Loudwire Asks Rock + Metal Artists: What Does the Music of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana Mean to You?
April 5, 2014 will mark the 20th anniversary of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain‘s death. The grunge legend only lived to age 27, but a full 20 years after his passing, Cobain remains one of the most influential musicians of all time.
In celebration of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, we asked artists from the rock and metal worlds about how the band has impacted their lives. You may be surprised how far of a reach Nirvana had, influencing acts from radio-friendly rock to heavy metal.
In Part 1 of our tribute to grunge’s most iconic act, we asked, “What does the music of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana mean to you?” Check out some of the fascinating answers we received below!
What does the music of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana mean to you?
When I first heard Nirvana, I was actually afraid because I knew I liked it but it didn’t resemble anything I was listening to at the time. His songs had a darkness to them and lyrical content that broke the rules for me. I needed it at the time.
True, inspired art. It’s the real thing — an artist with an honest voice both literally and with his writing. And, it never hurts to have one of the greatest drummers in rock behind you.
Nirvana was my gateway band. I’m still deep in the throes of my rock ‘n’ roll addiction because of Kurt Cobain’s songs and the sounds of Nirvana. I first picked up a guitar because of Nirvana. I wanted to be in a band because of Nirvana. The first songs I learned were Nirvana songs. I don’t listen to as much Nirvana as I used to, but it there is no question that I would not have the career or everlasting rock ‘n’ roll dream if it wasn’t for the music of Nirvana.
I remember the first time I heard Nirvana, I hated it. Not because of the music, if I would have payed attention to it, I would have loved it. It was because my brother Dan loved it. He was 14, I was 12. By default, anything he liked, I hated. I’m glad I was able to get over this. When it finally clicked for me, I listened to it over and over so much that I’m sure Dan ended up resenting ever liking the band to begin with.
Kurt Cobain and the music of Nirvana was a change in music for myself. Being that the ’80s was hair metal and ballads, Nirvana was a fresh breath of air and the birth of grunge. It was a new style for a new generation. Nirvana changed music much like the Beatles did for my father’s generation.
Nirvana will go down in history as one of most real and pure bands of all time. 3 guys created a sound so massive but proved that flashy guitars and perfect production were meaningless without a good song! Cliché to say they killed the ’80s because I think the ’80s killed itself. Nirvana was going to explode no matter who was in the way. Kurt had that connection with anyone who listened to his music and will be heard for many generations to come.
The first riff I learned to play when I got my Fender Stratocaster was ‘Paranoid’ by Black Sabbath. The second one was ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ I also had my first beer with my older siblings and one of my cousin while listening to their unplugged album. Kurt and Nirvana have shaped many young musicians and will keep on doing it. Just like with Black Sabbath, it’s a gift that keeps on giving.
Anyone who falls in love with music has that first band that gets them listening and gets them hooked. For me, that band was Nirvana. Early on in high school I started listening to the band, reading about Kurt, and all the members alike. I was obsessed with the ‘Bleach’ album and moved my way through the whole discography. I loved the band and the music so much that I decided to pick up an instrument when a few friends and I wanted to play a Nirvana cover in the school variety show. The talent show performance never happened, but without my love of the band and it’s music, I may have never even started playing.
The music of Nirvana gave us two things: The start of grunge and the beginning of Dave Grohl’s career as an all-around superb addition to the world of music. Kurt Cobain’s lyrics and vibe extend to the qualities of other great artists such as Phil Lynott and Layne Staley. I think all three are a testament to the fact that we all have issues, but if your heart is true to music, you’ll keep producing it until your heart stops pumping. Kurt Cobain changed the face of music with songs like ‘You Know You’re Right,’ ‘In Bloom,’ ‘Lithium’ and of course, the song that every young metalhead learns to play on guitar, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ Cobain may have had his problems, but just like many in the “27 Club,” he left us with music and untouchable legacies.
I respected Kurt as an outsider and being what I consider a true rockstar — someone who couldn’t otherwise function in normal society. Plus, he’s the only guy who could still rock in a cardigan.
Their music was important in my musical journey for one simple reason: it forced me to re-examine my priorities as a guitarist. I, like so many other kids at the time, was obsessed with playing lead guitar and was concentrating on ‘shredding’ without much regard for anything else. When Nirvana became so successful I realized that the main purpose of playing guitar in a rock band is writing memorable songs and then worrying about solos later.
The more I thought about, the clearer it became: the reason players like Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen and Slash are so well known is because they played amazing guitar in amazing songs. This may seem like an obvious concept, but believe me, at the time most guitar players just didn’t get it. This in one of the main reasons why Nirvana was such a breath of fresh air: they brought everything back to great songs and sincere emotions.
I’m 32 years old so I was in middle school when they hit with ‘Nevermind.’ That album set the pace for a lot of music as well as fashion to come out. As much as I love the ’80s metal bands, it was getting a bit corny and Nirvana provided a change. For that, Kurt’s music deserves respect in my book. It proved technical didn’t always mean better.
When Nirvana came out, it changed everything. Music had gotten stale. It seemed like everyone had huge hair-sprayed hair, only wore white leather and filmed their videos in their loft in downtown L.A. with the singer’s girlfriend. That’s cool if a couple people did it, but it seems once a style of music comes out, everyone has to copy it and it cancels each other out. When I first saw the video for ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ I went to school the next day knowing about something no one else knew about.
They changed the game. Musically, they put a cloud in the middle of a polished sky. Bringing an end to an era, setting the stage for a new style of music: something more real and dark. It was amazing to watch.
Not only did the music of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana inspire a generation, but it changed music forever. First song I learned on guitar was ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ the first music video I ever saw was ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and my first mosh pit was at a school disco to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’
Nirvana caused a complete shift in rock ‘n’ roll. They destroyed an entire genre of music known as ’80s hair metal and put a chaotic underground garage band sound on the big stage. It was almost like the second coming of Christ.
Pilgrim wouldn’t exist without Nirvana. They were my first childhood music obsession. The day after I first discovered them when I was about 13 or 14 completely changed my life forever. I decided right then and there that I wanted to be a rock star and play music until I died. In my younger days, ‘Bleach’ and ‘Insesticide’ we’re my favorite records. Now I’m a total sucker for Kurt’s early ‘Fecal Matter’ tape and all the b-sides.
The first thing I remember about Kurt Cobain was his simplistic guitar playing. It was punk rock. At the time I was into the 80’s guitar players like Van Halen, Guns N Roses and Metallica, but when Nirvana came out they pretty much changed the style of popular rock music. Glam to Grunge. Kurt’s songs were so brilliant. He connected to people. Nirvana had the energy of a raw punk rock band, but they were different. ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and ‘Come as You Are’ — they pretty much hit a grand slam with those tunes. From that point on, I wanted to write rock music like Nirvana! We used to cover ‘Breed.’
Kurt Cobain and Nirvana are the reason I’m in a band and write my own music. Ever since I first heard them when I was 12 years old, I was hooked. They embodied everything I thought was cool about rock n roll. They had the punk rock attitude I’ve always loved, with great songs. I have always loved how Kurt ties in these amazing melodies and lyrics with the bashing, exploding garage rock sound. They made me feel like, “Hey I could do that too!!!”