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Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  22,106 ratings  ·  879 reviews
The art of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain was all about his private life, but written in a code as obscure as T.S. Eliot's. Now Charles Cross has cracked the code in the definitive biography Heavier Than Heaven, an all-access pass to Cobain's heart and mind. It reveals many secrets, thanks to 400-plus interviews, and even quotes Cobain's diaries and suicide notes and reveals an unr ...more
Hardcover, 381 pages
Published 2001 by Hyperion
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Elinor Hawke-Szady I seriously DOUBT Kurt Cobain killed himself. The evidence at the scene doesn't add up; everything points to murder.

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4.11  · 
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 ·  22,106 ratings  ·  879 reviews

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Ana O
Oct 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
*This review is dark and full of gifs.

I have a special relationship with Kurt Cobain. Yes it's as weird as it sounds. Kurt died in 1994, and in 1994 I was a child, far too young to know him. It wasn't until I was in my teens that I was introduced to Nirvana.

The thing was that listening to Nirvana had changed me, and I really liked that change. Kurt Cobain's angst-ridden lyrics spoke to my rebellious teenage soul.

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Who exactly was Kurt Cobain?

He was a talented musician.

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He was sensitive.

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Val ⚓️ Shameless, Skanky & Bitchy  ⚓️
DNF @ 27%

First of all, ANA...

I know Kurt is your spiritual animal homie and soul please don't slay me for abandoning and not loving this thing...


But, quite frankly, this book is portraying Kurt as a bit of a whiny liar to me...and after my tragic experience with THIS Red Hot Chili Peppers book - and my subsequent inability to listen to anymore of their music after attempting to read it - I don't want to risk disliking Kurt and not being able to listen to my favorite Nirvana songs.

I wo
May 12, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
I just noticed the average rating for this book was 4 stars. Yuck. The author does a decent job putting together Kurt Cobains' life and rise to fame. In the last chapters he takes "creative license" in describing Kurts' last moments, all the way to his suicide. It's disgusting. No one was there (that we know of). He has no right.
Valerity (Val)
Originally published in 2001 and with a well-written update added to bring it up to date, this is a well-researched book by an author who was around for many of the events at the time. Charles Cross spent 4 years researching, and interviewing 400 people for this book. So you can tell it’s pretty thorough. He tells us how Cobain’s time being famous, from his first album coming out to his death was less than 1000 days. That’s pretty heart-rending to think about. It does a good job of filling out t ...more
Kye Alfred Hillig
Dec 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This booked disturbed me a bit. I know everyone wants to rape the corpse of Cobain but not me and admitting this is embarrassing but hey, we're all friends here. Reading it I saw a lot of myself in Kurt Cobain and it worried me. Am I going to blow my brains out? I certainly hope not. Maybe I related to him in the way that a lot of people did. Maybe he's just a common guy who was thrown into something bigger than him. At any rate Charles Cross really did his research and created a book that I ate ...more
May 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
I saw Nirvana in concert 4 months before Cobain took his life. After hundreds of live shows it still stands as one of my all time favorites. In fact it was the first concert I ever crowd-surfed at. I was able to get up close and personal with the band and, in doing so, saw that Kurt rarely looked up at the crowd. His eyes were glued to the floor most of the night. This book helped me to understand why. Given his recurrent heroin addiction, the debilitating stomach pain he'd fought for years, the ...more
Jan 05, 2010 rated it did not like it
this book is almost equal parts fiction and Courtney Love approved versions of "actual events." it gives some information, but it should be taken with a grain of salt. there are TONS of proven historical errors. i don't blame the author for the misinformation, however, as he had to have everything cleared by Courtney Love. he did lose his credibility, though. i can't believe they used him on "busted circuits and ringing ears: the TAD story" dvd that came out a year ago.

if you are a Nirvana fan,
Dec 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I published this on a music blog group called Future Rockstars of American (which is now dead I think):

I finished reading the biography of Kurt Cobain, Heavier Than Heaven written by Charles Cross, just in time for what would have been his 41st birthday. My conclusion?Kurdt (that’s how he liked to spell it) was a jerk!
Cortney Love had the crowd call him worse things when she read his suicide note to them.

I was not an active and avid fan of Nirvana when their singer Kurt Cobain killed glam rock
Elaine Mullane
Charles R. Cross's Heavier Than Heaven isn't just one of my favourite biographies; it's one of my favourite books. A few years ago, when I had my own music blog, I had the incredible opportunity to interview Cross. I thought I would include that piece here as a tribute to this wonderful book about one of music's most iconic and dearly missed figures.

