portraits

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Kurt Donald Cobain (February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994) was an American singer, songwriter, and musician. Born in Aberdeen, Washington, Cobain formed the band Nirvana with Krist Novoselic and Aaron Burckhard in 1987 and established it as part of the Seattle music scene which later became known as grunge. Nirvana’s debut album Bleach was released on the independent record label Sub Pop in 1989. After signing with major label DGC Records, Nirvana found success with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” from their second album Nevermind (1991). Following the success of Nevermind, Nirvana was labeled “the flagship band” of Generation X, and Cobain hailed as “the spokesman of a generation”. Cobain, however, was uncomfortable with the label, believing his message and artistic vision had been misinterpreted by the public, with his personal problems often subject to media attention. During the last years of his life, Cobain struggled with heroin addiction, chronic health problems and depression. He also had difficulty coping with his fame and public image, and the professional and personal pressures surrounding himself and his wife, musician Courtney Love. On April 8, 1994, Cobain was found dead at his home in Seattle; his death was ruled a suicide by a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head. The circumstances of his death at age 27 have become a topic of public fascination and debate. Since their debut, Nirvana, with Cobain as a songwriter, has sold over 25 million albums in the U.S., and over 75 million worldwide. Cobain was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, along with Nirvana bandmates Dave Grohl and Novoselic, in their first year of eligibility. They were inducted by the frontman of American alternative rock band R.E.M., Michael Stipe, who was a close friend of Cobain’s. If you’re a Nirvana’s fan, you must see Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck  a 2015 documentary film about Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain. The film was directed by Brett Morgen and premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. It received a limited theatrical release worldwide and premiered on television in the United States on HBO on April 24, 2015. The documentary chronicles the life of Kurt Cobain from his birth in Aberdeen, Washington in 1967, through his troubled early family life and teenage years and rise to fame as front man of Nirvana, up to his death in April 1994 in Seattle at the age of 27.

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Amy Jade Winehouse (14 September 1983 – 23 July 2011) was an English singer and songwriter. She was known for her deep, expressive contralto vocals and her eclectic mix of musical genres, including soul (sometimes labelled as blue-eyed soul and neo soul), rhythm and blues, and jazz. Winehouse’s debut album, Frank (2003), was a critical success in the UK and was nominated for the Mercury Prize. Her follow-up album, Back to Black (2006), led to five 2008 Grammy Awards, tying the then record for the most wins by a female artist in a single night, and made her the first British woman to win five Grammys, including three of the General Field “Big Four” Grammy Awards: Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Winehouse won three Ivor Novello Awards from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors: in 2004, Best Contemporary Song for “Stronger Than Me”; in 2007, Best Contemporary Song again, this time for “Rehab”; and in 2008, Best Song Musically and Lyrically for “Love Is a Losing Game.” She also won the 2007 Brit Award for Best British Female Artist, having been nominated for Best British Album, with Back to Black. Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning on 23 July 2011, at the age of 27. Her album Back to Black posthumously became, for a time, the UK’s best-selling album of the 21st century. any musical artists have since paid tribute to Winehouse including U2, M.I.A., Lady Gaga, Marianne Faithfull, Bruno Mars, Nicki Minaj, Keisha Buchanan, Rihanna, George Michael, Adele, Kelly Clarkson, Courtney Love, and the punk rock band Green Day, who wrote a song in her tribute titled “Amy”. In her 2012 album Banga, singer Patti Smith released “This Is the Girl,” written as a homage to Winehouse. Mark Ronson dedicated his UK number one album Uptown Special to Winehouse, stating: “I’m always thinking of you and inspired by you.” There was a large amount of media attention devoted to the 27 Club once again. Three years earlier, she had expressed a fear of dying at that age.

