What really happened to Kurt Cobain in April 1994? If you were alive at the time and under the age of 35 you likely remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when the news broke that the world’s biggest rock star had killed himself. Call it grunge’s 9/11.
The Seattle Police Department and the media immediately reported Cobain had finally committed suicide, as the rest of world had come to believe would eventually happen. Just the latest 27-year-old rocker to burn out rather than fade away. But, as Benjamin Statler’s documentary Soaked in Bleach contends, Cobain’s wife Courtney Love was peddling a lie.
The film is based largely on audio recordings made by private investigator Tom Grant, who Love had hired on April 3, shortly after Cobain checked himself out of Exodus rehab clinic at Daniel Freeman Hospital in Marina del Rey, California outside of L.A. And with that limited perspective the responsible thing to do as viewers is to take it all with a grain of salt. But, boy are those audio tapes with Love damning.
What’s not to believe from Grant, a former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s detective with an impeccable record? On April 3, 1994 — Easter Sunday — Love called Grant so that he could find Cobain, as his wife relayed that he had boarded a plane back to Seattle and was suicidal. Fits the narrative we’ve all recited a hundred times.
But we hear from Love’s own mouth and from her Cobain wanted to divorce her, wanted to leave Nirvana. In fact, we learn from Rosemary Carroll, Cobain’s and Love’s entertainment attorney and the godmother to their daughter Frances Bean as well as the wife of Cobain’s manager Danny Goldberg, that the couple was in the process of a divorce.
Perhaps they were, and if Cobain really was leaving Love, especially with a prenup in place, she stood to lose out on a whole lot of money. Other’s were sure to be as unlucky if Cobain were to walk away from his band or the larger recording industry. People have been killed for a lot less. But was he?
The documentary goes on to connect many other interesting dots, such as the fact that Cobain was found to have three times the lethal amount of heroin in his system yet managed to roll down his sleeves, put away his drug paraphernalia and discharge a 20-gauge shotgun into his mouth. Most heroin addicts, especially immediately after a dose — not to mention one the size that Cobain apparently took — don’t come close to having the physical ability or willingness to then manipulate a shotgun and shoot themselves. It’s a decidedly grotesque way to end things when the heroin high provides a warm, numbing effect and such a hot dose would likely result in such an ultimate relaxation that it would simply put the victim into an everlasting sleep.
Of course that’s conjecture and just the type that Grant and Statler want you to believe. Certainly the film does ask some interesting questions and casts Love in an unflattering light to say the least.
What is especially intriguing are the reported police findings at this purported suicide scene were just plain false. But no two people can correctly report a car accident, so what are we to expect will be published when we are talking about the suicide of a cultural icon? I mean, to this day plenty believe wholeheartedly that both Elvis and Jim Morison are alive.
But Soaked in Bleach certainly succeeds in casting aspersions of reasonable doubt that Cobain killed himself, or at least did it by himself. A parade of forensic specialists and even the retired Seattle police chief all call for Cobain’s death investigation to be re-opened. Hell, the filmmakers even succeeded in getting Courtney Love’s father on film saying she did it.
Simply put, you need to watch the documentary for yourself and do the research to come up with your own conclusion.