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The story of Kurt Cobain and his first girlfriend, Tracy Marander, began in late 1986. Balancing work at the Polynesian Resort with his musical pursuits, Kurt Cobain frequently traveled to Olympia, where a deep connection with Tracy Marander blossomed. Despite the intimacy of their relationship, financial challenges and Kurt Cobain’s touring commitments with his newly named band Nirvana created strains.

Tracy Marander significantly shaped Kurt Cobain’s life, influencing the creation of the song “About a Girl.” Decades after Kurt Cobain’s death, Marander nostalgically recalls their time in Olympia, still preserving valuable Cobain’s artworks and paintings in her home. This enduring connection serves as a poignant testament to the lasting impact of their unique bond.


Who Was Tracy Marander?

Tracy Diane Marander, Born April 27, 1965, is known to be Kurt Cobain’s girlfriend from 1987 to 1990.

At 20 years old, in 1987, Kurt Cobain began dating Tracy Marander, who would become his first real girlfriend. Kurt Cobain had already met Tracy Marander in 1985 at a punk club in Seattle, and they would occasionally run into each other in the following year. However, it was in the early months of 1987 that their relationship started becoming more solid, and in Tracy’s words: “I had been flirting with him for quite a while“.

Tracy Marander would be a very important person in Kurt Cobain’s life and was the ideal individual to guide Kurt Cobain from a tumultuous adolescence to adulthood. Tracy was only a year older than Kurt Cobain, but what connected them was Tracy’s interest in animals, her attendance at various punk rock concerts, and her extensive knowledge of music. An attractive woman with dark brown hair, huge eyes, and a tan complexion, Kurt Cobain would soon be living with Tracy in their apartment in Olympia, outside Aberdeen, where Kurt Cobain lived for twenty years.


Kurt Cobain and Tracy Marander’s Relationship


Life in the studio apartment at Olympia would be, at the very least, sui generis, given that besides the recent couple, there were other tenants such as five cats, four rats, a cockatiel, two rabbits, and Kurt Cobain’s turtles. Tracy played a crucial role in a pivotal moment in Kurt Cobain’s artistic life—the formation of Nirvana. She was there for Nirvana’s historic first concert in Raymon, attended by 15 spectators, and consistently supported Kurt Cobain’s artistic endeavors, encouraging him to play guitar, write songs, and create paintings.

Tracy not only contributed to the unique environment of the apartment but also played a significant part in sustaining Kurt Cobain’s creative pursuits during those early years of Nirvana. Her care allowed Kurt the freedom to immerse himself in songwriting, band rehearsals, and visual artistry, shaping the foundation of Kurt Cobain’s artistic journey.

Tracy Marander supported Kurt Cobain by working in the cafeteria of the Boeing airplane plant in Seattle. Enduring the challenges of the graveyard shift, she went to work at ten in the evening and returned home only by nine in the morning. Given her unconventional working hours, Tracy initiated the practice of leaving “to-do” lists for Kurt, which evolved into a unique communication ritual within their relationship.

Kurt Cobain had in Tracy Marander a friend, a girlfriend, and sometimes a mother, and often praised to Kurt Cobain’s friends for having ‘the best girlfriend in the world.’ At home, they lived in a calm and peaceful environment without signs of violence. Since leaving the shack where Kurt lived in Aberdeen and during the initial period with Tracy, Kurt Cobain consumed less alcohol and abused drugs less.


The Importance of Tracy Marander in the Early Days of Nirvana


Nirvana played a couple of parties in early 1987 and even performed on the college radio station KAOS in Olympia. Tracy Marander gave a tape of the radio show to Jim May at Tacoma’s Community World Theater (CWT) and urged Jim to book Nirvana. Regarding the formation and the early days of Nirvana, both Tracy Marander and Shelli (Krist’s girlfriend) played invaluable roles in the band during those early days: acting as informal press agents, managers, bookers, and merchandise salespeople. Additionally, they ensured their men were well-fed, dressed, and rehearsed.

Since Tracy and Shelli worked at the same place and could help Nirvana financially, they began accepting free gigs because those venues that paid were very rare. This was also one of the secrets for Nirvana to slowly build their legion of fans, by accepting any kind of gigs.


Nirvana’s “Bleach” Photo Cover Was Taken by Tracy Marander


“Bleach” the debut studio album by Nirvana was launched on June 15, 1989, through Sub Pop. The album cover, a photograph taken by Kurt Cobain’s girlfriend Tracy Marander, was shot during a concert at the Reko Muse art gallery in Olympia, Washington. The photo was printed as a reverse image in negative,
and the look was ideal for what the band was doing with their sound at that time: the extreme contrast between the dark songs and the pop tunes.


Who Was “About a Girl” by Kurt Cobain Written About?