Seattle is a place I have been obsessed with from an early age. Cameron Crowe’s 1992 film Singles (and its incredible soundtrack) is partly to blame
Mar 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kurt Cobain's & Nirvana's #1 fans
Baru selesai baca kemarin malam. Akhirnya selesai juga baca kisah si motornya Nirvana ini :D. Meski yang gua baca itu versi terjemahan bahasa Indonesianya, kayaknya gua pengen beli juga yang versi aslinya.

Bytheway. Buku ini cukup rinci nyeritain kisah hidup Kurt Cobain. Tentu beserta Nirvana n keluarganya. Pokoknya semua yang dirasa pernah ada hubungan dengan Kurt, dituangkan secara kronologis di buku ini. Si penulisnya melakukan 400 wawancara selama empat taun dengan orang-orang yang pernah ber
Jul 31, 2007 rated it really liked it
Kurt Cobain was a constant whiner and self-mythogist who constantly complained that fame was thrust upon him. Cross spends the first half of the biography debunking the Cobain myths and demonstrating how heavily Kurt courted mainstream success. The second half of the book documents Cobain's downward spiral- it's really amazing that he had to kill himself with a shotgun when he got so close so many times with his "heroine." Fucked up, sad read about a man I idolized when I wasn't yet old enough t ...more
Célia | Estante de Livros
Those who know me best are aware that, besides books, music is my other big passion. There is not a single day that I don't feel the need to get carried away by songs that make me remember places, situations, persons and emotions. I don't constantly try to hear new bands or artists, because I'd rather stick with the ones I already love. Nirvana is one of those bands.

Most of you probably have heard of Nirvana, the most memorable band of the 90's, also because the tragedy that ended up the band, b
Mar 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: medium-warm
Interesting fact No. 1: KC's first concert was not the Melvins or some such punk band, but Sammy Hagar, who has shown surprisingly restraint in not naming a brand of tequila after the now-Converse branded icon.

That's just one reason why this book about The Voice of Your Generation is valuable: it's proof that no one is born punk or even cool, but that it's an attitude one accrues by hanging around the right crowd. That's why the real heroines here aren't named Courtney but first girlfriend Trac
Nov 04, 2013 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book until I got to the last chapter. Like a couple of other reviews state, the author makes it feel like Kurt is a character in a fictional story. I am absolutely fascinated by his life. The book is packed with details that left me astounded. While reading, I kept a browser open on my computer because there was always something I wanted to look into or a video to search. The author did a brilliant job of describing specific scenes and pictures, I really wish more of the pictures ...more
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
Hmmmm... well, I don't read a lot of biographies. I didn't know a lot about Kurt Cobain even though I am a Nirvana fan. The book was interesting and the author seemed to have interviewed and researched a lot of facts. Mostly what I took from this book is that Kurt was a complex person plagued with self doubt, physical pain, issues of abandonment and a family history of mental illness. Oh and he made a conscious decision to be a drug addict. And, wow, did he do a lot of drugs.

The parts about the
Jun 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Nirvana/Hole fans
Recommended to Whitney by: Patt McManus
I had read Michael Azerad's "Come as You Are," the story of Nirvana way back in the day so I knew quite a bit about Kurt's life and the history of the band. This went a lot deeper and was compiled of many sources, family members and friends of the band and was a lot more true to life. Michael Azerad's book was based on interviews with the band, so it was mostly how the band wanted to portray themselves. This book made me decide that if I had known Kurt I would have thought him a lazy, self-absor ...more

If anyone tries to bash Kurt, I'll knife you.
Yes, he was addicted to heroin, he was troubled and he wasn't necessarily a great person all the time, but he gave so much and his work means a lot to a lot of people.
Me included.



I think the hardest books to rate arer biographies, autobiographies and memoir, for the simple reason that it feels like you are giving a rating to someone's life. Like, yeah, Kurt Cobain, he was like a 3 stars, i didn't like some of the things
Nov 18, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Nirvana fans/
This book is the Courtney Love sanctioned version of Kurt Cobain. May be something to bear in mind while reading it.
Oct 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Biography of Kurt Cobain:
A Troubled Genius
Is fame a blessing or a curse? Many people wonder what it is like to be famous. Kurt Cobain doesn’t need to.
One of the themes most prevalent throughout the Biography of Kurt Cobain was that you can achieve almost anything if you keep at it. You can achieve almost anything because Kurt’s record tops the charts, he becomes famous worldwide, and he never listened to anyone who said he couldn’t do it.
You can achieve almost anything if you really try becau
Mar 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
It is a bit of a cliche of celebrity, but Kurt Cobain really was an incredibly contradictory personality. Part of the fun of Heavier Than Heaven is trying to take all of the evidence, presented in amazing detail by Charles R. Cross, and trying to piece together what kind of person he was.

