What Happened During Kurt Cobain's Memorial Service?

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For many, Kurt Cobain gave voice to the frustrations and angst of a generation through his music. When Cobain took his own life in 1994, it came as no surprise that legions of fans mourned the young star’s passing.

Some got the opportunity to show their respects in person by attending a public memorial service. Additionally, loved ones laid their friend and family member to rest at a private funeral for Kurt Cobain. 

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Keep reading to learn more about both the Kurt Cobain funeral and memorial service. The details of each serve as powerful reminders of just how much of an impact Cobain made on countless lives during his own unfortunately short life.

Kurt Cobain’s Funeral Service

Kurt Cobain’s funeral and memorials were fairly unique. Fans, friends, and loved ones actually paid tribute to Cobain with various services across a number of years.

Location and date

Read on for more information about Cobain’s memorial service location and dates.

Public memorial

The public memorial service for Kurt Cobain took place on April 10, 1994, in Seattle’s Flag Pavilion. According to estimates, approximately 5,000 fans attended.

The makeup of the attendees reflected the way Cobain’s music spoke to the world’s youth. Some of the fans paying their respects were so young that their parents had to accompany them.

The attendees’ behavior also, in some ways, served as an embodiment of Cobain’s own sometimes contradictory nature. Although by all reports Cobain was a loving individual who promoted peace and acceptance, his music also expressed deep anger bordering on rage at times.

A similar dynamic was on display at his public memorial. Some attendees simply held white candles and stood in silence. Others, for example, threw rolls of burning toilet paper throughout the park. Unfortunately, some also crassly took advantage of the opportunity to promote their own bands.

Private service

Kurt Cobain’s funeral also took place on April 10. Approximately 200 family members, friends, and professional colleagues gathered at Unity Church of Truth to look back on Cobain in loving memory

Buddhist ritual

Both Kurt Cobain and his wife shared an intermittent interest in Buddhism during their relationship. Several months after her late husband’s passing, Courtney Love decided to honor this side of him by having Buddhist monks consecrate his ashes.

The Buddhist ceremony took place in Ithaca, New York, at the Namgyal Monastery. It began on July 2, 1994, and lasted several months. For nearly two weeks, Love spent every morning chanting over Cobain’s ashes with the monks.

After Love left Ithaca in mid-July, the monks continued the consecration ritual for a few months, eventually mixing some of Cobain’s ashes with clay to create tsatsas, a type of Buddhist sculpture.

Eulogies and speakers

Certain individuals spoke at Cobain’s memorials.

Krist Novoselic

Over loudspeakers, fans attending Kurt Cobain’s public memorial service listened to a recorded message from Cobain’s Nirvana bandmate, Krist Novoselic. Although those who were in attendance report hearing clear pain in Novoselic’s voice, they also state that he attempted to raise the spirits of the crowd by encouraging them to pursue their dreams.

Courtney Love

Courtney Love also shared a recorded message with the crowd during her late husband’s memorial service. This recording was apparently much rawer, consisting of a profanity-laced rant in which Love essentially berated Cobain for taking his own life. She was obviously in significant pain and she didn’t feel the need to hide it. Love would later arrive at the memorial service to distribute some of Cobain’s clothes to the fans who were still there.

Attendees

While fans could only attend the public memorial, Cobain’s bandmates, close friends, and various family members attended his private funeral. Due to the private nature of Kurt Cobain’s funeral, details about who specifically attended are hard to come by.

That said, it’s worth noting that some of the attendees have given interviews in which they describe a divide between the mourners. Specifically, they explain how friends and family members held two private wakes for Kurt Cobain: One at Courtney Love’s home, and one at Krist Novoselic’s. They describe how the attendees at Novoselic’s home consisted mainly of friends and fellow musicians, while the lawyers and record studio executives attended the wake at Love’s home.

Cost

Because Kurt Cobain’s funerals and memorials took many forms, and because several of the services were private, it’s unclear how much they cost and who covered the expenses.

Because sales of Nirvana albums generated millions of dollars in revenue during Cobain’s life, and his estate now has an estimated worth of $450 million, it may be safe to assume that his estate provided enough money to cover all major costs.

Songs or performances

Although funerals and memorial services for celebrity musicians often include musical performances, information about such performances at either Kurt Cobain’s funeral or memorial is limited. Former bandmate Dave Grohl only recently stated that “In My Life” by the Beatles played at his funeral service, but this wasn’t actually a performance of the song. Someone simply chose to play the Beatles’ recording of the track over a loudspeaker.

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Kurt Cobain’s Burial and Gravesite

The specifics of Kurt Cobain’s “gravesite” are very interesting in certain key ways. The following points will help you better understand why.

Was he cremated or buried?

Courtney Love chose to cremate Kurt Cobain. Along with consecrating some of his ashes in a Buddhist ceremony, she and Cobain’s loved ones eventually scattered the rest years later.

Where are his ashes?

It’s safe to assume that Kurt Cobain’s grave (or at least the location of his ashes) would be among the most famous graves in the world, at least for music fans. However, like Kurt Cobain’s funerals and memorial services, the location of his ashes is also unique.

That’s partially because it’s somewhat unknown. His ashes aren’t all in one place. As you’ve already learned, some of his cremains now exist in the form of tsatsas. 

Prior to arranging the Buddhist ceremony, Courtney Love had kept some of Cobain’s ashes in an urn, and some in a teddy bear. The ashes she provided for the tsatsas came from the teddy bear. She kept the rest for several years.

Then, in 1999, five years after Cobain’s death, Love, their daughter, Frances, and Cobain’s mother arranged another private ceremony during which Frances scattered her father’s ashes somewhere in McLane Creek in Olympia, Washington, where Cobain’s music career began. The family has kept the exact location of the scattering ceremony a secret.

Viretta Park benches

It’s completely understandable and appropriate for Cobain’s loved ones to decide they’d rather not share the location of his ashes with the public. However, this decision hasn’t prevented fans from sharing an official spot where they can go to pay their respects.

Luckily, those fans decided to create their own “memorial” space for Cobain. In Seattle’s Viretta Park, close to the home where Cobain took his life, they transformed two benches into makeshift memorials. Fans would visit to leave flowers and decorate the benches with Nirvana-centric graffiti. In some ways, the lyrics they spray-painted on the benches serve as unconventional headstone sayings.

The original benches are no longer in Viretta Park. They were auctioned off in 2014. However, new benches have taken their place and fans continue to treat these benches as memorials for Cobain.

Kurt Cobain Memorial Park

Aberdeen, Washington, where Cobain grew up, is also home to a memorial.

Kurt Cobain Memorial Park (or, as some fans call it, Kurt Cobain Landing) consists of a memorial plaque, several pictures of Cobain, a guitar sculpture, and graffiti from beloved fans. The exact location of the memorial is beneath a bridge that Cobain described in the song “Something in the Way” from the “Nevermind” album.

Although Kurt Cobain Memorial Park is certainly another spot to consider visiting if you want to reflect on the passing of one of your favorite musicians, it’s important to know that the neighborhood itself is residential and tends to be fairly quiet. Visitors should be respectful of this.

While you’re in Aberdeen, you can also stop by the town’s Walk of Fame. Similar to its Hollywood counterpart, it features stars for various noteworthy Aberdeen residents. Kurt Cobain naturally has one.

Kurt Cobain’s Funeral & Memorial: Celebrating a Rock Icon

As Kurt Cobain’s various funerals and memorials illustrate, grieving a celebrity death can take many forms. That said, while loved ones and fans mourned Cobain’s passing in many different ways, all of them clearly demonstrated how his life had a profound impact on theirs.


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