Kurt Cobain's suicide note has fueled conspiracy theories since his 1994 death. Read the full text of it here, and decide for yourself what happened to the Nirvana frontman.
Kurt Cobain’s death was officially ruled a suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the brains with a six-pound Remington 20 gauge shotgun in April 1994. Depressed and drugged out on heroin, the singer barricaded himself in the greenhouse of his Seattle, Washington home — shot up, and shot himself, surrounded by a pair of sunglasses, the cigar box he used to hide his stash, his token American Spirit cigarettes, and of course, one of the most combed over suicide notes in music history.
“It’s better to burn out than to fade away,” Cobain wrote, not knowing this reference to the Neil Young song would become a rallying cry for depressed teenagers across the globe. Indeed, it only took a couple of days for the first fan of his to kill himself.
Some say Kurt Cobain’s suicide note was an unfinished draft meant for his band — a breakup note, of sorts, that would signal the end of Nirvana and a new direction for his music career. He had already spoken to R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe about working together and seemed to some disenchanted by his grunge persona.
Fans of that theory likely also believe that the second half of Kurt Cobain’s suicide note was forged by none other than his own wife, Courtney Love. With the couple’s relationship crumbling amidst addiction and celebrity stress, Cobain had frequently mentioned divorce during his last year alive.
With those conspiracies in mind, could it have been possible for Kurt Cobain to have been murdered? Perhaps it’s prudent now to dissect the suicide note for ourselves.
A Closer Look At Kurt Cobain’s Suicide Note
Cobain overdosed on champagne and Rohypnol in a hotel room in Rome a month before his body found in his Seattle greenhouse. He swallowed 50 pills and left behind a note. The incident was initially portrayed as an accident by his management team but was later revealed to be an attempted suicide which Cobain himself denied.
“A note was found,” Courtney Love’s manager Janet Billig said at the time, “but Kurt insisted that it wasn’t a suicide note. He just took all of his and Courtney’s money and was going to run away and disappear.”
It’s unclear whether this was the same note found at the scene of his eventual suicide. Regardless, at the time of this earlier attempt Love made sure to let everyone know her husband wasn’t going anywhere.
“He’s not going to get away from me that easily,” she said. “I’ll follow him through hell.”
After a couple of days in a California rehab center, Kurt told the staff he was stepping outside for a smoke. He scaled the six-foot brick wall and flew back home to Seattle before his wife could cancel his credit cards.
Love hired private investigator Tom Grant to find her husband, while Cobain’s mother Wendy O’Connor issued a missing person’s report. Though his home was searched, nobody thought to look inside his garage or the greenhouse above it.
It’s uncertain what exactly happened between April 4 and April 5 except that Kurt Cobain likely propped a stool up against the greenhouse’s French doors and stayed inside, doing drugs, possibly writing or finishing the infamous note, and finally, shot himself.
The note reads:
Speaking from the tongue of an experienced simpleton who obviously would rather be an emasculated, infantile complain-ee. This note should be pretty easy to understand.
All the warnings from the punk rock 101 courses over the years, since my first introduction to the, shall we say, ethics involved with independence and the embracement of your community has proven to be very true. I haven’t felt the excitement of listening to as well as creating music along with reading and writing for too many years now. I feel guilty beyond words about these things.
For example, when we’re back stage and the lights go out and the manic roar of the crowds begins, it doesn’t affect me the way in which it did for Freddie Mercury, who seemed to love, relish in the love and adoration from the crowd which is something I totally admire and envy. The fact is, I can’t fool you, any one of you. It simply isn’t fair to you or me. The worst crime I can think of would be to rip people off by faking it and pretending as if I’m having 100% fun. Sometimes I feel as if I should have a punch-in time clock before I walk out on stage. I’ve tried everything within my power to appreciate it (and I do, God, believe me, I do, but it’s not enough). I appreciate the fact that I and we have affected and entertained a lot of people. It must be one of those narcissists who only appreciate things when they’re gone. I’m too sensitive. I need to be slightly numb in order to regain the enthusiasms I once had as a child.
On our last 3 tours, I’ve had a much better appreciation for all the people I’ve known personally, and as fans of our music, but I still can’t get over the frustration, the guilt and empathy I have for everyone. There’s good in all of us and I think I simply love people too much, so much that it makes me feel too fucking sad. The sad little, sensitive, unappreciative, Pisces, Jesus man. Why don’t you just enjoy it? I don’t know!
I have a goddess of a wife who sweats ambition and empathy and a daughter who reminds me too much of what I used to be, full of love and joy, kissing every person she meets because everyone is good and will do her no harm. And that terrifies me to the point to where I can barely function. I can’t stand the thought of Frances becoming the miserable, self-destructive, death rocker that I’ve become.
I have it good, very good, and I’m grateful, but since the age of seven, I’ve become hateful towards all humans in general. Only because it seems so easy for people to get along that have empathy. Only because I love and feel sorry for people too much I guess.
Thank you all from the pit of my burning, nauseous stomach for your letters and concern during the past years. I’m too much of an erratic, moody baby! I don’t have the passion anymore, and so remember, it’s better to burn out than to fade away.
Peace, love, empathy.
Frances and Courtney, I’ll be at your alter.
Please keep going Courtney, for Frances.
For her life, which will be so much happier without me.
I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU!”
Cobain had addressed the note to his childhood imaginary friend Boddah. The note was written in red ink, the pen he presumably used was stabbed through the center of the note in a flower box inside the greenhouse. Several sentences were crossed out and the handwriting seems to become hastier and erratic in the second half.