YouTube player
Nirvana – About A Girl (Live On MTV Unplugged, 1993)


Tracy Marander complained that of the dozens of songs Kurt Cobain wrote during the three years they were together, none of them was about her, and Kurt wrote about the most bizarre things one could imagine. However, in Kurt Cobain’s journal, we could read the following: “I would love to write a pretty song for her, even though I have no right to speak for her.

The chorus went, “I can’t see you every night for free,” a direct reference to their argument. Ele nunca disse diretamente à Tracy Marander que a música era sobre ela, em vez disso dizia coisas como “I just write What comes in my head, and I don’t write anything about you or anyone else.

The lyrics delve into the strained relationship between the couple, stemming from Kurt Cobain’s reluctance to secure employment or contribute to the household chores in their apartment, where many of his pets resided. In heated discussions on the matter, Kurt Cobain would occasionally threaten to move into his car, prompting Tracy Marander to typically yield.

When Kurt played the song for Chad and Krist, they liked it immediately and asked its name. “I have no idea,” was Kurt’s answer. “What’s it about?” Chad asked. “It’s about a girl,” Kurt said, and then the song got its name.

In the 1998 documentary Kurt and Courtney, Tracy Marander revealed that Kurt Cobain had never told her the song was about her, and that she found out only after reading the 1993 Nirvana biography, Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana by Michael Azerrad.


Why Did Kurt Cobain and Tracy Marander Break Up?


The first signs of strain in the relationship emerged when Krist and Shelli broke up. Kurt Cobain always felt he wasn’t worthy of someone’s love, especially Tracy Marander, and they began to argue about it. Tracy Marander loved Kurt Cobain unconditionally, but Kurt rejected these feelings. Even the notes Tracy Marander left around the house, containing ‘to-do lists,’ started to become longer as Kurt Cobain was no longer contributing to household tasks. The apartment began to immerse itself in dolls, sculptures, paintings, collages, and animals, something that started to bother Tracy Marander.

After the breakup of best friends Shelli and Krist, Tracy always feared that she and Kurt Cobain would be next to break up. Tracy decided to test Kurt’s commitment to the relationship and threatened to end it as well. This did not go well, as Kurt threatened to go live in the car again, something he was accustomed to due to his Abeerden past as homeless.

Meanwhile, Nirvana started to grow, and the concerts became more frequent, including the band’s first European tour in support of the album ‘Bleach.’ When they returned to the USA, Krist and Shelli reunited and got married, but Kurt Cobain and Travy Marander’s relationship became increasingly shaky. Tracy felt she was losing Kurt to everyone else. With Nirvana’s success, Kurt started earning more money and was no longer dependent on Tracy for his livelihood, deepening the beef between them.

After more than 3 years of living together, Tracy Marander saw Kurt Cobain’s journals and became increasingly concerned about Kurt Cobain’s mental health problems. In one of the passages, it reads:


I am a male age 23 and I’m lactating. My breasts have never been so sore, not even after receiving titty twisters from bully schoolmates. I haven’t masturbated in months because I’ve lost my imagination. I close my eyes and I see my father, little girls, German Shepherds, TV news commentators, but no voluptuous pouty-lipped naked female sex kittens wincing in ecstasy. I see lizards and flipper babies.


Kurt and Tracy attempted to revive their romance, but the tension was apparent to those in their circle of friends. Kurt Cobain expressed dissatisfaction, stating that Tracy desired intimacy more frequently than he did. For her, it was a component of deepening their connection; for him, it signified an emotional commitment he could no longer provide.

During the recording sessions for the follow-up to ‘Bleach’, Kurt called Tracy and informed her that things weren’t working out between them and suggested that perhaps they should no longer live together. Both knew it was over. Within the next month, Kurt Cobain slept with a young woman while on the road. It was the only instance of infidelity witnessed by his bandmates. Ultimately, in the same week that Kurt Cobain fired Chad Channing from the band, he also ended his relationship with Tracy Marander.

Nevertheless, for three months, despite being physically separated, they still lived in the same apartment but emotionally apart. It was during this period that the major infidelity occurred because Kurt Cobain never told Tracy that he had fallen in love with another woman in the meantime. Her name was Tobi Vail. Even so, in the following months, they would socialize and be together unofficially, but nothing predicted the arrival of the hurricane called Courtney Love.


What Happened to Tracy Marander?


Tracy Marander is currently 58 years old and will celebrate her 59th birthday on April 27th. Tracy lives in Tacoma, WA, and in 2015 she was featured in the documentary “Montage of Heck,” offering glimpses into the three years she spent in a relationship with Kurt Cobain.

It’s evident that Tracy Marander still holds those years close to her heart, suggesting a lingering affection. In contrast to others close to Kurt Cobain who capitalized on his legend by auctioning guitars, Tracy Marander continues to preserve mementos from her time with him. These include dolls, paintings, rare photos, artwork, and various artifacts, that could command significant value, yet she opts to display them on her walls, a testament to her authentic appreciation for the person Kurt was showcasing a genuine connection to their shared past.



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