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Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain

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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 unreleased Nirvana masterpiece. At last we know how he created, how lies helped him die, how his family and love life entwined his art--plus, what the heck "Smells Like Teen Spirit" really means. (It was graffiti by Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna after a double date with Dave Grohl, Cobain, and the "over-bored and self-assured" Tobi Vail, who wore Teen Spirit perfume; Hanna wrote it to taunt the emotionally clingy Cobain for wearing Vail's scent after sex--a violation of the no-strings-attached dating ethos of the Olympia, Washington, "outcast teen" underground. Cobain's stomach-churning passion for Vail erupted in six or so hit tunes like "Aneurysm" and "Drain You.")

Cross uncovers plenty of news, mostly grim and gripping. As a teen, Cobain said he had "suicide genes," and his clan was peculiarly defiant: one of his suicidal relatives stabbed his own belly in front of his family, then ripped apart the wound in the hospital. Cobain was contradictory: a sweet, popular teen athlete and sinister berserker, a kid who rescued injured pigeons and laughingly killed a cat, a talented yet astoundingly morbid visual artist. He grew up to be a millionaire who slept in cars (and stole one), a fiercely loyal man who ruthlessly screwed his oldest, best friends. In fact, his essence was contradictions barely contained. Cross, the coauthor of Nevermind: Nirvana, the definitive book about the making of the classic album, puts numerous Cobain-generated myths to rest. (Cobain never lived under a bridge--that Aberdeen bridge immortalized in the 12th song on Nevermind was a tidal slough, so nobody could sleep under it.) He gives the fullest account yet of what it was like to be, or love, Kurt Cobain. Heavier Than Heaven outshines the also indispensable Come As You Are. It's the deepest book about pop's darkest falling star. --Tim Appelo

381 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2001

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About the author

Charles R. Cross

34 books181 followers
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 of Kurt Cobain, titled Heavier Than Heaven. His most recent release is entitled Room Full Of Mirrors - A Biography Of Jimi Hendrix.

In 2004, while conducting research for the Hendrix book, Cross rediscovered the gravesite of Jimi Hendrix's mother, Lucille Jeter Hendrix, in an abandoned section of Greenwood Memorial Park, where Jimi Hendrix himself is buried in an elaborate granite memorial. The gravesite of Lucille Hendrix was lost because the standard welfare marker of her day, an inscribed brick, became buried in decades of mud from the area's notorious heavy rains. Cross delivered a moving eulogy for Lucille when a proper headstone was dedicated at the site.

Courtney Love, the widow of Kurt Cobain, has acquired the rights to Heavier Than Heaven, which is now being made into a film by Universal Pictures. This is the first film to be made from Cross' work.


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,215 reviews
Profile Image for Val ⚓️ Shameless Handmaiden ⚓️.
1,794 reviews27.8k followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
April 1, 2017
DNF @ 27%

First of all, ANA...

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

description

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 would rather maintain my love for their music than risk it by finishing this book...

Sorry!

description
Profile Image for Lorrie.
7 reviews
August 3, 2007
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.
Profile Image for Kye Alfred Hillig.
169 reviews25 followers
December 16, 2008
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 like chocolate cake. Sad.
Profile Image for Jason.
555 reviews26 followers
March 26, 2014
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 constant fighting with Courtney, and his unhappiness with fame I can imagine that Kurt felt a pretty heavy burden on his shoulders during those years.

That being said I feel like Kurt's style of thinking only contributed to his misery. This book isn't just a treatise on the life of Cobain. It is a psychological profile of Kurt Cobain; lifting the hood over the engine and taking a look at all the rusty gears and the worn out spark plugs. Cross does an amazing job of truly understanding the way Cobain thought. As much as I idolized Kurt for most of my teenage and college years I now see that Cobain's style of thinking was as someone who saw himself as an innocent victim and he tended to be a bit paranoid. While many American kids experience the divorce of their parents most are able to put it in context at some point in their lives. Cobain never got over his parents divorce and saw his father's subsequent marriage as a betrayal; that dad was kicking Kurt out of his life. I'm sure that losing this relationship was sad but most of us would be able to develop enough understanding to move past it. For Kurt this sadness simply shifted in to anger and pushing his father away. This was the start of a "victim mentality" that never seemed to go away. I see Kurt's victimhood as his biggest failing and something that set the stage for later victimhood.

Ultimately, I developed a love/hate relationship with this book. While it was impeccably researched and extremely intriguing I felt really sad by the time I finished it. I developed a lot of empathy for Kurt throughout the reading and was devastated by the end of the book to think of all of that amazing talent wasted through suicide. Very sad indeed.
Profile Image for Valerity (Val).
928 reviews2,734 followers
March 21, 2019
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 the picture from his beginnings in Aberdeen through growing up and finding success. A lot of focus on his songwriting and touring, practices and time spent making albums. Meeting and marrying Courtney Love and becoming a father. And of course, you know how the story ends, yet it still grabs you. This is a really good book for Nirvana fans. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Charles R Cross, and the publisher for my fair review.

Full review on my BookZone review:
https://wordpress.com/post/bookblog20...
Profile Image for Howard.
1,064 reviews63 followers
December 29, 2021
4 Stars for Heavier than Heaven (audiobook) by Charles R. Cross read by Lloyd James.

This was a sadly insightful story about the tragic life of Kurt Cobain. The author chose to not place any blame on the friends or family around Cobain. And really I don’t know what anyone could have done to save him. Sadly the outcome seemed inevitable.
7 reviews
January 5, 2010
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, you should probably read this to get what little insight you can. but, if you have any doubts as to HOW Kurt died, you will notice how many errors there are in the telling of this story. Cross takes a LOT of liberties in describing Kurt's final moments. as a guy who doesn't quite buy the "Kurt killed himself by shooting himself in the head after he took a LEATHAL dose of heroin and THEN somehow managed to put all of his paraphernalia away in it's box, THEN take the shotgun, (that had NO fingerprints on it) put it in his mouth and pull the trigger," story, i can't help but feel like this book makes me feel like i'm being lied to.
Profile Image for Elaine Mullane || At Home in Books.
852 reviews317 followers
April 16, 2018
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 for this. The Washington city is famous for many things: its coffee, its rainy weather, the Space Needle, the Experience Music Project, and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. Seattle is also noted for its famous people- the city is the motherland of the famous computer wizard and Chairman of Microsoft Corporation, Bill Gates, the birthplace of rock legend Jimi Hendrix and the last place the late Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain, called home.

