"You just go over in your head: 'Is there something I could’ve done?'"
It was 25 years ago on Friday Kurt Cobain committed suicide.
To mark the anniversary, his former manager Danny Goldberg has opened up about the final failed intervention that occurred just one week before the Nirvana frontman took his own life.
"I was in New York, and Courtney [Love] called and asked if I would come and be part of an intervention," he told Yahoo. "She was really worried about Kurt, said it was the worst she’d ever seen him."
He said he was among seven or eight people who assembled at the singer's Seattle home, in what he would later realize was perceived as an ambush.
"Kurt was really stoned, and we went to the house, and it was weird, and he was not happy, and feeling invaded by people lecturing him on how he should behave — and who would?"
He said Cobain was even less happy when his drugs got flushed down the toilet.
"My message was just, 'Whatever is bothering you, you can’t make a good decision the way you're strung-out. Get clean, and then whatever you want to do, I'll help you do whatever you want to do. But you can't make any good decisions this way. It is no good future'," he recalled. "Just the typical anti-drug, get-clean plea."
He said he regretted how he approached Cobain, admitting he "let an impatience and brittleness get into my tone" as he was in a hurry to get home to his family.
"That sounds like a subtle thing, but it's the whole ball game when you’re communicating with somebody. It’s not always the words; it's how you say them," Goldberg explained. "I didn’t want to miss the plane to LA; I’d been away from my family in New York, and this was sort of an extra stop. Otherwise maybe, maybe if I'd stayed another hour, I would've thought of some intelligent thing to say, or got him to take a walk. You know, you just go over in your head: 'Is there something I could've done?'"
After getting home, Goldberg said he still felt guilty and called Cobain to clear the air: "I just said, 'Look, I'm so sorry if I came across as judgmental. You know I love you and I just want you to be happy, and I'm just trying to be helpful."
He even got his toddler daughter Katie — whom Kurt loved and used to play with a lot before his own daughter Frances Bean was born "almost like a practice kid" — to talk to him on the phone, hoping it would cheer him up.
"She told him that she was upset that Frances had pinched her the last time they were together, and could Kurt please talk to her about that? And he got back on — and he still sounded really just depressed and wiped-out. I just told him I loved him, and that was it."
It was the final time that Goldberg and Cobain spoke. On April 5, 1994, Cobain shot himself in the head with a shotgun, aged 27.
"Any time somebody kills themselves, I think people around them always wonder if there's something they could've done; I don't really believe there is," he said. “I think it’s dangerous to try to pretend to understand things that really human beings don’t understand."
"I think when someone commits suicide, a lot of people take it as an act of great hostility to the survivors, especially the family members. That is a very common response, and there were certainly people that I spoke to, very, very close to Kurt — like [Nirvana bassist] Krist [Novoselic] and [Hole guitarist] Eric [Erlandson], for example — who just openly said, 'How could he do that? What's wrong with him? How could he do that to his daughter?' And I respect those emotions. It doesn’t happen to be my emotions."
"I felt enormous grief, as I still do, but I just see it as a disease that no one can cure. If somebody died of cancer at 27, you wouldn’t be angry at them; you would just mourn them. And I think this was a mental illness that nobody knew how to cure. Nobody that any of us knew, and no one that he could find. It wasn’t like there weren't efforts — the dozens of doctors, therapists, and so on, and maybe there was someone out there that could've helped him — but no one that we were ever able to find, or he was ever able to find."
“I'll never get over it. Nobody who cared about him will. And no one who cared about less famous people who killed themselves will ever get over it. But it's what happened, it's part of the mystery of the human condition, and I love him anyway, I'm glad he was alive for those 27 years, I wish he hadn't done it, but I'm glad I got to know him, and that the world got to know his music.”
He said that fame can be very disorienting for anyone who achieves it as quickly as Cobain did, who went from the underground Seattle grunge scene to fronting the biggest rock band in the world in a matter of months.
"I think it affected him too, but I don't buy into the idea that if he had just stayed unsuccessful and in sort of a niche subculture, he would have somehow been happier," Goldberg said. "He was driven to accomplish what he accomplished from inside, no one made him do it."
"He was a complicated guy; a genius, a lovely, lovely, caring generous person, and doomed [by] demons ultimately he couldn't control."