“Zooming In” is a weekly series in which Photo editor Shelby Lum provides her insight on pop culture.
A brown-sweater clad, greasy blond-haired Washington native took rock 20 years ago, and April will mark two decades since Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994.
Twenty years later and most still haven’t forgotten one of grunge’s most iconic members — not even the police. Last week, new evidence was released surrounding his death. The material included dozens of new photos that police found from four undeveloped rolls of crime scene film. While the photos weren’t enough to reopen the case, they do provide context on what his final days were like.
They are a pinhole glimpse at what happened to him in his last days. A suicide note with a red pen stabbed straight through it. A cigar box containing heroin paraphernalia. Those were what colored Cobain’s grim last days.
An electrician found Cobain dead with a gunshot wound in his Seattle home April 8, 1994, and it was later concluded he had committed suicide three days prior.
“I love you, I love you,” the last words of his letter read. The case is still closed, but the last moments of the star paints the drug-infused, bleak life Cobain finished. “I can’t stand the thought of Frances becoming the miserable, self-destructive, death rocker that I’ve become,” his note said of his daughter.
He was an enigma. Behind the guitars and the tours, behind it all, Cobain struggled. He struggled with wife Courtney Love, with music, with it all, and as fans and followers, people wanted to know more. He joined the “27 Club,” the exhausting peak of rock gods who fizzled out long before Cobain. Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and others all tapped out at 27.
What is it about 27? From overdoes and other causes, stars have faded out at that magic age. The photos released last week didn’t depict charming and quaint times. His last days consisted of an empty room with a single stool.
Nirvana only released three albums, “Bleach,” “Nevermind” and “In Utero.” That was all Cobain really needed to leave behind a legacy that would warrant police attention two decades later. Really Nirvana could have stopped at “Nevermind” and still created that same legacy.
Cobain stood for rock, for grunge and for what stardom can do to a person. A shotgun to the head is what stardom can do.
We are still infatuated with him, wondering how he did it, what went behind the inner sanctum of Nirvana that set him off. The photos aren’t proof of anything, according to the Seattle Police. Love isn’t being dragged into court anytime soon. The photos are simply a tangible record of what Cobain was, of what he still is. Idolized for shoving grunge into the limelight, Cobain had a lot resting on him.
Twenty years later, he is still idolized and Nirvana is set to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just days after the 20th anniversary of his death.