I finally got to visit Seattle in the summer of 2007. I was visiting my college friends in Vancouver and we planned a weekend roadtrip to take in “Rain City”. One of our first stops when we arrived was the Experience Music Project (EMP), a museum in Seattle dedicated to the history and exploration of popular music. EMP is especially famous for its permanent exhibition, the Northwest Passage, which is dedicated to the history of music in the Pacific Northwest, including bands from the grunge music genre, and the life and work of Jimi Hendrix. EMP has also held various exhibitions on other popular music acts, including Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Kurt Cobain. The museum is also famous for its Guitar Gallery, dedicated to the history of the guitar, and its massive sculpture entitled Roots and Branches, made largely out of musical instruments, especially guitars. It was such a great experience to get to see EMP and learn all about the history of Seattle music. The part of me and my friends’ trip that excited me the most, however, was getting to see the house that stands at 171 Lake Washington Boulevard E., the house where, on 5th April 1994, Kurt Cobain would take his own life.

There is a kind of morbid curiosity in seeking out Cobain's former house in the Denny-Blaine district of Seattle. It’s not just about being in the place where Cobain lived but also being in the place where he died. My friends and I knew only the address, driving up and down Lake Washington Blvd. E. for over twenty minutes before we found it. The large house sits on a blind corner on a winding road, lying just up the hill from the Western shore of Lake Washington. It is situated almost directly across the lake from the $100 million house later built by the aforementioned Bill Gates. Standing outside the front gate of the mansion, it was hard not to marvel at how far Cobain had come before his death, from his humble beginnings in the small logging town of Aberdeen in Washington. When I visited Seattle, the infamous greenhouse where Cobain had died was long gone. It was demolished in 1996, a year before Cobain’s wife, Hole frontwoman Courtney Love, sold the house. She was quoted as saying that the constant stream of distraught fans was too much for her to handle and that the building had become "bigger than the Space Needle." On the day that I stood outside Cobain’s former home, things were much quieter. Love sold the house to new owners in 1997 when she and Cobain’s daughter, Frances Bean, moved to Beverly Hills in California. The new owners have done all they can to enforce what little privacy they have in the former home of someone so famous. They have fenced and landscaped the property, as well as adding a security gate with an electronic call box, which is much more common in the Hollywood Hills than in Seattle's Denny-Blaine. Security cameras are mounted at various points on the exterior of the house, which makes it quite impossible to get anything other than a limited view of the house. Believe me- I tried. Even climbing a tree in the neighbouring Viletta Park (or “Kurt’s Park” as it’s more commonly called) didn’t help a huge amount.

Though he was gone thirteen years when I visited his former home, Cobain’s legacy is still very much there. Viletta Park’s two benches are covered with the graffiti from fans who have visited the site in the years since Cobain’s death. The comments are an incredible read; some are words of love and respect, some words of anger from young people who feel huge loss and loneliness as a result of Cobain’s death. Some fans have left Nirvana lyrics, poetry and even verbal abuse regarding Cobain’s wife. There were also remnants of colourful wax from someone having burned candles at the time I visited. It was in this park that Love talked to the throngs of fans that gathered immediately after Cobain’s death. It felt both strange and surreal to be at Cobain’s former home, to sit in Viletta Park and be just inches from the gate through which his body was carried out just thirteen years previous. My trip to Seattle wouldn’t have been the same without that experience, without seeing the last place that Cobain called home.

Seattle is the birthplace of the music style known as “grunge”, which was made famous by Nirvana, as well as local bands such as Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam, hence the term “Seattle Sound”. Since the grunge era, Seattle is a vibrant hub of American music, hosting a diverse and influential music scene which many influential bands, labels and music venues call home. The record label Sub Pop- the first to sign Nirvana and Soundgarden- is also based in Seattle. One person who is particularly familiar with the city’s rich music history is music journalist and author Charles R. Cross.

Charles R. Cross was born in Virginia, where he spent much of his childhood. When his father became a professor of psychology, the family travelled to a variety of university towns, including Richmond, New York, Connecticut and lastly Washington, where Cross attended high school. He later graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle with a degree in Creative Writing. While in university, he served as Editor of the Daily in 1979, and caused a whole lot of ruckus when he left the front page of the newspaper blank. The only type was a small line that read “The White Issue,” in deference to the Beatles’ White album.

After college, Cross served as Editor of The Rocket, the Northwest’s music and entertainment magazine, from 1986 through 2000. The Rocket was hailed as “the best regional music magazine in the nation” by the L.A. Reader. Cross wrote stories on such seminal Northwest bands as the Sonics, the Wailers, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, the Screaming Trees, and hundreds, if not thousands, of lesser known bands. In addition to The Rocket, Cross’s writing has appeared in hundreds of magazines including Rolling Stone, Esquire, Playboy, Spin, Guitar World, Q, Mojo, Salon, Spy, Uncut, NME, Request, No Depression, Revolver, Ray Gun, Creem, and Trouser Press. He has written for many newspapers and alternative weeklies including the London Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Oregonian, the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and Seattle Weekly. He has lectured and read at universities and colleges around the world, and has frequently been interviewed for film, radio, and television documentaries including VH1’s “Behind the Music.”

Cross is the author of seven books, including the New York Times bestseller Heavier Than Heaven, 2005’s Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix, the revealing Cobain Unseen and his most recent release, Led Zeppelin: Shadows Taller Than Our Souls. Cross is also Associate Editor of Backstreets Magazine, an internationally circulated quarterly that focuses on Bruce Springsteen and related Jersey Shore artists, which he also founded in 1980.

Cross’s interest in music stemmed from a very early age, taking in a range of music genres or, as he himself says, “everything that was around at the time”. Asked what he listened to in particular, he named Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Carole King, James Taylor, the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen as the acts that had the most influence on him growing up. Being a huge fan of rock, Seattle was immediately a place Cross felt comfortable. In one of his many articles that he wrote for the Seattle Times, Cross wrote "Seattle has always had more of an appetite for hard rock than other cities". When I questioned him on this he stated that this was because “it's a blue-collar town with shipyards and Boeing plants- that kinda blue-collar fan has always liked to rock”. In particular, writing about Northwestern bands has always been hugely important to Cross. Since he first began writing, he has been compelled to write about the bands that he truly loves. When I asked him who were his favourite bands to write about or interview, he answered: “Well, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, definitely, but I also loved the Walkabouts, the Screaming Trees, and other underrated bands”.

Another thing that Cross has always been interested in is biography, especially writing about the lives of people in music. His biographies on Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain provide true insight into the lives of both men, particularly the latter, which has been described as one of the most revealing and intimate accounts of one of music’s most influential figures. When I asked him what first drew him to this particular genre he replied: “I have always loved biography and reading things like the Charles Lindbergh biography by A. Scott Berg and Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller definitely influenced me. And of course Peter Guralnick's Elvis books...”

