Cobain put to music not the anti-Establishment rage of the '60s but the malaise of a '90s generation, many of them products of broken homes who were denied the promise of a better life and who found themselves questioning the meaning of life itself.
"Teen-age Angst has paid off well / Now I'm bored and old," was the opening line of Nirvana's last album.
Kurt Donald Cobain was a native of the rural logging community of Aberdeen, about 100 miles southwest of Seattle. Himself the product of a broken family, Cobain lived an unhappy, drifting childhood, experiences that when translated into music touched millions of youths like him.
In an interview Monday with The Times' Robert Hilburn, Love tried to describe her husband's lost youth.
"There is this sweet Jimmy Stewart, 'Mayberry, RFD' side of him. His favorite TV shows are 'Dragnet' and 'Mayberry, RFD' and 'Leave it to Beaver.' To him they represent his lost boyhood," she said. And she spoke of the future: "I'm just glad I had a girl, but I want to have a son with him too. Just so I can help him make up for the relationship he never had" with his father.
Thanks to Nirvana, followed by Pearl Jam and other Seattle bands, this city became the capital of contemporary rock, erasing the line between alternative and mainstream music and breathing new life into a style of music that had, in the eyes of many, gone flabby and commercial.
As a youth, Cobain told interviewers, he was influenced by the Beatles, then Led Zeppelin. It was the punk revolution of the late '70s and early '80s that proved to be the catalyst for his career. With another Aberdeen musician, bassist Krist Novoselic, Cobain formed Nirvana in 1986. Living on food stamps and working odd jobs, they joined with a series of drummers. Success was quick.
The group's first album, "Bleach," was released by Sub Pop, the groundbreaking label that was responsible for launching the Seattle sound. With drummer Dave Grohl, the group signed with Geffen Records' DGC label in 1991.
In 1992, the group was recognized for best new artist and best alternative video at the MTV Video Music Awards. Four times Nirvana was nominated for Grammys but never won.
Cobain's lyrics were sometimes sexual and often flirted with dark themes.
In the final chant of Nirvana's most famous song, "Teen Spirit," Cobain sings this: "With the lights out / It's less dangerous. . . ."
Correspondents Steve Hochman and Chuck Philips in Los Angeles contributed to this story.
* RELATED STORY: F1
The mother of Kurt Cobain, troubled lead singer of the rock band Nirvana who apparently shot himself to death Friday, said she had told her son "not to join that stupid club" of rock stars who have died early, often because of drug or alcohol use. Some of those musicians are:
* Janis Joplin: A charismatic and influential performer, Joplin died in 1970 at age 27 of a drug overdose.
* Elvis Presley: Died in 1977 in Memphis, Tenn., at the age of 42 of an apparent overdose of prescription drugs. The cause of death was listed as heart failure.
* Jimi Hendrix: One of rock's most important guitarists, died at age 27 in 1970 of a drug overdose.
* Donny Hathaway: The singer and songwriter fell to his death from the 15th floor of a Manhattan hotel in an apparent suicide in 1979 at the age of 33.
* Jim Morrison: Lead singer for the Doors, died in 1971 of an apparent heart attack in Paris. He was 27.
* Sid Vicious: Bassist for the punk-rock band the Sex Pistols, died of a heroin overdose in 1979 at the age of 21.