(b. 1967) The horrific certitude of Kurt Cobain’s April 5 suicide is matched only by the haziness of its afterimage. Was it the ”Incident 94-156500” described in a coldly minimalist police report (”Occupation: Musician … Tool/ Weapon Used: Shotgun”)? Was it the face-slap symbolism suddenly taken on by a church billboard in his hometown (”Jesus Cared Enough to Die”)? Or was it the glimpse into the abyss that some of the decade’s most powerful music now affords — the terrible irony of his howl, ”I swear that I don’t have a gun”?
The only certainty is that with his final act Nirvana frontman Cobain, 27, redrew the map of contemporary rock — for a second time. He grew up in the no-exit logging town of Aberdeen, Wash., and formed Nirvana with local bassist Krist Novoselic in 1987; Dave Grohl joined them in 1990, ending their shifting lineup of drummers. Recorded for $606.17, the band’s 1989 debut, Bleach, earned Nirvana a modicum of notoriety in indie-rock circles, not least for their association with the bands pigeonholed as ”grunge.” But the real revolution was televised: Chainsaw hooks and clockwork MTV airplay boosted ”Smells Like Teen Spirit” to the anthem plane and Nirvana’s gorgeous 1991 major-label debut, Nevermind, to more than 12 million sales worldwide.
That Nevermind‘s landmark success upended the music industry has already been mythologized. So has Cobain’s gift for electrifying pop melodies with soul-baring fury, his epic marriage to fiery singer Courtney Love, his heroin use, and his self-abusive relationship with fame. But his demise presents a farther-reaching, if quieter, conundrum: For Kurt Cobain — beholden to a music, an art, a zeitgeist that treasured the supposed honesty of edges — the center could never hold. — Nisid Hajari
(b. 1950) He may forever be remembered as the lovable big guy next door, but the comic actor’s time was cut short when a heart attack took his life on the set of Wagons East!, his final project. Candy launched his comedy career in 1972 as a performer with Chicago’s Second City troupe and went on to star in and write for the late-night cult comedy show Second City TV, for which he won two Emmys. Like fellow SCTV veterans Dan Aykroyd and Martin Short, he was soon snatched up by Hollywood. His résumé lists over 30 films, including such memorable — and bankable — characters as an obnoxious brother in Splash, a slacker babysitter in Uncle Buck, and a jovial coach in Cool Runnings. Even Candy’s critical duds (Brewster’s Millions, Summer Rental) endeared him to moviegoers. ”He has been in more turkeys than stuffing mix,” wrote one New York critic in 1986. ”Yet everyone seems to love him.”
Beyond audience adoration, Candy was widely respected by his peers for his talents and kindness; during film shoots he cultivated strong friendships with Steve Martin (Planes, Trains and Automobiles) and John Hughes (Uncle Buck), among others. Said Wagons costar Richard Lewis, ”He was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in show business, which, it’s no secret, can be ruthless, and John epitomizes the opposite.” — Jessica Shaw