When I spoke to Cross, he was fresh from reviewing the Soundgarden reunion gig at the Showbox at the Market in Seattle for Rolling Stone magazine. When I asked Cross about the show, Soundgarden’s first since their break up in 1997, he said it was “exciting”. “There was a sense of spontaneity”, he added, “that suggested anything could happen”. Cross also commented that although it was a “great show”, it also made him feel “sad” that we will “never see a Nirvana reunion show”.

In the city that Cross calls home, it is impossible not to be reminded of the fact that Nirvana, one of the greatest and most influential bands the world has ever seen, are no more. As he stated in the opening chapter of Heavier Than Heaven, Cross lives less than a mile from Stan Baker Shooting Sports on Lake City Way, the store where the Nirvana singer and guitarist purchased the shotgun that was responsible for his death. I asked Cross if that was unsettling, to which he replied: “It can be creepy. I guess it can be both haunting and inspiring depending on the weather”. Regardless of the weather, Seattle is rife with reminders of Cobain and Nirvana, from the aforementioned Stan Baker’s and independent record label Sub Pop to the many music venues scattered around the city where the band played whilst trying to make it big.

Cross and Nirvana's path first intersected in 1989, when The Rocket, which Cross was editor of at the time, did the first cover story on Nirvana. Witnessing first-hand their transition from underground band to being one of, if not the, most famous bands of all time is something that very few people can boast about. When I asked him what his first impressions of the Nirvana were, Cross answered: “I liked them because of their pop side. I, like everyone else in Seattle, thought Mudhoney would be the bigger band at the start. I think one thing that’s important for people to remember is that early on the band were pretty darn ragged. They toured America five times before they became famous. I certainly had followed the band very closely and saw them live a number of times. I loved the early band stuff, was a big fan of the material from the beginning”. I also asked Cross about his first encounter with Cobain: “I was editor of The Rocket, which at the time was the music magazine in Seattle. Kurt had actually used our magazine on at least three different occasions advertising for a drummer. Every time Nirvana would lose a drummer, he’d come in the office and place an ad- ‘Band seeks drummer’. So, I knew him casually from the scene”.

It was clear Cross had much interaction with the Nirvana frontman during his rise to fame but I was eager to find out what kind of relationship he had with Cobain. “Even as his biographer and someone who knew Kurt, I wasn’t his best friend. And I was editor of a music magazine. We were always gonna have the kind of relationship where he was gonna be sort of suspicious. He clearly respected what I did. I had the benefit of a biographer of going through Kurt’s personal effects and things. He kept copies of my magazines and articles that I had done among his stuff. That, I guess, is the ultimate compliment that a music star could pay a journalist. So, I was respected in the world he was in”.

Cobain’s death in 1994 affected people all over the world and will continue to be remembered as one of the most devastating days in music history. Naturally, I asked Cross where he was at the moment he heard that Kurt Cobain's body had been found. “I was in my office at the Rocket. I knew before it went public; I was one of the first people to find out. I had contributed to a radio show here in Seattle and when the electrician who was working at Kurt's house found his body, that electrician's company called the radio station. I think the infamous words were, ‘You're gonna owe me some great Pink Floyd tickets for this news.’ That radio station called me before they went on air to see if they could confirm it because they knew I was sort of closer to that scene than they were. So, I remember hearing the news to this day. My reaction was, ‘No. It can't be Kurt.’ But at the same time, it's part of the denial. I knew it was him. Everyone in the Seattle scene knew he had struggles. I kept hoping that the body that was discovered would not be Kurt, that it would be mistaken and instead would be one of his drug-buddy friends. And of course, that wasn't the case.

It was heart-breaking to get the news, just like it was for everybody who was a Nirvana fan”.
While researching and writing his books on Cobain, Cross was given access to the Cobain estate, allowing him the opportunity to sift through intimate pictures and personal items, many of which he included in Cobain Unseen. I asked Cross about this experience. “Courtney controls the Kurt Cobain estate, which basically by an estate, is a bunch of stuff in a storage locker. But she trusted me. When I wrote my 2001 biography of Kurt, which pre-dated Cobain Unseen, she gave me access to his material. Cobain Unseen somewhat grew out of discussions around that book where I kept saying, ‘the stuff in Kurt’s locker is amazing stuff. You ought to let the world see it...he was an amazing artist.’ At one point she came to me and said, ‘OK. You can do the book.’ So, I was given access to the archives, with no parameters put on the use of Kurt’s stuff”. I also questioned Cross on whether it ever felt like he was delving too deep with his work, if he ever felt uncomfortable going though Cobain’s things, to which he replied: “There were things I left out. With every book, what you leave out is just as important as what you put in”.

In his journals, which were first printed in 2002, Cobain’s struggles were clear for anyone to see, or to read about rather. He battled with a chronic, undiagnosed stomach problem, he struggled with addiction and he was tormented by the demons of his past, particularly his parents’ divorce. He also battled constantly with the pressures of fame, the idea of being completely exposed and feeling like he was losing most of his privacy by moving further and further into the limelight. I was particularly interested in two contradictory statements Cobain wrote in his journals: "Don't read my diary when I'm gone" and "Please read my diary...Look through my things, and figure me out". I asked Cross which of these statements did he think was the most truthful and did he ever battle with the question of whether or not Cobain would have wanted his thoughts, words and drawings to be made available to the world. “I did, yes, but Kurt left his diaries out open on his coffee table so that said something to me. One of the more difficult things as a biographer was looking through Kurt’s journals and seeing how often he would write about his addiction and essentially beg God to please help him with it. He did not want to continue to suffer and basically wrote in his journals, ‘God, I will do anything. Please, please, please help me.’ Unfortunately, that help did not come”.

As well as writing about Cobain, Cross has written extensively on Jimi Hendrix. His book Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix provides an in-depth account of the life of the rock legend, capturing him perfectly. During his research for this book, which included interviewing over 325 people, Cross rediscovered the place where Hendrix’s mother, Lucille Jeter Hendrix, was buried which, oddly enough, lies only 40ft from where Hendrix himself now lies in Greenwood Memorial Park in Renton, Washington. The gravesite of Lucille Hendrix was lost because the standard welfare marker of her day, an inscribed brick, became buried in decades of mud from the area's notorious heavy rains. Cross delivered a moving eulogy for Lucille when a proper headstone was dedicated at the site. I asked Cross how it felt to uncover something so significant: “Eerie... My son was with me and he still talks about it and he was just a toddler at the time”.

Cobain and Hendrix had many things in common- they both were left-handed guitar players, both died at 27, had four-year musical careers and had battled drug addiction. They also both lived in Seattle, a city with one of the most notable music scenes in the world. I asked Cross if he felt enough had been done to honour both men in Seattle. “The answer is no. The city should honour them more. In the UK, they’ve got their blue plaques; we should have something like that here”.

