Kurt Cobain (Jeff Kravitz / Contributor / Getty)
Kurt Cobain skyrocketed into the spotlight as lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for grunge superstars Nirvana. Their album Nevermind was a driving force for bringing alternative music into the mainstream, and its songs, largely written by Cobain, spoke to a generation of young people who had never before heard voices like their own on the radio. Cobain was hailed as a new spokesman for Gen X, but it was a role he found uncomfortable – and one that may have ultimately brought about his early death. But his music lives on, through a handful of albums and through millions of fans worldwide. We remember Cobain's life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
Click to discover notable people who were born this day in history.
2014: John Pinette, U.S. comedian who was a regular guest on The Tonight Show and The View, dies at 50.
The Boston native appeared in movies including The Punisher and had a trio of stand-up shows released on DVD but was perhaps best known as the portly carjacking victim whose plight lands the Seinfeld stars before a judge for failing to help under a "good Samaritan" law. Pinette also appeared in the television series Parker Lewis Can't Lose. Pinette also appeared onstage in a national tour of Hairspray as Edna Turnblad, the mother of the play's heroine. Read more
2014: Peter Matthiessen, U.S. author whose novels include At Play in the Fields of the Lord, dies at 86.
Few authors could claim such a wide range of achievements. Matthiessen helped found The Paris Review, one of the most influential literary magazines, and won National Book Awards for The Snow Leopard, his spiritual account of the Himalayas, and for the novel Shadow Country. A leading environmentalist and wilderness writer, he embraced the best and worst that nature could bring him, whether trekking across the Himalayas, parrying sharks in Australia or enduring a hurricane in Antarctica. Read more
2008: Charlton Heston, U.S. actor who won an Academy Award for his role in Ben-Hur and was known for The Ten Commandments and Planet of the Apes, dies at 84.
2007: Darryl Stingley, U.S. NFL wide receiver for the New England Patriots whose career ended when he was paralyzed after being hit by defensive back Jack Tatum of the Oakland Raiders during a preseason game, dies at 55.
Stingley, who used a wheelchair, became a symbol for violence in the game. He wrote a book about his experiences titled Happy To Be Alive. It was published in 1983. He served as executive director of player personnel for the Patriots and often visited paralyzed patients. Read more
2007: Mark St. John, U.S. guitarist who was briefly a member of the band KISS and played on their album Animalize, dies at 51.
2006: Gene Pitney, U.S. singer-songwriter and musician who had 16 Top 40 hits in the U.S., dies at 66.
2005: Debralee Scott, U.S. actress known best for her role as Rosalie "Hotzie" Totzie on the sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter, dies at 52.
2005: Saul Bellow, U.S. author who won the Nobel Prize in literature and whose novels include Herzog and Humboldt's Gift, dies at 89.
Few writers have been so honored in their time. He won three National Book Awards: in 1954 for The Adventures of Augie March, in 1965 for Herzog and in 1971 for Mr. Sammler's Planet. In 1976, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Humboldt's Gift. That same year Bellow was awarded the Nobel Prize, cited for his "human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture." Read more
2002: Layne Staley, U.S. musician who was the lead singer of the band Alice in Chains, dies at 34.
2001: Brother Theodore, German comedian known for his rambling, stream-of-consciousness dialogues who appeared on many talk shows such as The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, dies at 94.
2000: Lee Petty, U.S. race car driver who is a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame and was the father of racing legend Richard Petty, dies at 86.
1998: Cozy Powell, English rock drummer who was the drummer for many bands during his career including the Jeff Beck Group, Whitesnake and Black Sabbath, dies in a car accident at 50.
1997: Allen Ginsberg, U.S. poet who was one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation, dies at 70.
1994: Kurt Cobain, U.S. rock musician who was the singer-songwriter and guitarist for the band Nirvana, dies by suicide at 27.
For a band that released just three studio albums, Nirvana had a remarkably big impact on the music world. They're credited with being the force that pushed alternative music from the quiet corners of college radio stations and indie record shops into the mainstream. They were followed by a horde of alt-rockers who ran through the doorway Nirvana opened to grab their chance at success. Read more
1992: Sam Walton, U.S. businessman known best as the founder of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, dies at 74.
1983: Danny Rapp, U.S. musician who was the lead singer for the group Danny and the Juniors who were known for their No. 1 hit song "At the Hop," dies by suicide at 41.
1982: Abe Fortas, U.S. judge who was a member of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1965 until 1969, dies at 71.
1976: Howard Hughes, U.S. business magnate and a well-known aviation pioneer and filmmaker, dies at 70.
1972: Isabel Jewell, U.S. actress who was most successful in the 1930s and '40s and was in the movies Gone With the Wind and Northwest Passage, dies at 64.
1972: Brian Donlevy, U.S. actor known for playing tough-guy roles in movies such as Beau Geste, dies at 71.
1964: Douglas MacArthur, U.S. general who was the chief of staff of the U.S. Army during the 1930s and the commander of the Army in the Far East during World War II, dies at 84.
Click to discover notable people who died this day in history.