A suicide note was found near the body, which was discovered by a visiting electrician in a cottage near his luxury lakeside house in Seattle, Washington. The body had a gunshot wound to the head, police said. A shotgun was said to have been found on his chest.
It happened only five weeks after the 28-year-old millionaire, whose band pioneered grunge rock, fell into a coma in a hotel in Rome after taking what was later described as an accidental overdose of prescription drugs, combined with champagne. He recovered after four days in hospital, but the band cancelled its two remaining European concerts.
Nirvana rose from an obscure cult band in Washington state to command a vast worldwide following, propelled to stardom by the release of the smash-hit album Nevermind in 1991, which sold more than 10 million copies, along with its successful single, 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'. Last year the three-member group released another best-selling album, In Utero, reaffirming their ascendancy in the world of rock music.
Last night stunned staff gathered at Geffen Records, his Los Angeles recording label. The singer-songwriter had reportedly been out of contact for several days. 'We are deeply saddened by the loss of such a talented artist, close friend, loving husband and father,' Nirvana's management, Gold Mountain Entertainment, said.
Cobain was known as an iconoclast who smashed guitars on stage, sang screaming lyrics and goaded members of his audience. His off-stage conduct included threatening phone calls to unauthorised biographers and denunciations of rival bands.
He and his wife, Courtney Love - lead-singer of the neo-punk band, Hole - both battled with heroin. At one stage this threatened to cost them the custody of their child, Frances, as welfare workers suspected Love took drugs during her pregnancy. But when the child, now aged one, was born, Nirvana-watchers said Cobain's wild behaviour lessened.
The singer used to attribute his angst and feelings of alienation to his restricted childhood in the blue-collar coastal logging town of Aberdeen, Washington. His upbringing was marred by the divorce of his parents when he was eight.
Cobain's mother, Wendy O'Connor, said last night that her son had been missing for six days, adding that she had feared he would be found dead. 'Now he's gone and joined that stupid club,' she said, referring to the early deaths of other rock stars. 'I told him not to join that stupid club.'
Curiously, although Nevermind sold more than 600,000 copies in the United Kingdom, the blond-haired rocker expressed a dislike of Britons, whom he called 'the most snooty, cocksure, cold people' who 'have no regard for emotions'. (Photograph omitted)