Nirvana was arguably one of the most influential bands of their time. They entered the world when a generation was crying out for something “more” from their music. They needed to know that others felt just as rebellious as them and they were searching for their niche within society. “A bunch of social outcasts, we didn’t have anywhere that we belonged and we felt alone in that. We were the misfits, the freaks, and Nirvana understood and represented us. We needed that,” says a fan of the band.
Kurt Cobain and his band Nirvana would usher in a new era in music: grunge. With strange, “dirty” lyrics, unkempt appearances, and songs that were full of passion, this style of music all but defined the 90s. “Sure, you had your boy bands and solo female singers like Britney Spears, but they were just rip offs of former talents from previous ages. That was nothing new or special about them; they were recycled. Nirvana, however, was something new and fresh. We hadn’t seen or heard anything like them. They were special and we knew that,” says another fan. “Nobody cared about us misfits and social outcasts until Nirvana came around,” said another.
The band went from underground to stardom seemingly overnight. The band was constantly being sought after for performances, interviews, and the like. Every radio station blasted some song or another from the band while MTV cycled through all of their videos constantly. They were the hottest thing on the market and the band’s influence and success was only expected to grow.
However, on April 5, 1994 Kurt Cobain left the world in shock when he committed suicide in his Seattle home. “This is how the era of grunge ends; with the sound of a shotgun blast,” said some. Kurt Cobain suicidé rocked not only his fans, but the nation in general and other bands who had begun following in the rock giant’s footsteps were left feeling out of place and overwhelmed.
Everyone was equally shocked that not only had Kurt Cobain died in his early 20s, but that he had also chosen to commit suicide. “You don’t expect people in their 20s to just die, you know,” said fan Terri Wilder, “and you especially don’t expect them to commit suicide.”
So now 25 years later, let’s take a look back at the life and success of Nirvana’s lead singer Kurt Cobain.
Fan recalls her Nirvana experience
Terri Wilder will never forget the day that she saw Nirvana perform live. “It was October 6th, 1991 and I was working on a master’s degree through the University of Georgia. My friend was like, ‘hey let’s go to Atlanta to see this cool new band called Nirvana.’” Wilder remembers laughing at her friend and asking, “who in the hell is Nirvana?”
Terri Wilder was quick to do her best to learn about the band. She tuned into “Nevermind”, which was one of the band’s most successful albums. The album had been released two weeks prior to Wilder’s friend suggesting they go see the band perform live. “I was honestly hooked from the start. The music was so much different than anything else I’d ever heard. This was special,” Wilder said.
Wilder said the concert was amazing. Fans were really engaged in the music and Nirvana was pouring its heart out to the crowd. “I felt like I was part of something bigger than myself. I just knew I was witnessing history as strange as that sounds,” she said regarding the show. She remembers how much energy the band poured into the performance and how mesmerizing the experience was. “I couldn’t believe I was there,” Wilder exclaimed.
Since Wilder’s friend was on the ins with the band’s manager, the two managed to go backstage to meet the band. Wilder never spoke to Kurt Cobain, but she remembers him looking awkward and out of place. “He was sitting by himself on a couch. He looked really, really uncomfortable. He looked like he’d rather be anywhere but there. It wasn’t an arrogance thing though, it was a socially uncomfortable thing. Even when an attractive woman tried hitting on him, Cobain seemed really unsure of himself,” Wilder recalls. She says it was clear that Kurt Cobain wasn’t comfortable being the center of attention.
However just a week after the band’s performance in Atlanta, “Nevermind” achieved gold status and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” could be heard on nearly every station and was practically on loop on MTV. Unfortunately, it would be just 3 short years later that Kurt Cobain ended his life.
A new era of music
In a world where ‘80s synthetic pop as still reigning supreme, Nirvana was a breath of fresh area for a generation of music lovers who wanted something more. Sure New Wave and the 80s hair bands like Bon Jovi were very much loved and appreciated, but this new generation was crying out for something more; something new and edgy. They were full of angst and Nirvana reflected that in their music.
The band issue in the grunge era of the early 90s and the world fell in love. Here was this guy who could care less about his appearance, big corporations, and white-collar workers. His distorted riffs as well as anguished lyrics were full of rebellion as well as intimacy. It was something that the generation at the time was desperately craving. “We needed to be heard and we needed someone to rebel ‘against the man’ for us and it was a great time to be in alive,” Wilder says.
And Nirvana’s music was more than just garbled voices with gnarly riffs; their songs were full of emotion and addressing issues within society. Songs like “Smells like Teen Spirit” and “Come as You Are” became the voice of a starved nation. Nirvana embraced the rebellious nation that felt as if it didn’t belong in the world. Their music cradled the generation and rocked them into peace, assuring them that they were not alone.
Other bands began rising alongside Nirvana and a generation that didn’t have a voice suddenly had several in the form of bands like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and of course Nirvana. “Kurt Cobain gave us a voice and so did these bands. They understood our angst in a way that nobody else did. We needed that,” said Wilder.
