Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s close friend, Mark Lanegan, hadn’t heard from the rocker for about a week in April 1994 when he began to fear the worst. “Kurt hadn’t called me,” he told Rolling Stone later that year. “He hadn’t called some other people. He hadn’t called his family. He hadn’t called anybody... I had a feeling that something real bad had happened.”
Lanegan’s intuition proved to be correct. On the morning of April 8, an electrician found 27-year-old Cobain dead of an apparent suicide in a greenhouse above the garage of his Seattle home. According to Rolling Stone, a 20-gauge shotgun was lying across his chest, and, as a medical examiner’s report later revealed, Cobain, who had already been dead two and a half days at that point, had a high concentration of heroin and traces of Valium in his bloodstream. The magazine also reported that he was identifiable only by his fingerprints.
Cobain wanted to quit Nirvana
Because he had been missing for six days prior to his dead body being discovered, many tried to piece together the last days of Cobain’s life. By all accounts, he had already been in a downward spiral for years before he died, battling depression and chronic drug addiction. In an interview with MTV, Cobain’s wife, Courtney Love, claimed that not long before her husband’s suicide, he told her that he hated being in Nirvana and couldn’t play with them anymore and only wanted to work with R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe. All things considered, his loved ones’ alarm reached a fever pitch.
His loved ones staged an intervention
In fact, following Cobain’s failed suicide attempt in March 1994, Love, along with several of his friends and bandmates, enlisted the help of intervention counselor Steven Chatoff. “They called me to see what could be done,” Chatoff explained to Rolling Stone. “He was using, up in Seattle. He was in full denial. It was very chaotic. And they were in fear for his life. It was a crisis.”
In late March, Love, Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear, along with several other friends went through with staging an intervention at Cobain’s home. During the meeting, Love reportedly threatened to leave Cobain, with whom she shared daughter Frances Bean, and his band also issued an ultimatum of breaking up the band, should he not agree to seek treatment at a rehabilitation facility.
READ MORE: The Destructive Romance of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love
Cobain bought a shotgun six days before using it to kill himself
Several days later, Cobain would do just that, but first, he paid a visit to pal Dylan Carlson, who also participated in the aforementioned intervention, at his Seattle home on March 30. Citing problems with trespassers on his property, Cobain asked for help securing a firearm. “He seemed normal, we’d been talking,” Carlson later said. “Plus, I’d loaned him guns before.”
Per Carlson, Cobain gave him about $300 to buy a 20-gauge shotgun and a box of ammunition from Stan’s Gun Shop. Knowing that Cobain was about to depart for treatment near Los Angeles, Carlson said that his friend’s need for the purchase did give him pause: “It seemed kind of weird that he was buying the shotgun before he was leaving. So I offered to hold on to it until he got back.”
Cobain, however, insisted on keeping the weapon himself, and, according to police, he likely dropped off the gun at his home before traveling to Exodus Recovery Center in Marina del Rey, California, later that day.
He spent two days in rehab before fleeing the treatment center
On April 1, Cobain phoned Love with a cryptic message. According to an account, the Hole frontwoman gave a local Seattle newspaper, he said, in part, “Just remember no matter what, I love you.” Later that night — after spending just two days in rehab — staffers said he alerted them that he was stepping out to smoke a cigarette on the patio. Love explained that’s when he allegedly jumped over a more than six-feet-high brick wall and disappeared.
Police suspect he flew back to Seattle where he spent his final days wandering, with neighbors claiming to have spotted an ill-looking Cobain in a park near his home dressed in a heavy coat, which they deemed inappropriate for the April weather. Others have suggested he may have spent a night with an unidentified friend at his nearby summer home.
READ MORE: Kurt Cobain: The Inspiration and Meaning Behind Nirvana's Hit 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'
An electrician discovered Cobain's body more than two days after he shot himself
By April 5, however, law enforcement officials believe Cobain had barricaded himself inside the greenhouse where an electrician who came to the home to install a security system discovered his body, days later. Love later recounted to MTV that after taking drugs, Cobain used the shotgun Carlson had helped him purchase days earlier to shoot himself in the head, thus ending his short life. She also said that her husband left a note in red ink that she read from at a Seattle memorial service.
The loss of the talented musician remained unimaginable for his adoring fans, as well as all of those who knew him personally. "I remember the day after that I woke up and I was heartbroken that he was gone,” Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl later recalled. "I just felt like, 'Okay, so I get to wake up today and have another day and he doesn't.'"