The last thing I asked Cross was how he thought Kurt Cobain should be remembered, to which he replied: “Well, I think first and most importantly, he will be remembered for those songs. I think that's the reason we're talking about him still today. The quality of that songwriting I think will last and has lasted. That is ultimately the way I think he will be remembered. I think he will be remembered for creating this incredible body of work. The circumstances of his death and all those other things matter far less now sixteen years later. It's truly those songs and that music that is his legacy. Kurt was very unique and that’s the thing I think we miss now so long after his death. The great sadness is that we can’t hear that voice again. That’s the thing I miss. It’s sad for anyone who’s a fan of the music. Kurt was the biggest rock star in the world the year before he died. Sixteen years later, I’m not sure there is another rock star who is as enigmatic and compelling. He remains one of rock’s legendary figures. There has not been one single figure that I think ranks with Cobain since his death. That’s not to say there aren’t people putting out great records and there aren’t people that I love their music, but there’s nobody that combines that personal charisma, the musical quality and most importantly the songwriting genius that Kurt Cobain had. That’s the reason I think his legacy has endured”.

Charles R. Cross still lives in Seattle. He continues to write for numerous publications, both Seattle-based and beyond.
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Author 2 books7 followers
December 1, 2010
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 with his nonsensical screams and pop structured punk grunge tunes. I liked their music though, and I remember wondering,

“Why is he singing about girl’s deoderant?”

As I listen to the Nirvana albums today, I realize that I know practically every song. I guess you can’t be a teen in the early nineties and escape the impact Nirvana had on that generation.

I try to imagine what I would have done if the idol of my own teen years, Tori Amos, had committed suicide while I was in the midst of using her music and voice as a resonator for my young soul. I would probably have sobbed in grief silently under my bed covers with her album on repeat, or maybe I would have smashed her cds on the street in effigy at the betrayal. Whatever the physical actions, I know for sure that the piercing and torturous scream in my head would have been:

“WHY?! WHY?! WHY?! WHY?! WHY?!….”

That’s exactly what Courtney Love screamed as she waded her hands in the blood of her beloved dead husband and saved a piece of his shotgun shattered skull. His suicide was simply a pattern that he had repeated his whole life since his mother left his father when he was 7 years old. Before that event, he was a little boy that didn’t want to sleep because he didn’t want to leave his family. After that, he was a self-destructing, relationship sabotaging jerk.

To be fair, Kurdt wasn’t all bad.

He was an animal lover who took in strays and loved having a bathtub full of turtles in the middle of his dwelling. His home always smelled like the bottom of a litter tray.

He was incredibly respectful of women, more feminist than the feminist punker girl love interest that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was written about. His song “Polly” is as poignant a song about rape as Tori Amos’s “Me and A Gun (and a man on my back).”

He really, really loved his parents and sister, which is why he reacted so strongly to the breaking of his idyllic home life. He cared deeply for his grandparents and other relatives.

He really, deeply, truly loved his wife and daughter. Why else would he name his albums In Utero the year after his marriage and daughter’s birth?

Though a drug addict, he called Courtney and cried when drug addicts worshipped him at a concert. He couldn’t stand being an icon for drug use.

Kurdt was charismatic, drawing people into his life with his sincere kindness and empathy as well as the siren song of his art.

But he was a control freak. He would create something real and genuine then quickly destroy it himself before someone else could. It was his way of protecting himself from loss. He broke everything precious to him the way he smashed his guitars. He had attempted suicide multiple times.

As I read the biography, I had thought that I would become so invested in its main character that I would be very sad for him when he died. Unexpectedly, there were three other moments instead that were intensely painful to vicariously witness. First was a short conversation he had with his estranged father where they actually exchanged an awkward and heartfelt “I love you.” Then there was the moment when he held his daughter for the last time and whispered into her ear before he went off to kill himself. Finally, there was Cortney’s reaction to his death. She had covered herself in layers of his clothes that still had the lingering scent of his body. Like all deaths, it’s the ones left behind that suffer.

Cross did a great job allowing readers a glimpse into Cobain’s life and mind. I’m a bigger fan of Nirvana after reading the book. As I read his descrīption of Kurdt in the actual act of suicide, the image of him abandoning family, friends, and millions of adoring fans who had linked their hearts and souls with his caused me to whisper under my breath:

“How could you?”

Granted it wasn’t like all of his family, friends, and fans were perfect people, but it is heartbreaking to see so many hearts break.
Profile Image for Célia | Estante de Livros.
1,142 reviews228 followers
July 14, 2008
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, but what really stands out for me is the ethereal and timeless music.

Heavier Than Heaven tells the story of the man who created Nirvana, from his childhood until the tragedy surrounding his death. This book also accounts for the story of Nirvana. Although I'm not catholic, reading this book was a little like reading Jesus Christ story: even though I know the end, it's impossible to avoid the desire that it had been otherwise.

While I was reading about Kurt Cobain's life, I realised the devastating impact that a divorce during the childhood can have in a particularly sensitive and different child. Sometimes, there are profoundly defining events in our lifes and, if we don't have the mental structure that allow us to carry on, the consequences can be catastrophic. I've read the story of a man who grey in the middle of contradictions inside himself, like spending his whole life wanting to be loved and then succumb when he had the entire world at his feet. I followed the story of a genius (he was one, like it or not) that without his peculiar character and the traumatic events that he had to go trough, wouldn't have left us what he did. It's also an account (sometimes shocking) of what drug addiction can make to a person.

I can't avoid feeling sad reading this tragic tale, but sometimes we have to stand face to face with others' struggles so we can learn to put things in perspective and learn. Here's what I learned: life is our most valuable gift.

Since this biography was writen based in interviews (Dave Grohl and Kurt's mother notably stayed out), there is a lot of subjectivy here. Sometimes, I think the author took too much liberties in his assumptions.

I don't recommend this book lightly, but I think it's a must read for any Nirvana fan and for anyone who cares about the imperfect human being.
Profile Image for Sara.
2 reviews2 followers
March 20, 2022
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. 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 he described would have been included in this book. However, the authors description of Kurt's final days were very disturbing. The author describes in great detail what Kurt did alone in his house ... what he was thinking, why he did what he did. There is no way for the author to know this. It is unfair for the author to assume many of the things written and it makes me question the validity of the entire book.
Profile Image for Danesda.
145 reviews255 followers
June 28, 2021
Acabo de terminar este libro biográfico, escrito por el periodista Charles R. Cross sobre el cantante y autor kurt Cobain; y la verdad debo decir que es uno de los mejores documentos sobre la historia de la música que he podido tener en mis manos, al margen de una edición hermosa y bien cuidada por parte de la editorial Reservoir Books (que me hizo pensar mucho sobre el libro como objeto y su valor intrínseco) está muy bien documentado, es valiente y además muy interesante porque no solo nos cuenta una vida que entrelaza las vidas de toda una generación sino que nos da a conocer realidades alternaras sobre las ideas preconcebidas que muchas veces tenemos de nuestros ídolos.


