In this episode, host Rich Tupica chats with author Charles R. Cross about his definitive biography of Kurt Cobain, Heavier Than Heaven. The acclaimed 448-page book, which turns 20 this year, is packed with years of research, making it essential reading for any Nirvana fan seeking facts instead of myths. In this discussion, we not only dig into why and how he wrote the book, but also what it took to present an honest take on a larger-than-life rock star. Check out his other Nirvana-related books, as well: Cobain Unseen and Here We Are Now: The Lasting Impact of Kurt Cobain.
(The audio of Cobain talking at the start of this episode is from a 1993 Jon Savage interview).
Charles R. Cross graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle with a degree in creative writing. At the UW, he served as editor of the Daily in 1979, and caused a major ruckus when he left the front page of the newspaper blank. The only type was a small line that read “The White Issue,” in deference to the Beatles’ White Album.
After college, Cross served as editor of The Rocket, the Northwest’s music and entertainment magazine, from 1986 through 2000. The Rocket was hailed as “the best regional music magazine in the nation” by the L.A. Reader, and it was the first publication ever to run a story on Nirvana. Cross wrote stories on such seminal Northwest bands as The Wailers, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and hundreds, if not thousands, of lesser-known bands. In addition to The Rocket, Cross’s writing has appeared in hundreds of magazines, including Rolling Stone, Esquire, Playboy, Spin, Guitar World, Q, Uncut, and Creem. He has also written for many newspapers and alternative weeklies, including the London Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Seattle Times, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He has lectured and read at universities and colleges around the world, and has frequently been interviewed for film, radio, and television documentaries, including VH1’s "Behind the Music."
Cross is the author of seven books, including 2005’s Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix (published by Hyperion in the U.S., and Hodder in the U.K.). His 2001 release, Heavier Than Heaven: The Biography of Kurt Cobain (Hyperion/Hodder), was a New York Times bestseller and was called “one of the most moving and revealing books ever written about a rock star” by the Los Angeles Times. In 2002, Heavier Than Heaven won the ASCAP Timothy White Award for outstanding biography. Cross’s other books include the national bestseller Cobain Unseen (Little Brown), Backstreets: Springsteen, the Man and His Music (Harmony, 1989); Led Zeppelin: Heaven and Hell (Harmony, 1992); and Nevermind: The Classic Album (Schirmer, 1998).