but after reading this book, I don't think it would have been cool or fun to be around him. He didn't treat anyone well, particularly not himself. He wasn't worthy of the worship he received. Perhaps that was part of the cause of his downward spiral.
    After reading this book, I have no doubt at all that Cobain killed himself. He was about as self-destructive as people get. This is a very sad and dark story. Instead of finding satisfaction and joy in his success, it seemed to drag Cobain into ever darker places. One can only hope that his daughter is tougher than her parents and is able to avoid addiction and other self-destructive behaviors.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2010

    Bioraphy on Kurt Donald Cobain

    Kurt Cobain had a very extrordinary and interesting life, not only as the founder of a new generation (grunge), but as an ordinary human being just like you and me. The book Heavier Than Heaven does an exelent job of explaning every detail in his entire life. This book goes into more detail of Kurt Cobains life than I can even remember about mine. Charles R. Cross certianly did his research, and did it well. Its almost as if he was watching Kurts every move since he was born. Not only does this book do a good job of explaining his life, but also covers the history of Nirvana; who was in it, when they were in it, firsts shows, major debutes, Cross covered nearly everything. The one thing I did not like about this book was the fact that he didn't cover all of the theries of Cobains death, as many of you know there are theries that Courtney Love had him killed, which wasn't even mentioned. But aside that, it was a very good book and I would recomend to everyone who has any slight interest in Kurt Cobain or Nirvana.
    Crux: Page 342: ...He grabbed the heavy shotgun, put it against the roof of his mouth. It would be loud; he was certian of that. And then he was gone.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2014

    Review on Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain This


    Review on Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain
    This book did a great job showing the other side of the artistic Kurt Cobian that people do not know.
    Charles R. Cross was the author that told this amazing story of Kurt Cobain that hit home for me because I could understand some of the hardships he went through as a kid. Although they weren't as extreme as his, but every one could probably relate. Everyone has this image of Kurt Cobain that he was just a rebellious guy that was just in a famous band. Heavier Than Heaven will likely stand forever as the definitive Kurt Cobain biography. The novel tells the story of Kurts adventurous life from the day he was born to the day he passed in 1994. This book also sets the record straight for any tall tales and myths about the singer that has been said throughout the years.

    The biography tells from the point of view of Kurt and not what we see. It told stories about the struggles of living with his parents to his addictions when he was in the band. It told about some of the times he would do drugs with his fiance Courtney Love and it went very into clear detail I felt like I was there. I felt like I was becoming attached and grew as friends with the characters and Kurt, and I was so sad when it told about his tragic ending. The stories about little things in Kurt Cobain's life were both hilarious and sad, and I would highly recommend this book to anyone because it will change the way you look at life.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2013

    I didn't know Kurt, but this book helped me try.

    Found myself cheering him on and.... not. Could not put it down because every moment mattered, even if I already knew the end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2013

    Fantastic

    An awesome read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2013

    Good book

    I think this was a good read,but i think cross trusted in to many of courtney loves bs versions and some of the book seems to be just plain out guessing,espically the end of the book cross says what took place as kurt was about to commit suicide,i really disliked him acting out in his words what took place,but overall a good book with some flaws

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2013

    awesome

    good read

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2013

    Help

    I really want to read this book but for some reason I got stuck on page 25where I can't go forwards in the book or backwards and I can't figure out why

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2009

    Heavier Than Heaven: The Biography of Kurt Cobain

    In Heavier Than Heaven, the biography of famous musician Kurt Cobain, Charles R. Cross lets the reader deep into the life, and somewhat tortures, of a child growing up to become famous. The author holds nothing back as you delve deep into the upbringings of a troubled musician. Kurt's tragedies and life story are masterfully captured with stunning detail.

    Heavier Than Heaven details the defining moments in a life riddled with tragedy and inner-conflict. Kurt grows up not knowing where to fit in and spends his whole life believing death is fast approaching. Drugs, sex, and music slowly become his idols as he struggles to cope with the world around him, finding false feelings in getting high. This leads him to his making of Nirvana.

    This was one of my favorite books about one of my favorite musicians. The depth that the book involved put you into the life of the famous rock star. Heavier Than Heaven was a very thrilling book that was hard to put down.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2013

    good

    good

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2013

    Awesome!