Recuerdo que yo era una niña cuando en 1994 se anunció por todos los medios de comunicación que Cobain había sido encontrado muerto en su casa (se había pegado un tiro en la cabeza con una escopeta) creo que se podría decir que prácticamente toda mi generación quedo en silencio, fue uno de esos momentos que sabes son realmente históricos porque representan un punto de inflexión del que no se puede regresar jamás. Yo había ahorrado lo que podía de mis recreos para comprar mi primer cd, cuando fui a la disco tienda le pregunte al vendedor cuál de los álbumes de Nirvana (estaba segura del grupo) le recomendaría a una persona que seguramente solo podría comprar uno durante el resto de su vida, me dijo sin dudarlo “In Útero” es el mejor pero el más histórico es “Nevermind” quédate con ese último porque será algo memorable que querrás tener por siempre y así lo hice. Esto lo cuento para que se hagan a una idea de lo representa este grupo de Grunge (género al que prácticamente dieron inicio) para las personas que crecimos en esa época.

Kurt Cobain no solo era un genio creativo, era una persona con múltiples inseguridades y seguridades que sufría de constates conflictos existenciales surgidos de una personalidad sensible en un entorno hostil (muy de mi generación) por ello se nos hace tan cercano que de alguna forma lo sentimos como el amigo malogrado que todos quisimos pero aun así nadie pudo ayudar. Aunque debo confesar desde chica y hasta el día de hoy mi Nirvana favorito es Krist Novoselic por buen amigo, excelente persona, activista político y musical, granjero, aviador y punk irreverente. Cobain siempre será recordado como la persona que lo gesto todo de forma meticulosa logrando el cambio que la música rock necesitaba, ya que desde unos años atrás se había dado lugar a una vertiente musical de pelos largos, vestidos de colores, maquillaje estridente, letras pegajosas y sin sentido; él le dijo alto a todo ello, seremos nosotros los que gritaran, los olvidados de los barrios pobres, los enfadados con un sistema social y educativo excluyente, los que vestimos zapatillas de deporte, pantalones rotos y camisetas descoloridas, los que tenemos sueños que son grandiosos por sencillos, los que no creemos que exista un lugar en el mundo donde posar nuestra confianza, seremos nosotros los que gritaremos y así lo hizo. Grito, grito más fuerte que nadie.

En Nirvana Kurt era el gran talento ideológico y espiritual, Dave era el llegado al final que corría a adaptarse armado de su gran capacidad musical y Krist era el corazón, el que hacia las paces con los otros y entre los otros, el que se erigiría como la barra que sostiene el barco que parece irse al fondo en la gran tormenta. Y por eso es que funcionaron porque cada uno desde su lugar supo dar todo lo que tenía y enfocarse en lo importante que era cambiar las cosas y generar posibilidades de expresión artística autentica. Llevaron su ética punk a un lugar donde su irreverencia (aunque utilizada por el mercadeo al final) les permitiría transformar una realidad y un futuro para todos nosotros.

Pero mientras los conciertos, la fama y el dinero llegaban (apoyados en gran medida de MTV cuando este era un canal de verdad) Kurt sufría no tan en silencio de múltiples circunstancias que le hacían imposible adaptarse a la realidad que el mismo había construido, era hipersensible, lleno de culpa, en una relación matrimonial llena de amor y conflictos, tenía serios problemas con las drogas, no se sentía a gusto con la dirección comercial que el grupo tomaba, no se sentía ético con su público, era azotado de fuertes dolores estomacales, fantaseaba con el suicidio, se alejó de sus amigos más queridos, era padre de una nena a la que temía decepcionar como sus padres hicieron con él y estaba atrapado en un pequeño cuerpo en el que nunca se sintió cómodo y que envejecía cada día alejándolo del ideal juvenil que la sociedad tanto publicita; en resumen Kurt tenía miedo y no sabía qué hacer para salir de aquel atolladero sin dejar muertos en la calzada. Así que hizo lo que pensó mejor para todos, fue el quien dejo su cuerpo para que los demás tuvieran que velarlo.

Y con ello nos cambió a todos, nos dijo alto que las cosas no son un carnaval, alto que las cosas no son como un comercial en MTV, nos hizo sentarnos a todos a tomar aliento y reconfigurar lo que pensábamos del mundo y de la idealización de los pelos largos, las drogas, la música, la rebeldía y el suicidio. Nos dijo alto que las cosas no van por buen camino que aunque logres gritar, la sociedad sigue siendo un gran monstruo que se los come a todos, alto que no es la adaptación ni la rebeldía total la respuesta; el problema es que nos dejó a huérfanos a Frances Bean y a los demás que quisiéramos haber tenido la oportunidad de conocerle cuando pudiera sobrellevar sus conflictos, quisiéramos saber la respuesta a las preguntas que se planteaba, quisiéramos saber si dichas inquietudes realmente tenían algún tipo de solución.

Cuando comencé a leer el libro debo confesar de que no me encontraba en el mejor lugar del mundo, atrapada física, mental y socialmente en una realidad de la que no disfruto había olvidado quien era realmente, me había dejado absorber por la necesidad del cada día, ya no escribía, ya no hablaba con mis amigos, ya no escuchaba música, ya no soñaba. Leer el texto me dio la oportunidad de reencontrarme conmigo misma y estoy convencida ese es el primer escalón para poder transformar mi situación actual, porque solo cuando nos aceptamos y conocemos podemos reestructurar nuestras vidas; busque mi pulsera de cuero y volví a sentir la fuerza y el deseo de comerme el mundo, deje un poco de lado el atolladero y me permití volver a aspirar, perdonarme y seguir.