Inches from peak stardom, Kurt Cobain commits suicide
Just when it seemed like the band had it all, Kurt Cobain put an end to it. When MTV’s Kurt Loder stepped up and delivered the somber news to the world, people were shaken. “It was with great sadness that I report that Kurt Cobain has passed away from a self-inflicted shotgun wound. We don’t know much more than that, but we will keep you all posted as we learn more.” Loder delivered the news somberly and on the verge of tears.
Even for those who weren’t necessarily fans of the band wept for the loss. “He was so young and he had his whole life ahead of him,” they said. Cobain would go on to join the “27 Club” as it has been insensitively labeled, where he would rest alongside giants like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison.
Even more shockingly, Cobain’s decision left kurt cobain daughter and then wife Courtney Love alone in the world. “How can he just turn his back on
kurt cobain child like that,” people wondered. However, depression and mental illness was still in its infancy of being understood. People couldn’t wrap their minds around depression much less suicide. People with mental illnesses were often just brushed off and kept it locked inside. Now when stars like Anthony Bourdain and Chester Bennington leave behind children, we sort of get it as a society; depression is serious and it can change a lot of things. But for those in the 90s, it was something unfathomable and people couldn’t rationalize it.
In his suicide note, Kurt Cobain wrote, “for Frances for her life which will be so much happier without me. I love you. I love you”. He also urge Courtney Love to “please keep going.”
Conspiracy theories revolving around Cobain’s suicide
Of course, people weren’t content to just let the musician rest nor his family grieve. Shortly after Cobain’s suicide, conspiracy theories began making headway; many of them targeting his grieving wife.
Tom Grant is the most “popular” so to speak of the conspiracy theorists. He was hired by Courtney Love shortly after Cobain disappeared from a rehab facility. Love hired him to track down Cobain after his disappearance and then later hired him to investigate her late husband’s death. Unfortunately, Grant became obsessed with the notion that Courtney Love had either murdered Cobain herself or hired someone to do it for her. He based his evidence on heroin levels in the leader singer’s blood as well as “handwriting evidence” that supposedly showed that the wording on the bottom of Cobain’s suicide note was actually her handwriting.
The most common theory was heralded by Tom Grant. Grant suggested that Cobain was actually planning on divorcing Love and that the female grunge singer found out about this. “He was going to leave her, but he was also going to cut her from his will,” theorized Grant. Love supposedly couldn’t deal with this and allegedly sought the help of a hitman. The hitman gave Kurt Cobain a large injection of heroine, leaving him comatose. He then used the shotgun to kill Cobain and left the premises. Grant also suggests that the Seattle Police collaborated with Courtney Love to cover up the murder. “You can’t put a shotgun in your mouth and pull the trigger, it’s physically impossible,” Grant continued.
Despite the numerous fans and individuals who jumped onto this theory’s bandwagon, Courtney Love was definitely not short on money. Her band Hole was incredibly popular. They were receiving excellent reviews, and the band’s album “Live Through This” was only going to increase their fame and wealth. However, this didn’t stop the conspiracy boat from claiming that Courtney Love wanted to “eliminate the competition” and Nirvana stood between Hole and eternal glory.
Regardless of whether or not people believed the wild theories, there was one thing that nearly every fan of Nirvana had in common: animosity towards Courtney Love. It was no secret that the bulk of Cobain’s fans hated the woman. They were quick to hurl insults at the widow after she continued with her scheduled tour after Cobain’s death. “She should have been home and grieving,” said the fans. Of course, this decision only led to a “poisoning of the well” so to speak and encouraged many people to fall in line with the notion that Cobain was murdered.
Today, the conspiracies continue, but they are not as prevalent as they once were. Only a small minority of fans believe any of the conspiracies offered up and that number continues to shrink daily.
Kurt Cobain’s legacy
25 years later and Nirvana still remains a household name. Their music continues to play across airwaves across the world and they continue to inspire millions around the world with their unique lyrics that were full of emotion and hope for a generation that simply “didn’t belong” anywhere.
Their music has inspired parodies of their songs such as Weird Al’s “Smells like Nirvana” and the band mates have appeared in many pop culture references and programs. Family Guy and South Park have all referenced Nirvana and Kurt Cobain in some manner or another and we see this pattern continuing for decades to come. Fans all around the world have also downloaded their music or frequent YouTube to see videos of the band performing songs. All of this helps them live on.
Kurt Cobain and Nirvana also hold a coveted spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.” Cobain’s band occupies the 30th spot. And regardless of how many more artists and bands make it to the list, Nirvana appears to be a permanent fixture on the list. And in 2014, Nirvana was inducted into the Hall of Fame. “Nevermind” has also topped Rolling Stone’s list of the most influential grunge albums.
Even though they weren’t the first alternative rock or grunge band to roll onto the scene, they remain one of the most influential and arguably the most important in regards to music contribution. They paved the way for a whole new generation of sound and other bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were able to reach fans because of Cobain and Nirvana’s popularity. “These bands wouldn’t have made it without Nirvana. They’d still be underground and we’d be missing out on some seriously great music,” fans say.
Nirvana and Kurt Cobain’s legacy will continue to live on for a long, long time.
A tribute to Kurt Cobain
Instead of asking your thoughts and opinions regarding the subject matter, we’d like to request that you play your favorite Nirvana song as a tribute to Kurt Cobain. If you feel like sharing, please tell us what song you chose in the comment section below.