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Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson; June 1, 1926 – August 5, 1962) was an American actress, model, and singer. Famous for playing comic “blonde bombshell” characters, she became one of the most popular sex symbols of the 1950s and was emblematic of the era’s attitudes towards sexuality. Although she was a top-billed actress for only a decade, her films grossed $200 million by the time of her unexpected death in 1962. More than half a century later, she continues to be a major popular culture icon. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Monroe spent most of her childhood in foster homes and an orphanage and married at the age of sixteen. While working in a radioplane factory in 1944 as part of the war effort, she was introduced to a photographer from the First Motion Picture Unit and began a successful pin-up modeling career. The work led to short-lived film contracts with Twentieth Century-Fox (1946–1947) and Columbia Pictures (1948). After a series of minor film roles, she signed a new contract with Fox in 1951. Over the next two years, she became a popular actress and had roles in several comedies, including As Young as You Feel and Monkey Business, and in the dramas Clash by Night and Don’t Bother to Knock. Monroe faced a scandal when it was revealed that she had posed for nude photos before she became a star, but the story did not tarnish her career and instead resulted in increased interest in her films. Monroe’s troubled private life received much attention. She struggled with substance abuse, depression, and anxiety. Her second and third marriages, to retired baseball star Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller, respectively, were highly publicized and both ended in divorce. On August 5, 1962, she died at age 36 from an overdose of barbiturates at her home in Los Angeles. Although Monroe’s death was ruled a probable suicide, several conspiracy theories have been proposed in the decades following her death.

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John Winston Ono Lennon (9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980) was an English singer, songwriter, and peace activist who co-founded the Beatles, the most commercially successful band in the history of popular music. He and fellow member Paul McCartney formed a much-celebrated songwriting partnership. Along with George Harrison and Ringo Starr, the group would ascend to world-wide fame during the 1960s. He was born in Liverpool, where he became involved in the skiffle craze as a teenager. In 1957, he formed his first band, the Quarrymen, which evolved into the Beatles in 1960. Lennon began to record as a solo artist before the band’s break-up in April 1970; two of those songs were “Give Peace a Chance” and “Instant Karma!” Lennon subsequently produced albums that included John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, and songs such as “Working Class Hero”, “Imagine” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”. After he married Yoko Ono in 1969, he added “Ono” as one of his middle names. Lennon disengaged himself from the music business in 1975 to raise his infant son Sean, but re-emerged with Ono in 1980 with the album Double Fantasy. He was shot and killed in the archway of his Manhattan apartment building three weeks after the album was released. Lennon revealed a rebellious nature and acerbic wit in his music, writing, drawings, on film and in interviews. Controversial through his political and peace activism, he moved from London to Manhattan in 1971, where his criticism of the Vietnam War resulted in a lengthy attempt by the Nixon administration to deport him. Some of his songs were adopted as anthems by the anti-war movement and the larger counterculture. By 2012, Lennon’s solo album sales in the United States had exceeded 14 million units. He had 25 number-one singles on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart as a writer, co-writer, or performer. In 2002, Lennon was voted eighth in a BBC poll of the 100 Greatest Britons and in 2008, Rolling Stone ranked him the fifth-greatest singer of all time. In 1987, he was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Lennon was twice posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—first in 1988 as a member of the Beatles and again in 1994 as a solo artist.

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James Douglas Morrison (December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971) was an American singer, songwriter, and poet, best remembered as the lead singer of the Doors. Due to his poetic lyrics, distinctive voice, wild personality, performances, and the dramatic circumstances surrounding his life and early death, Morrison is regarded by music critics and fans as one of the most iconic and influential frontmen in rock music history. Morrison co-founded the Doors during the summer of 1965 in Venice, California. The band spent two years in obscurity until shooting to prominence with their #1 single in the United States, “Light My Fire”, taken from their self-titled debut album. Morrison recorded a total of six studio albums with the Doors, all of which sold well and received critical acclaim. Though the Doors recorded two more albums after his death, the loss of Morrison was crippling to the band and they disbanded in 1973. In 1993, Morrison, as a member of the Doors, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Since his death, his fame has endured as one of popular culture’s most rebellious and oft-displayed icons, representing the generation gap and youth counterculture. He was also well known for improvising spoken word poetry passages while the band played live. Morrison was ranked #47 on Rolling Stones list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time”, and number 22 on Classic Rock magazine’s “50 Greatest Singers in Rock”. Ray Manzarek, who co-founded the Doors with him, said Morrison “embodied hippie counterculture rebellion”. Morrison was sometimes referred to by other nicknames, such as “The Lizard King” and “Mr. Mojo Risin”. Morrison developed an alcohol dependency during the 1960s, which at times affected his performances on stage. He died at the age of 27 in Paris. As no autopsy was performed, the cause of Morrison’s death remains unknown. In my personal opinion a real icon.