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Tuesday, April 06, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Fans pay homage at park near Kurt Cobain's home

By Tina Potterf
Seattle Times staff reporter

BETTY UDESEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Singing in Viretta Park yesterday, from left: Paul Martinez, 26, of Olympia; !Tschuai, 21, of Totem Lake; and Alex Velasco, 16, of Olympia. Many admirers gathered in the park played or listened to Cobain's music, while others reflected quietly or talked about his impact on their lives and on the music industry.
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On the 10th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death, fans gathered at Seattle's Viretta Park yesterday to honor the legacy the Nirvana frontman left on the world of music.

In the years since Cobain's suicide, fans from around the globe have come to the small park, which is adjacent to his former Lake Washington home, to leave flowers or write messages on an aged wooden bench that serves as a shrine to the singer.

Early yesterday afternoon, roughly 30 people were at the park for a subdued vigil. Some fans brought lilies and daisies to place on the bench, while others lit candles or sat quietly on the lawn listening to Nirvana's music through headphones.

There were no boomboxes blaring tracks from "Nevermind" or "Bleach." A young woman strummed a guitar at the base of the park, while up the grassy hill two women sang "Something In the Way," barely above a whisper. Overall, it was a quiet coming together of music fans still mourning the loss of an artist who, like the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Presley, indelibly changed the course of modern music.

The sincerity of Cobain's songs, rife with beauty and pain, struck Jenna Beem when she discovered Nirvana through "Nevermind" in the early 1990s. Beem, of Queen Anne, and friends Michelle Lunn and Jessica Thornton, also of Seattle, all said it was important to pay their respects.

BETTY UDESEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES
A fan adds a message yesterday to a bench in Viretta Park that has become a shrine to Kurt Cobain. The bench bears writings left since Cobain's death in 1994, many faded by time and the elements. Flowers, candles and other items were placed on the bench on the 10th anniversary of Cobain's death.
"I kind of feel like I have to be here today," Thornton said. "Kurt's given me so much. I've learned so much about myself and about the world. He's given me so much that I feel the least I can do is come here and celebrate somehow."

It was especially meaningful for Lunn, who credits Cobain's music with helping her through the trauma associated with the death of her mother. Through Nirvana and Cobain's songs, Lunn said she realized she wasn't alone in her despair.

"(Cobain) had his heart on a platter," Lunn said. "He made himself as vulnerable as he could."

Being near where Cobain once lived and sitting on the grass in a park he likely had visited was surreal, Lunn said. "I'm a little spooked. It almost feels like he's not entirely gone," she said. "You certainly feel a presence."

Seventeen-year-old Justin Sevier arrived in Seattle on Sunday night and plans to stay at the park until at least Thursday, the anniversary of the day Cobain's body was discovered. Sevier, who lives in Virginia, made the trek to Seattle as part of a cross-country road trip. Making it here to mark the 10th anniversary of Cobain's death was a priority of the trip, said Sevier, who first heard Nirvana when he was about 10 years old. Cobain's voice, alternately aggressive and mournful, is what attracted Sevier to Nirvana.

BETTY UDESEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Cards, flowers, candles, cigarettes and more were left on a bench in Viretta Park that has become a shrine to Kurt Cobain, who had a home near the park.
"No one can scream like him," said Sevier, dressed in a black hooded sweat shirt adorned with Nirvana patches and a large screenprint of Cobain on the back. "Kurt was so passionate about his music.

"When I think of Kurt Cobain," Sevier said, "I think of someone who strayed from conformity. He did what he wanted. And he opened up the world to entirely new styles of music."

Without Cobain and Nirvana, the music world would be dull, said Paul Levy, who came from Tampa, Fla.

The attitude and angst of Nirvana, coupled with vivid storytelling, made the 21-year-old a fast fan of Cobain's music.

"He made you feel like he was talking to you," Levy said.

Though only 11 when Cobain died, Levy said he and his friends could grasp the magnitude of the loss.

A talent like Cobain, and the impact he made in music, only "happens once," Levy said. "Like the Beatles."

Tina Potterf: 206-464-8214 or tpotterf@seattletimes.com


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