Últimamente las cosas no han ido bien y no lo digo solo por mí, lo digo por lo que puedo ver en la mayoría de miembros de mi generación, personas altamente educadas, inteligentes, sensibles y sin oportunidades reales, algunos atrapados en matrimonios vacíos, trabajos acomodados y rutinas agobiantes y otros absolutamente perdidos, sin un lugar para llamar suyo y con los sueños cada vez más lejos de la posibilidad de cumplirse porque en un país donde a los 25 ya se considera que estas muerto social, laboral y emocionalmente (como el mito de Caicedo, hay que matarse a los 25 con 60 pastillas de seconal) se están perdiendo las mentes y corazones de toda una generación tirada a la desesperación como si fueran basura que se arroja al rio. Debemos dejar de idealizar la juventud y ver a las personas por lo que realmente son, los chicos no son los únicos que pueden soñar, capacitarse y generar cambios y los viejos no son los sabios muertos andantes descartables en la sociedad. Los años biológicos no son más que esos, no son un factor determinante en la valía de una persona. No se está muerto cuando llegas a los 30, se está muerto cuando dejas de soñar.
Entonces empecé a leer el libro de Cross y empecé a sentir la inquietud de nuevo en mi corazón, empecé a escribir, empecé a investigar, empecé a escuchar música y quise comunicarlo. Es allí cuando publique algunos mensajes en las redes sociales, referentes al suicidio y los órdenes y problemáticas sociales; una persona que no niego tenía buenas intenciones me increpo con angustia solicitando que si estaba deprimida y quería acabar con mi vida (porque si uno habla de esos temas en público quiere decir que tiene depresión) fuera a su casa, yo me quede en silencio sin saber si reír o llorar por una parte había logrado captar la atención sobre el problema pero por otro me daba cuenta de lo tabú que resulta hablar sobre estos temas de forma abierta. Quizás por ello casi todos los míos tenemos a alguien cercano que ha muerto por suicidio; hablarlo parece que da miedo, parece algo que debemos esconder debajo del tapete. Frances Bean Cobain, Courtney Love, Dave Grohl y Krist Novoselic lo han expresado en múltiples ocasiones, el suicidio, las drogas, los desórdenes mentales y los problemas sociales son asuntos muy serios que deben dejar de ser tabú o idealizaciones adolescentes y ser enfrentados como lo que son, debemos sacar el oso que escondemos en el refrigerador y afrontar la realidad de que muchas personas y quizás nosotros mismos necesitemos ayuda. Debemos apartar el miedo para permitir que historias como la de Kurt no se repitan de forma sistemática como hasta ahora viene sucediendo, que alguien hable de ello no debe ser vergonzoso, debe ser lo que es, tomar el toro por los cuernos y reflejar la suficiente empatía en el otro para dejar de ser solo entrometidos y convertirnos en manos amigas.

Finalmente diré que la historia de un hombre no es solo la historia de sus más íntimas inclinaciones, miedos y sentimientos; también es la historia de la generación que lo rodea y la herencia social de sus precedentes; así que la historia de un hombre viene a convertirse en la historia de todos, Kurt creció donde no quería y tuvo que luchar por sobrevivir sin lograr nunca adaptarse a un entorno que ni el entendía ni lo entendía a él; Kurt cambio las cosas, pero no fue fácil su lucha y al final dejo mucho dolor y sangre en el camino. ¿Entonces qué es lo más importante, la meta o el camino? Maquiavelo diría que la meta, Lewis Carroll que el camino yo les diría que no se, al final los cuerpos siempre terminan en el atolladero, entonces dejemos volar un poco las almas que es lo único que nos queda.
Yo no creo que sea mejor quemarse que apagarse lentamente, creo que es mejor quemar al mundo y ya.

(De alguna forma el libro me recuerda a la película Requiem for a Dream de Darren Aronofsky; esa no la ponía de chicos y al final la terminaron por convertir en una especie de amenaza, si tomas drogas, si te apartas del camino, si sueñas este será tu final)

21 mayo 2019.

video reseña en:

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bx-AmgNlpDT/

http://danesda.blogspot.com/2019/05/h...

Profile Image for Desy.
295 reviews33 followers
March 30, 2008
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 bersinggungan jalan dengan jalan hidup Kurt, sebelum buku ini akhirnya jadi. Jadi ya setidaknya buku ini bisa lah dijadiin gambaran awal mengenai kisah kehidupan Kurt.

Gua sendiri selagi dan setelah baca buku ini jadi ngerasa kasian sama Kurt. Ternyata ada orang yang begitu merasa kesepian. Padahal dia rockstar tenar. Banyak anak muda yang menjadikannya pahlawan. Banyak fans-nya yang begitu 'look-up to him'. Tapi kok ya itu semua ga ngebantu dia keluar dari masalahnya: drugs. Padahal ga sedikit yang mencintai dia, meski dengan cara mereka masing-masing -yang bisa dibilang rada aneh juga.

Buat yang ngaku fans berat Kurt Cobain (dan otomatis Nirvana juga -lu ga bisa nyebut Kurt Cobain tanpa Nirvana, dan sebaliknya), buku ini harus dibaca! Ambil sisi postifnya, buang jauh-jauh sisi negatifnya -yang banyak itu. Jadiin buku ini sebagai satu pelajaran: jangan pernah, JANGAN PERNAH sekali pun -bahkan untuk coba-coba- make narkoba! GA ADA gunanya sama sekali.
Satu lagi: jangan bunuh diri. Dosa :D. Apapun masalah yang lu hadapi, seberat apapun masalah yang lu pikul, masih ada Tuhan yang bakal nolong kita kalo kita bener-bener berusaha dan berdoa. Tuhan kita baik, kok :-) percaya, deh.

Tambahan: Ternyata, kematian Kurt masih dipertanyakan: bunuh diri atau dibunuh? :-)
Profile Image for Olivera .
715 reviews248 followers
June 17, 2017
DISCLAIMER

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.

description

END OF DISCLAIMER

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 he did.

So, while I'm not sure what criteria I should exactly use for the purpose of rating a non fiction work about a person, there were elements of Heavier than Heaven that didn't sit too well with me, hence the meh rating.

For starters, it really is too detailed. It's hard to get through because the text is really dense and it reads like a super long Wikipedia article. Some parts were overdone and unnecessary, and I had to take one star off. But, that being said, I liked how objective it felt, without trying to sugar coat anything. Cross portrayed Kurt as a moody, disturbed and depressed person who had a serious addiction problem, which is more or less who Kurt was.

The reason why I took another star off was the way the suicide was handled. It felt too detailed and made me feel very uncomfortable, and just like many other parts of the book, as if I were going too deep into somebody else's personal life.

Nirvana is a band that marked my adolescence, just like it did for generations of people. Heavier than Heaven was a fascinating book. It offered so much insight and history and I'm really glad I've finally read it, since it felt like returning to a specific part of my growing up.
Profile Image for Jeroen Decuyper.
108 reviews19 followers
August 20, 2021
"I had never asked you to make me care about you but it happened - against the hype, against the odds - and now you are in my imagination forever. And I figure you're in heaven too. But how exactly does it help you now, to know that you, too, were once adored?" Dit schreef de Canadese auteur Douglas Coupland in een brief aan Kurt Cobain, net na zijn dood in zijn essaybundel "Polaroids from the Dead". Ook al vond ik deze bundel van één van mijn favoriete auteurs (die eer dankt hij bijna enkel en alleen aan zijn cultboek "Generation X") wisselvallig van toon en flets geschreven, is deze brief lang blijven hangen. Samen met het verhaal "The German Reporter", voor de volledigheid.

