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On This Day In Music… February 24, 1992: Kurt Cobain Marries Courtney Love

The doomed union took place just one month after 'Nevermind' topped the U.S. album charts.

kurt cobain courtney love frances bean
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BBC Radio 6 also recently announced an eight-episode series from Courtney Love.

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The marriage of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love was an unusually low-key affair – given that the Nirvana singer was at that time the undisputed hottest property in music.

The union took place on Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, on February 24, 1992 with just eight people in attendance, including Cobain’s bandmate Dave Grohl. The bride wore a white satin and lace dress originally belonging to the late actress Frances Farmer (whose struggles with mental health and abuse would inspire the Nirvana song “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” and lead her to be described as the “patron martyr” of Kurt and Courtney); the groom wore green pajamas, commenting that he was “too lazy to put on a tux”.

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kurt cobain mtv unplugged
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Kurt Cobain died by suicide on April 5, 1994.

Five weeks earlier Nirvana’s second album, Nevermind, had hit No. 1 in the Billboard 200, selling in the region of 300,000 copies a week. It would go on to spend over 650 weeks in the chart, shift some 30 million copies worldwide, and later be recognized by Rolling Stone as the sixth Greatest Album of All Time, and even added to the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically [and] aesthetically significant.” Nevermind also saw Cobain himself cast as a figurehead not only for the emerging grunge movement, but for all Generation X.

"Nirvana is that rare band that has everything,” said Billboard at the time, “critical acclaim, industry respect, pop radio appeal, and a rock-solid college/alternative base.”

Courtney Love’s star was rising too. She had previously enjoyed some success as an actress, with a minor part in the Sid Vicious biopic Sid and Nancy and a leading role in the 1987 movie Straight to Hell, alongside Joe Strummer, Shane MacGowan, Dennis Hopper and Grace Jones. In 1991 her first album with Hole had pushed her to the forefront of the Riot Grrrl movement, with Q describing the LP as “confrontational [and] genuinely uninhibited”.

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It remains disputed exactly when the couple first met – some accounts claim it was in 1989 or 1990, before either had found fame, others that it was as late as spring 1991. Either way, it seems that Love was determined to pursue the Nirvana singer from the start.

In Michael Azzerad’s book Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana, Cobain is quoted as saying: “I was determined to be a bachelor for a few months... But I knew that I liked Courtney so much right away that it was a really hard struggle to stay away from her.”

By the end of 1991 they were officially an item, and on February, immediately after wrapping Nirvana’s Pacific Rim tour, the couple made it official. Love was already three months pregnant.

Frances Bean would be born in August 1992, and by then, the pressures were beginning to tell. Cobain’s heroin abuse had become a serious issue, and in September, a controversial Vanity Fair profile even suggested that Love had used the drug whilst pregnant.

That same article quoted a record executive as saying: “Courtney and Kurt are the nineties, much more talented version of Sid and Nancy… She’s going to be famous and he already is, but unless something happens, they’re going to self-destruct. I know they’re both going to be big stars. I just don’t want to be a part of it.”

courtney love
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Courtney Love: 'I know what's going to happen. I don't give a f**k. I love this guy.'

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Those words were to be sadly prophetic. A further 18 months of turbulence followed, as the pressures of fame, health problems and worsening addiction took their toll – on their marriage, and on themselves. On April 8, 1994 Cobain’s body was found in the garage of his home, dead from a self-inflicted shotgun wound to his head.

In an interview with Rolling Stone given after his death, Love gave a haunting account of how she was “warned off” Cobain soon after meeting him.

“If you don’t think I knew what I was getting into when I married Kurt,” she said, “Kim Gordon [of Sonic Youth] and Julia Cafritz [of Free Kitten] told me when me and Kurt got serious, ‘You know what’s going to happen?’ They spelled out everything. ’You’ll become junkies. You’ll get married. You’ll OD. You’ll be 35, you’ll try and make a comeback.’

“And I was going, ‘Yeah, I know what’s going to happen. I don’t give a f**k. I love this guy. My prince on a goddamn white horse. And I’m going to do it. I’m going to do both: be with him and do my thing.’”


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