    Super good read!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2013

    Ok when you can't find something good

    Kurt Cobains life as we know was a lot of drugs ect. The story of his life really wasn't all that great. Seems as if drugs h been key factor... i really was not impressed.
    ad

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 8, 2009

    Heavier than Heaven

    This book is great at telling Kurts life and is one of the most accurate books about his life. This book gives an in-depth view of how sensitive and fragile Kurt was on the inside even though he looks like he doesnt care on the outside.Kurt was the lead singer and guitarist of the band Nirvana. They was crucial in bringing Grunge into the mainstream and made it possible for bands like Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam to make it big. The book begins with the birth of Kurt all the way to his untimely "suicide". My favorite part of the book had to be his childhood all the way up to the age of like 18 because it was rather interesting reading about the drug use in his teenage years. But it was weird when he was sober for a bit in his 20's but then his drug use progressed and ultimately led to his downfall. But some people never change and thats what makes them who they are as a person. Though Kurt was only around for 28 years, it was a treat for the whole world to enjoy. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a big fan of Nirvana

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  • Posted May 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    To Fans and Those Who Aren't

    Whether you know about Nirvana or not, this book will provide incredible insight to exactly who "Kurdt Kobain" was and how he came to be. To the fans, this book will blow you away. To the everyday reader simply perusing through the pages behind an interesting cover, one unaware of the melodic fruitfulness of the greatest band of the early '90s, your desire to investigate its musical accomplishments will be undeniable. A great reader. An eye opener. A hard hitting, literary, biographical super punch!

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  • Posted January 20, 2009

    A Great Biography

    This was an incredible biography on Kurt Cobain. It was credible, complete, and gave detailed facts on Kurt. This book allowed the reader to get a glimpse into Kurt's head and truly understand how he felt. It also did a great job in describing Kurt's rise to fame with Nirvana and his many relapses into drug use. All and all this is one of the best biographies of Kurt Cobain around and is a must read for any Nirvana fan.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2008

    Amazing

    Heavier Than Heaven was one of the most well-written books I've read in a very long time. Reading the biography made me feel as though I myself were in Cobain's head and was truely seeing things from his perspective. Cross did an amazing job of staying unattatched, and forgetting any preconceived notions to this thrilling life. It was great to read a biography that wasn't chalked full of the author's own personal opinion!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2007

    A Tainted Life

    Charles R. Cross did some extremely in depth research of Kurt Cobain for several years from the time he was born until his death. Cross doesn¿t miss one detail when explaining anything from his weird habits as a nine year old (stating how he wanted to kill himself once he was a famous rock star) to the day him and Courtney Love tried heroine for the very first time. Cross uses the many journals Kurt had kept throughout his life, as well as interviewing just about anyone who could tell him something about Kurt Cobain, to put the pieces of his life together in a very organized, easily readable manner. Yet, there was no major message or theme, mostly just a detailed recollection of the very bizarre life of Kurt Cobain. There are numerous coincidences associated with the life of Kurt Cobain. I really enjoyed the fact that Cross made it a point to get every different perspective of the arguments across the big one, obviously, Kurt¿s suicide. Cross talked about how he could have been murdered by acknowledging the many issues contradicting the police report filed about his suicide. He also discussed how Kurt could have easily killed himself, Courtney Love (his psycho wife) having absolutely nothing to do with it. He made no major biases just gave a lot of food-for-thought on each issue people seem to have with Kurt¿s death. However, I did not like the fact that he made Kurt Cobain¿s later life out to be just a bunch of drugs and hopes of dying. While he mentioned a lot of the shows Nirvana, Kurt Cobain¿s band, had played he did not go in depth with feelings about the shows or put them into mental images the way he did when he talked about Kurt Cobain¿s drug use. The one exception to this, was the last show Nirvana played before Kurt¿s death, Cross used an amazing amount of visual imagery and explained the setting perfectly. If you have any interest what-so-ever with Nirvana or even just the grunge music scene in general, I would definitely recommend this book because it gives great insight to both. Cross does an amazing job of explaining how the grunge scene was started in Seattle all the way to every inch of the life of Kurt Cobain with extremely little biases towards any certain outlook.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2007

    A reviewer

    I thought this biography was one of the best biographies I have ever read, but I have to say that I DO NOT agree with what was written about how he died. How does Charles R. Cross know for sure how Kurt really died? No one really knows except for Kurt and God, and if he really was murdered, then the person or persons who murdered him. I would have given it five stars if it weren't for the ending. This book really made my soul ache for what he went through. It made me cry. If you really want to know who Kurt Cobain REALLY was, then read this book, but don't believe the ending because it is only an assumption, not a fact.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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