Kurt Cobain: Secretly Canadian? Not Quite, But…

Yes, Kurt was born at the community hospital in Aberdeen, Washington, on February 20, 1967. But if you trace his ancestry on his father’s side—which seems to be all the rage these days—you end up with a family from Skey Townland in County Tyrone in Ireland headed up by Samuel Cobane (That’s how they spelled their name back then.) He was Kurt’s great-great-great grandfather.

Sometime around 1870, 20-year-old Samuel and his wife Letitia gathered up their courage and left a village named Inishatieve—seriously—and moved to Cornwall, Ontario. (Some records say that she went by the name Maggie, which makes more sense in Ireland. But her heritage was French, so Letitia could have been her birth name. Then again, other records say that Maggie was born in Ontario in 1853.)

A family consisting of at least nine members live in the Cornwall area: Samuel, Letitia/Maggie and seven children: two boys and five girls. After a time there, they pulled up stakes and moved to Grays Harbor County, which is where we find the logging town of Aberdeen. Samual was recorded as dying in Kansas in 1900.

I know, I know. This hardly qualifies Kurt as Cancon, but it’s still kinda cool, right?

And since we’re talking about family trees, the first Cobain to have any kind of musical success was Kurt’s great-uncle Delbert, who was his mother’s uncle.

He was a very respected Irish tenor who can be seen in a 1930 movie called King of Jazz, which, despite being the first-ever full-length Technicolor production and featured Paul Whiteman, the biggest bandleader of the day, was a total flop for Universal.

Here’s a taste of that film.

Fast-forward 58 years and Uncle Delbert’s great-nephew was just getting started with a band called Nirvana. Here’s video of them playing a gig at a local Radio Shack (via Moe).

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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