Ik weet nog dat ik toen, net de twintig gepasseerd, iets gelijkaardigs voelde. En ook nog precies waar ik was toen ik het nieuws te horen kreeg dat de frontman van één van de bands die mijn adolescentie en mijn verdere muzieksmaak mee vorm gegeven hebben, zichzelf voor de kop geschoten had. "Heavier than Heaven", de naam van de Europese tour van Nirvana in 1989, kon geen passender titel zijn voor dit boek. Voor mij was het de eerste biografie die ik ooit gelezen heb, en ik heb het me nog geen seconde beklaagd dat het die van Kurt Cobain was.

Charles R. Cross heeft zich voor zijn boek gebaseerd op meer dan 400 interviews en had inzage in massa's authentieke documenten, waaronder correspondentie en dagboeken van de zanger. Hoe hij uit die verscheidenheid aan bronnen zo'n consistent en uitgebalanceerd verhaal kon puren, is mij een raadsel. En hij doet dat zonder enig waardeoordeel, maar eerder als een bevoorrechte getuige, een verslaggever, een onzichtbare toeschouwer. Tussen de grote verhaallijnen en gebeurtenissen door geeft hij een schat aan anekdotes, petites histoires en citaten mee, waardoor het verhaal letterlijk geen seconde verveelt. Enkel op het einde, in het laatste hoofdstuk ("Een hiernamaals als dat van Leonard Cohen, april 1995 - mei 1999) verandert de toon, wordt hij wat (melo-)dramatisch en gaat hij soms kort door de bocht. Wat jammer is, maar na meer dan 400 pagina's leesplezier vergeef je dat de auteur maar al te graag.

Naast zijn kindertijd en jeugd, getekend door de scheiding van zijn ouders en door het opgroeien in Aberdeen, word je deelachtig aan de weg die Kurt Cobain aflegt richting roem en de dikke miserie die daar in zijn geval mee gepaard gaat. Een paar van zijn liefjes passeren de revue, tot hij bij Courtney Love eindigt. Dat het verhaal over de relatie met de frontvrouw van Hole veel genuanceerder is dan het beeld dat de pers na de dood van Kurt ophing, spreekt voor zich. Mooi ook om te zien hoe andere artiesten en groepen waar ik als tiener en prille twintiger naar opkeek, het privéleven van de zanger in- en uitschuiven: Mark Lanegan, Axl Rose, Sonic Youth en last but not least, Billy Corgan, om er maar een paar bij naam te noemen.

Voor mij persoonlijk waren de vele passages waar de genese van songteksten aangehaald en uitgepuurd werd, de mooiste en de interessantste. De teksten die we mee brulden op fuiven en gretig - ja, zelfs met een zekere verbetenheid - herlazen en analyseerden, krijgen door dit boek een extra gelaagdheid. Een extra betekenislaagje doordat je de negen versies die aan de uiteindelijke lyrics voorafgingen te zien krijgt. Voor wie ze bedoeld waren en vanuit welk perspectief Kurt ze geschreven heeft. Noodzakelijk is het niet om de muziek ten volle te appreciëren en te vatten, maar het is een machtig extraatje bij de nummers en de muziek die tot ons collectief geheugen behoren. Of we het nu willen of niet.
Profile Image for Kirk.
Author 37 books216 followers
March 21, 2008
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 Tracy Marander and Bikini Kill drummer Tobi Vail, from whom KC learned most of his sexual politics.

I agree with the GoodReader who said this bio's strongest in the early years where a lot of the mythology is parsed. Toward the end it just gets sad---i.e. the home movie of Kurt and Courtney bathing the baby with a syringe in the background hanging on the toothbrush rack.

I sense a big revisionary wave coming on about Nirvana. Twenty years later the music still socks a punch but there seems a need out there to make it seem far less meaningful than it did from 91-94. That's too bad, because it really was, musically, an exciting time... probably the only time my generation felt like a community (even if everybody was denying there was such a thing as a generational identity). In the end, it would have been much more compelling to watch KC mature (that dreaded word) and become a survivor that to have to bear all the black velvet tributes. I guess that's why, as often as I've thumbed through the initial third of this bio, I've never been motivated to reread it to the end. The story didn't need to end this way, and only the show-bizzers get any pleasure out of it.
Profile Image for A.
434 reviews
March 26, 2013
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 song writing/lyrics were very interesting and made me want to get out those Nirvana Cds and listen to them with the context given by the book.

I question some parts about Courtney Love. The author made her seem like the more stable of the two. Which seeing what a mess she has been in recent years, I just question the way the author portrayed her in the book.

I think the author took a lot of liberties with the end and the suicide.

Overall it was an interesting book. If you are a Nirvana fan, I'd say read it, but I wouldn't say this book is THE authority on Cobain. I might read some of the other biographies out there to compare.
Profile Image for Amanda.
20 reviews
October 18, 2022
3.5 stars. This is my first time reading a biography so I took it with a grain of salt. I knew that things might be exaggerated/not exactly true when I picked up the book. At times it felt very disturbing and intrusive to read such details about Kurt’s life, and I kept thinking about if he really would’ve want this made public or not.
I did not like how the author describes taking his own life, as if he knew what Kurt was really thinking. Overall I truly feel for Kurt throughout his battle with depression and addiction, and for all those who sincerely loved and cared about him. It was a very emotional read, leaving me with a lot of time to reflect.
Profile Image for Whitney.
43 reviews3 followers
July 18, 2008
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-absorbed butthead. Although he was an amazing artist. It was detailed, sad, and honest. My boyfriend Patt thought that the author came off as a little too idolizing of Kurt, but I didn't see that as much. Overall I would recommend it, there are probably many other biographies out there about Kurt but this one would most likely be the best.
Profile Image for Pedro Varanda.
420 reviews35 followers
May 3, 2020
Fascinante biografia daquele que foi o meu idolo de juventude e que cheguei a ver a tocar em cascais em 94. Kurt Cobain foi um gigante com pés de barro, com um complexo mundo interior povoado de demônios e acima de tudo destruido por uma enorme solidão que talvez nunca ninguém vá compreender. Recomendo.
Profile Image for Karim Anani.
142 reviews4 followers
March 20, 2022
This is the only "real" biography of Kurt Cobain in existence. Because it is furnished with interviews and source material provided by his friends, band members, family, and widow, Heavier Than Heaven is ostensibly essential reading for people who grew-up fans of Nirvana, as I did.

However, the book is shaped by the self-interests of the widow in question, the controversial Courtney Love, who would like to wash her hands of anything that may have played into Cobain's suicide, such as the affair she was allegedly having with Smashing Pumpkins vocalist Billy Corgan. That's understandable, but hardly makes for objective reading.

What damns the book is a question of journalistic integrity.

I don't understand what could have possessed Charles R. Cross and his editors to include at least two scenes that take place entirely in Cobain's head; the man wasn't around to describe them. The first one follows Cobain after he loses his virginity, walking in a field and sniffing himself, his every intimate gesture and feeling described. That's questionable in and of itself, but we could give Cross the benefit of the doubt; it's unlikely, but maybe there's a quote or diary entry somewhere.

