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Heavier than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain

By Charles R. Cross

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ISBN 10: 0786884029
ISBN 13: 9780786884025
432 pages

Written with a journalist’s eye for riveting detail and a fan’s heartfelt appreciation for Nirvana’s music, Charles R. Cross’s Heavier Than Heaven stage-dives headfirst into the heart, soul, and torment of one of rock’s most galvanizing figures. Revelatory and moving, it’s as essential to any rock-history bookshelf as Nevermind is to any CD cabinet. —David Browne, author of Dream Brother: The Lives Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley

When Kurt Cobain died by his own hand in April 1994, it was an act of will that typified his short, angry, inspired life. Although the tragic circumstances of Cobain’s suicide are well known, the facts of his life — and the influence of his artistry — remain largely unexamined. Now veteran music journalist Charles R. Cross fuses his intimate knowledge of the Seattle music scene with his deep compassion for his subject in this extraordinary story of artistic brilliance and the pain that extinguished it.

Based on more than four hundred interviews; four years of research; exclusive access to Cobain’s unpublished diaries, lyrics, and family photos; and a wealth of documentation, Heavier Than Heaven traces Cobain’s life from his early days in a double-wide trailer outside of Aberdeen, Washington, to his rise to fame, success, and the adulation of a generation. Cross reveals the familial turmoil that fueled Cobain’s creativity, the generational history that forged his character, and the unusual love story that was his relationship with wife Courtney Love. Drawing from medical and police reports, and Cobain’s own private writings, Cross also reveals the truth about Cobain’s health struggles, his depression, and his tragic final days.

Published on the tenth anniversary of Nirvana’s landmark album Nevermind, this is the first in-depth biography of Kurt Cobain, a man whose music captured the minds of a generation and whose death broke their hearts. More than the history of a rock and roll star, Heavier Than Heaven is a portrait of creative genius and the will to turn pain into art.


“A powerful portrait.” —USA Today

“The results of Cross’ assiduous reporting show through in every chapter. A remarkable portrait: A-.” —Tom Sinclair, Entertainment Weekly

“Definitive . . . Cross untangles the soul of a man. A powerful portrait.” —Anthony DeBarros, USA Today

“The short unhappy life of Kurt Donald Cobain now has its worthy biographer.” —John Marshall, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“In a compelling new biography of Cobain, Charles R. Cross dates the band’s first gig to a March, 1987, houseparty in Raymond, Washington” —Robert Christgau, The New Yorker

“Charles R. Cross has cracked the code in the definitive biography . . . The deepest book about pop’s darkest falling star.” —Tim Appelo,

Heavier Than Heaven will likely stand forever as the definitive Kurt Cobain biography. —Jeff Burlingame, Aberdeen Daily World

“Shakes up the prevailing conceptions of Cobain . . . A compelling biography.” —Justin Waite, Biography magazine

“Cross transcends the other Cobain biographies . . . A carefully crafted and compelling tragedy.” —Library Journal

“No other Cobain book matches Heavier Than Heaven for research, accuracy, and insider scoops.” —Mark Lindquist, The Seattle Times

“Of the more than two-dozen Cobain-related books, this is the first to take an authoritative, journalistic, and scrupulous look at the history of Cobain and his band.” —Eric Nuzum, Public Arts

“Dozens of books have been written about Cobain and his band, most of them ridiculously lurid or worshipful or uninformed. Heavier Than Heaven is the best, by far.” —Jeff Baker, Portland Oregonian

“Insightful, painstakingly researched . . . Cross’ rendering of Cobain’s childhood and family history is fascinating: his depiction of Cobain’s final hours pulls the reader in opposite directions.” —Chris Nelson, The Seattle Weekly

“Cross treats the strange, unhappy life of musician Kurt Cobain with intelligence and an insider’s perceptiveness . . .” —Kirkus Reviews

“Exhaustively researched . . . More riveting and suspenseful than a biography has the right to be.” —J.D. Considine, Blender

“A well-researched, well-written piece of rock journalism.” —E! Online

“Many treatments have surfaced purporting to know the inside story of Cobain’s troubled existence and brilliant musical career — none has dug as deep or as close to home as Cross’ work.” —

“An excellent description of Kurt Cobain’s life, all of it’s major events, and his part of Nirvana.” –Rasmus Holmen,

“A standout among rock bios and deserves its place in pop-culture collections.” —Booklist


The first time he saw heaven came exactly six hours and fifty-seven minutes after the very moment an entire generation fell in love with him. It was, remarkably, his first death, and only the earliest of many little deaths that would follow.

He’d headlined ‘Saturday Night Live,’ had seen his album hit No. 1, and ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic had asked permission to do a parody of ‘Teen Spirit.’ These events, taken together, marked the kind of recognition Kurt had fantasized about as a teenager. But in the predawn hours, Kurt felt neither vindication nor an urge to celebrate. As Courtney slept, Kurt had recklessly — or intentionally — used far more heroin than was safe. The overdose turned his skin an aqua-green hue, stopped his breathing, and made his muscles as still as coaxial cable. Love frantically began a resuscitation effort that would eventually become commonplace for her. Within a few minutes, Kurt was sitting up, talking, wearing a self-possessed smirk, almost as if he were proud of his feat.

In the course of one singular day, Kurt had been born in the public eye, died in the privacy of his own darkness, and was resurrected by an act of love. It was an extraordinary feat, implausible, and almost impossible, but the same could be said for so much of his outsized life, beginning with where he’d come from.

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