According to Charles R. Cross’ definitive biography on Cobain, Heavier Than Heaven, Boddah became one of figures of refuge for a young Cobain. With his parent’s divorce and the dissolution of his family as he knew them, Cobain must have sought peace in Boddah.
That Cobain chose to address this note to Boddah could mean that the singer felt nobody else in his real-world ever understood him. It could also mean that nobody could have written the note as who else would be privy to such an intimate aspect of Kurt Cobain’s childhood?
“As he wrote, the illumination from MTV provided most of the light, since the sun was still rising,” Cross posited in his book. “When he put the pen down, he had filled all but two inches of the page. It had taken three cigarettes to draft the note.” Then Cross added, “It was getting brighter outside and he needed to act before the rest of the world woke.”
Cross posits that right before he shot himself, Cobain added in the last few lines of his note, which would account for their sloppiness. This is definitely pure speculation.
After smoking his last cigarette and loading the shotgun, Cobain used half of his last Mexican black tar heroin (about $50 worth) and injected himself right above his “K” tattoo. Finally, as he drifted off — before it was too late — he put the barrel against the roof of his mouth.
“He rose from the bed and entered the closet, where he removed a board from the wall. In this secret cubbyhole sat a beige nylon gun case, a box of shotgun shells, and a Tom Moore cigar box. He replaced the board, put the shells in his pocket, grabbed the cigar box, and cradled the heavy shotgun over his left forearm. In a hallway closet, he grabbed two towels; he didn’t need these, but someone would. Empathy.”
Was Kurt Cobain’s Suicide Note Forged?
The singer’s perturbing suicide and death scene naturally inspired conspiracy theorists. A portion of his fans even publicly contemplated whether or not he was murdered by perhaps his own wife.
The 2015 documentary Soaked In Bleach proffers a highly disturbing alternative to the official narrative surrounding Cobain’s suicide. The film chronicles his last few days and is chiefly described through Tom Grant, the investigator Love had hired to find him.
Though Love issued a cease and desist letter to the film’s producers, she has yet to file a lawsuit. Conspiracy theorists use this decision of hers to their advantage. They interpret it as a wise move on her part to protect herself from divulging any salacious details about Cobain’s death under oath.
“Courtney Love’s uninformed accusations and efforts to discredit the film are totally off base,” the producers asserted. “Courtney Love and her lawyers clearly don’t like that the film presents a compelling case for re-opening the investigation into Kurt’s death.”
Cobain’s former lawyer, Rosemary Carroll, is also adamant that Cobain’s death is fish. According to The Sun, she believes Cobain’s suicide note was forged.
“I don’t think he wrote it,” she said. “I feel the same way I felt when I read it. He didn’t write it.”
She never elaborated on this point, though it’s perhaps noteworthy that one of the few people with the most intimate knowledge of Cobain’s finances and legal hurdles feels so strongly about this.
Tom Grant had already been the subject of a similar documentary, Kurt & Courtney, in 1998, wherein he claimed Love only hired him to investigate so she wouldn’t be seen as a suspect. His theory is that Cobain was murdered in a conspiracy orchestrated by Love and that the case should be re-opened.
Punk singer El Duce makes an appearance in the documentary, too, and he details the couple’s drug use. El Duce adds that Love offered him $50,000 to murder Cobain. He said he knew who eventually did murder Cobain, but that he’d “let the FBI catch him.”
Two days after that interview was filmed, El Duce was killed by a train.
Supporters of this theory believe then that Love wrote parts of Kurt Cobain’s suicide letter and that the initial paragraphs were intended as a break-up letter to Cobain’s band members.
Forensic linguist Carole Chaski, meanwhile, isn’t convinced of this conspiracy. She told the House Of Mystery Radio Show that her “results do not support the conspiracy theory that Courtney Love authored the bottom portion to make it look like a suicide note.”
On the other hand, she had used computer software called SNARE (Suicide Note Assessment Review) to classify the note as a legit suicide letter, which may not be a convincing method itself.
The Emotional Aftermath
According to Far Out Magazine, Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl said his friend’s death was “probably the worst thing that has happened to me in my life.”
“I remember the day after that I woke up and I was heartbroken that he was gone,” Grohl said. “I just felt like, ‘Okay, so I get to wake up today and have another day and he doesn’t.'”
Thousands of fans felt similarly and so attended his public vigil in Seattle where Love read Kurt Cobain’s suicide note to all his adoring fans. The now-famous bits, like “it’s better to burn out than to fade away,” which was originally a Neil Young quote, and “I have a daughter who reminds me too much of myself,” were hard to hear between Love and the fans’ sobs.
Frances Bean Cobain wasn’t even two years old when her father died. In the last few decades, she has experienced her own share of drug use, navigating a small semblance of fame, and living beneath the ghost of her father.
According to NME, she’s become an outspoken supporter of anyone battling addiction and internal demons, connecting with them on social media and attempting to spread compassion. More notably, her frequent use of “peace, love, empathy” is directly tied to her father’s last words in his tragic suicide letter.
“I want to reclaim the peace, love, empathy thing as something that’s meant for health and for compassion and for true peace, love, and empathy,” she said. “Yeah, the association comes from a super dark place. Referencing that is kind of screwed up but at the same time taking the power back his my way of dealing with it.”
The conspiracy theories, while tantalizing, don’t change the fact that Kurt Cobain is dead either by his own hand or someone else’s. At the very least, his longstanding struggles with depression and drug use, as well as an intimate suicide note, left nearby, make a pretty convincing case for suicide.
After learning about Kurt Cobain’s suicide note, read the tragic story of Evelyn McHale and the most “beautiful” suicide. Then, learn about Jonestown and how it became modern history’s largest mass “suicide.”