The second one attempts to get inside Cobain's head in the hours leading up to his suicide. For a moment, the narrative is honourable: Cross sticks to describing what witnesses saw. But then it follows Cobain inside the house, paces with him inside the kitchen, and stays in his head when he enters the greenhouse, remaining until Cobain sticks a gun in there and blows out what I can only assume was the spirit of Cross, sagely nodding and taking notes for the authorised biography he'd write.

I don't subscribe to a simplistic falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, but this is so egregious it discolours the entire book. If a person's death is entirely invented, then what other parts of this book are false? If history holds, surely Cross would have started inventing small things before going big?

Despite the fun anecdotes and even, to some degree, the psychological profile of Cobain illustrated, Heavier Than Heaven is bad journalism and, in a context where nothing but the facts matter, therefore a bad book.
Profile Image for Daniel.
15 reviews
March 15, 2008
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 creative marketing ploy, Cobain seemed genuinely torn between stardom and artistic integrity. This can be seen in the way it effected him in not only his professional life but his private life as well. Cobain seemed to always be a best friend or a bitter rival, with little in between. He hated being a junky but couldn't live without heroin.

Fans of Cobain are faced with a similar conundrum. It was this delicate balance between the two worlds that made the music great; music with an edge and a palatable emotional intensity that was at the same time accessable and catchy. It perfectly straddled the line between ugly and beautiful, melodious and dischordant, gentle and rough.

But at the same time these opposing forces ended up destroying him. Trying to pin down a single reason, or single instance that lead to his death would be futile. The closest we can come is saying that his inner confusion and self-loathing became too much. Fans have to deal with the fact that what made his music great is what killed him, and decide what that means to us when we listen.
Profile Image for Stephen McQuiggan.
Author 75 books26 followers
January 26, 2017
A dispiriting overview of a car-wreck life with an inevitable tragic ending. Yet the most depressing thing is not its subject, nor the misjudged final chapter, but the fact that it is almost impossible to go online without being bombarded with 'Courtney murdered Kurt' hysteria. And, of course, Cross is castigated for not indulging in such idle speculation - he's obviously one of Love's minions. I guess if you are going to elevate someone to Sainthood, then someone must play the part of She Devil, and the Grunge Yoko fits the bill. But consider some facts before you drag ol' witchy Courtney to the stake.
His teenage friends - you know, people who actually knew him as opposed to those who felt a 'connection' to him through his music - described him as 'the shape of suicide'; the journals he kept diligently from childhood right up to his death are filled with constant thoughts of suicide; his song lyrics are often frequent paeans to feelings of despair and alienation; he wrote (you may spot a bit of a theme here) several suicide notes during the final months of his life. He bought a gun days before his death.
Perhaps - and I realize this a crazy notion, but bear with me - he actually committed suicide.
Or perhaps he's still alive, sharing a farmhouse with Elvis and Bruce Lee in Denial, Ohio.
Profile Image for Jason Pellegrini.
Author 5 books482 followers
October 3, 2021
Having grown up and considering myself a child of the 1990s, Nirvana was a staple my youth. With that came the legend and myth that was Kurt Cobain. We all knew he had taken his own life at young age, but not many of us truly knew much about the man. What was fact and what was fabrication. So that reason is why ‘Heavier Than Heaven’ had been on my radar for a while now.

This book was very well put together. So many biographies can feel as if the writer is taking liberties or injecting their own personal views on the subject into the text, but this didn’t feel that way for most of this book. The very notable exception to this being that the author presumed to know details of the final minutes of Cobain’s life; something no one but Cobain could possibly know. Other than that, this book was very well researched!

Kurt Cobain, despite his place in rock immortality, is just like every one of us. A human being. He lived a hard life and dealt with numerous demons. This book shows us the human side of Cobain, from his addiction to his struggle with fame. This doesn’t feel like a book about a person taking the music world by storm. This feels like a book about a human being with human struggles.

I can’t recommend this book enough to fans of 90s grunge. Or music in general. A must-read for sure!
8 reviews
October 5, 2010
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 because Kurt’s record goes number one. As the text says, “And then, as if things weren’t turbulent enough, the news came that in the next issue of Billboard magazine, Nevermind would hit the No. 1 spot, pushing out Michael Jackson’s Dangerous.” Nirvana’s album was the biggest in the U.S. at one point. Kurt Cobain went from not being able to afford gas money to being the biggest artist in the United States. He was making money and was extremely successful. If someone who was born poor and dropped out of high school can become a rock star, then many other people can do big things if they just keep trying.
Another reason you can achieve almost anything is that Kurt became famous worldwide. This was proved when one of Kurt’s old friends said, “You’re really famous now, Cobain. You’re on TV, like, every three hours.” To be on TV at all is not that common. Every few hours means that you really are very famous and successful. To become that famous is a very low chance. Out of several billion people, to become a celebrity is remarkable. With all his hard work, he became one of those very fortunate few. This shows that you can be very successful if you pursue your dreams.
Finally, you can achieve almost anything that you keep at because Kurt never listened to anyone who said he would fail, and never quit. Kurt’s mother Wendy told him that he should quit music. He wasn’t making money at the time, and she was unimpressed by his early material. Many others also said he should have a job to fall back on. But he didn’t listen. If he had listened, we wouldn’t have had one of the biggest rock bands of the 90’s. He didn’t give up and he achieved his dream of success and worldwide fame.
Anyone can achieve almost anything because Kurt had a number one record, he became famous worldwide, and he didn’t listen to those who tried to bring him down. I can personally connect to his story because there have been moments where I have been determined to accomplish something. Several years ago, I was planning to go on a 14 mile hike. All of my friends said I wouldn’t last that long. But I didn’t listen to them and I kept my head high. I walked it the next day and proved everyone completely wrong. Kurt did the same thing by becoming a rock star and an icon of his generation.
Overall, I have learned that anyone can achieve anything, no matter what background or heritage they come from, no matter what their story is. People who stay determined will achieve great things in the end.
Profile Image for Brian James.
Author 182 books217 followers
September 10, 2012
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, as well as scouring through countless interviews and the journals to present a complete picture of an iconic figure. What comes through so strikingly is the story of a child who felt lost after the divorce of his parents and was never really able to reconcile those feelings, which show up in so many of his songs. It shows a person so driven to be accepted and adored, while possessing none of the traits one needs to cope with that adoration once it's given.

Before reading the book, someone had warned me that the ending was really sad. I told them I knew how it ended, so I thought it would be okay. But the truth was, the ending was indeed very sad and moving. It really showed the struggle one faces when they decide they simply can't go on anymore and knowing they are going to devastate those closest to them.
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