As anyone casually familiar with Cobain knows, he was constantly trying to strike a balance between his strong punk sense of morality and his desire to get his music out to a large audience. Deeper than just a c
Normally you would consider Kurt Cobain to be "the voice of a generation", as in, "the voice of Generation X" - when in reality, he's also A voice for various generations that came after him. The internet really destroyed the idea of a cohesive generational identity, and Kurt Cobain was one of the last pre-Napster rock stars to ever be exploited horribly by the music industry as he lay in poverty while touring in vans and generally getting high on heroin even though he was meant to be a father t ...more
Daniel Solera
May 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
For a long time, I have wanted to read about the life of Kurt Cobain. Not only was he one of the most important pop-culture figures of my adolescence, but his enigmatic personality, cryptic lyrics and almost mythical status piqued my curiosity. Charles Cross' biography does the man and his work justice.

At 365 pages, it's a little longer than I had anticipated, but not a single chapter is worth skipping. Cross describes Cobain's life with careful attention to detail, even cross-referencing specif
Hypia Sanches
Dec 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
[please, ignore any spelling/grammar mistakes]

If you ask me if it is possible to describe the same person as "insane" and as a "genius", I'd say yes without even blinking. And we are talking about Kurt Cobain, who, as the fans know, was a billion contradictions at once.

If I already liked his band, Nirvana, after reading this biography I like their music even more.

Family issues, drug addiction, depression and other factors surely played a part in Kurt's personality, there's no denying it. But ano
Aug 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
I found this book fascinating, and was even teary by the very end page! Some parts were hilarious, like Steve Albini calling Courtney Love a "psycho hosebeast," and Kurt's grandfather remarking on seeing Courtney walk around their home in a slip: "She had no pants on. It sure as hell wasn't ladylike." But one of my favorite parts was a letter Kurt wrote to his ex-girlfriend and Bikini Kill member Tobi Vail at the end of 1993 when Nirvana were already huge:

"I made about five million dollars last
Brian James
Mar 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Not only was this book wonderfully researched, it was also powerfully written. In my opinion it's rare for a biography to be such a riveting example of storytelling, especially when so much is publicly known about the subject, but this book proved otherwise. A very moving portrait of someone who in many ways got what he always wanted, only to discover he was so ill fitted for the fame he sought.

The author exhausted nearly every possible reference for this book, talking to everyone close to Kurt
I never really knew much about Kurt or nirvana, though I know most of their music without ever really going through a “nirvana phase”. I was never sure of why people worshipped Kurt so I decided to read this biography. fuck... I relate to his pain so profoundly. I don’t think he was anything special, personally, but I think his pain is almost universal. A sensitive, misunderstood, traumatized kid who needed love and found drugs and music instead. I’m sure if I ever met him, we wouldn’t have gott ...more
May 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Cross got access to Cobain’s diary and also Courtney Love herself. Love comes across better in this book than anything else I’ve read about her. Fair enough.

Cobain and Love seemed very intensely and mutually in love. She endures his overdoses and tries to stop or limit his heroin abuse, his withdrawing from the world and the guns. I had always wondered if Cobain had a more stable partner and a good psychiatrist with the right meds if he coulda pulled through. This book casts doubt on my theory.
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the best music books of all time. I wasn't reading as many books back when it was released, and no one gives a shit about Nirvana anymore, so I didn't get around to reading it until just now. Though I did read the author's other book, on Nirvana's weird legacy, a few years ago, around the 20th anniversary of Cobain's death.

I know some other reviewers have complained that the author seems to know more than he could possibly know about Cobain's last few days without having been there. I not
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Better than most rock bios. Of course I knew how it was going to end but it still broke my heart into a thousand pieces.
Mar 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Going into this I wasn't a huge fan Nirvana and I'm still not. I did however really enjoy this book. It started off working through his childhood and although being very revealing of his character it was very slow to get through. I powered on, hoping it would get better and was not disappointed. Kurt was such an interesting person to read about in his teens/early twenties. He was a true artist and it is clear why he was able to make such a big impact with Nirvana. As the book progressed and reve ...more
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2019 SQHS Your Li...: Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R. Cross 3 3 Apr 22, 2019 10:01AM  
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

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Charles R. Cross

This is Charles R. Cross, a rock music journalist and author based in Seattle. He is the founder of Backstreets magazine, a periodical for fans of Bruce Springsteen, editor of "Springsteen: the Man and His Music," a compilation of Backstreets articles, and is also author of a biography o
“He was able to sit in silence for long stretches without feeling a need to make small talk.” 14 likes
“Kurt left in the early morning to walk around Aberdeen in the pale light of dawn. The storm had passed, birds were chirping, and everything in the world seemed more alive. He walked around for hours thinking about it all, waiting for school to begin, watching the sun come up, wondering where his life was heading.” 10 likes
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