10 Remarkable Similarities Between Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain

Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain were two of the most prominent rock musicians of their eras and reluctant spokesmen for their generations. Both were the lead singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter for their respective bands. Both were born and raised in Washington state: Jimi in Seattle and Kurt in Aberdeen. While Jimi had to leave Seattle to find success. Kurt found success and then moved to Seattle during his final years. Both were shy, troubled men who became rock music icons sold millions of albums, and left a huge mark on popular culture. Here is a list of 10 similarities Jimi and Kurt shared.

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Jimi and Kurt Played Guitar Left-Handed and Died at Age 27

Jimi Hendrix/Kurt Cobain
Jimi Hendrix-Val Wilmer/Getty Images. Kurt Cobain-Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images

The most obvious similarities between Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain are that both were famous rock stars known primarily for playing left-handed Fender guitars and for smashing their guitars at the end of many shows. Both were unfortunately also members of the "27 Club" which also includes Janis Joplin, The Doors' Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, and The Rolling Stones' guitarist Brian Jones. 

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Both Released Three Studio Albums During Their Lifetimes

The Jimi Hendrix Experience released three studio albums: Are You Experienced? (1967), Axis: Bold As Love (1967), and the double album Electric Ladyland (1968) during Hendrix's lifetime. The Jimi Hendrix: Band of Gypsies (1970) live album was also released during Jimi's lifetime. Twelve official Hendrix posthumous studio albums and many live albums have also been released. 

Nirvana released three studio albums: Bleach (1989), Nevermind (1991), and In Utero (1993) during Cobain's lifetime. Nirvana also released the compilation album Incesticide (1992) during Kurt's lifetime. Many other Nirvana compilation albums, box sets, and live albums posthumously, including their nearly 7 million selling MTV Unplugged in New York album (1994).

Both Hendrix and Cobain had about 4 years of international fame during their lifetimes.

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Both Predicted They Would Become Rich and Famous

According to Charles R. Cross' Room Full Of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix, as a child Jimi told his Aunt Dorthy Harding that he was going move far away to another country, never come back to Seattle, and become rich and famous. After moving to London and finding success Jimi did return to Seattle several times to play concerts. 

According to Charles R. Cross' Heavier than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobainat 14 Cobain reportedly told a friend that he would become a superstar musician, get rich and famous, kill himself, and go out in a blaze of glory like Jimi Hendrix (not realizing that Hendrix’s death wasn't a suicide).

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Both of Their First Singles Were Obscure Cover Songs

Nirvana debut 1988 single was a cover of "Love Buzz" by the Dutch band Shocking Blue, best known for their 1969 international hit "Venus", which was also a 1986 hit for British dance-pop group Bananarama. "Love Buzz" wasn't a hit for Nirvana except when Kurt Cobain was punched by a bouncer after Cobain hit the bouncer with his guitar following a stage dive while performing the song at a 1991 show in Dallas.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience debut 1966 single "Hey Joe" was written by Billy Roberts, an obscure California-based folk singer-songwriter. Prior to Hendrix's version, "Hey Joe" was a #31 U.S. hit for California garage-rock band The Leaves. The song "Hey Joe (Where You Gonna Go)" with faster tempos and slightly different lyrics than Hendrix's version was also covered by The Byrds and Los Angeles psychedelic rock band Love in 1966. Hendrix's slower, bluesy version of "Hey Joe", released December 16, 1966, reached #6 on the UK charts but did not chart in the U.S. It remains the most well-known version of the song.

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Both Have Stage Names

Jimi Hendrix was originally named Johnny Allen Hendrix by his mother Lucille. His father Al changed his son's name to James Marshall Hendrix when Al returned to Seattle after serving three years in the Army. Jimi was nicknamed "Buster" during his youth and went by the name Jimmy until his manager Chas Chandler (former bassist for The Animals) convinced him to change his first name from Jimmy to the more exotic looking Jimi in 1966. Jimi's paternal grandfather Ross Hendricks changed his last name to Hendrix in 1896 in Chicago.

Kurt Donald Cobain sometimes used the stage name Kurdt after his first name was misspelled on a compilation album that Nirvana had a song on. Kurt enjoyed the misspelling and used the name Kurdt sporadically. He was listed as Kurdt on Nirvana's Incesticide album. Although his exact family lineage remains unclear, Kurt had an interest in his family ancestry in the last year of his life. He found that many of his ancestors may have changed their surname from Cobain to Coburn after immigrating to America from Ireland. Kurt was a fifth generation descendant of Irish emigrants named Cobane according to this Irish Central article.

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Both Had Girlfriends Who Supported Them Financially

Kurt's first girlfriend, Tracy Marander, supported him financially when he was a struggling musician. They were together in Olympia, Washington from 1985 to 1988 when Kurt's musical career started to take off. After Marander complained that Kurt never wrote songs about her, Kurt secretly wrote "About A Girl" about their relationship. She never knew the song was about her until after Cobain's death.

Jimi had many girlfriends/benefactors. From the time he was honorably discharged from the Army in 1962, moving to Clarksville, Tennessee, to his move to New York City in 1964, Jimi relied on the kindness of girlfriends and strangers to support him. When his earnings as a lead guitarist for other acts and playing with his own groups didn't make ends meet Jimi looked to others for financial support until he "made it" in England in 1966.

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Both Never Held Regular Jobs for Long

Neither Kurt or Jimi held regular jobs for long before forming their iconic bands. Kurt held a few jobs for short periods of time including working as a janitor although he hated cleaning. Jimi served in the Army for about one year which was the closest he ever came to having a regular job. He purposefully never had another non-music job after that. Jimi played numerous short stints as lead guitarist for Little Richard, Ike and Tina Turner, The Isley Brothers, and many others but was usually fired for upstaging them.

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Both Were Arrested Twice as Teenagers

Kurt was arrested twice at ages 18 and 19 for spray painting graffiti on the side of a bank and trespassing while intoxicated in Aberdeen, Washington. Jimi was arrested twice for riding in stolen cars in Seattle at age 19, which led him to enlist in the Army to avoid a three-year jail sentence.

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Both Came From Broken Homes

Both Kurt and Jimi had troubled childhoods. Kurt and Jimi's parents both divorced when they were nine years old. They were both bounced from relative to relative sometimes living with their parents during their childhoods. Neither of them had a stable family life.

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Both Had Imaginary Childhood Friends

 Kurt and Jimi both had imaginary childhood friends: Kurt's was named "Boddah" and Jimi's was named "Sessa." Kurt’s suicide note was written to Boddah. Kurt's Aunt Mary made a childhood recording of Kurt talking to Boddah which starts around the 2:25 mark in this audio clip.