Twenty Years Later | Remembering Kurt Cobain Of Nirvana

There are some events for which you'll never forget where you were when you first heard the news. One such event for many children of the '80s and '90s was the death of Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain in 1994. For me, I was in the kitchen of a friend's house when we turned on the TV to see a report that Cobain had committed suicide. It's hard to call what happened a surprise as just about one month earlier Kurt was rushed to a hospital in Rome after overdosing on a combination of alcohol and drugs.

There was a point when it wasn't clear whether Cobain would survive the Rome ordeal, giving fans like me their first thoughts of life without Kurt and Nirvana. Yet Cobain did push through, but about one month later he was gone. The Aberdeen, WA native was found dead at his home in Seattle on April 8, 1994 by an electrician. A coroner eventually issued a report stating that Kurt had killed himself days earlier. This man who had made such a drastic impact on music in a short period of time and was beloved by so many, died alone by his own hands. It was a hard situation to wrap your head around.

Nirvana only put out three full-length albums before Cobain's death, yet the impact of those songs is still felt today. I first experienced their music like many, by watching the video for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on MTV. Yes, before Jersey Shore and Jackass MTV used to play music videos regularly. There was such angst and emotion in "Smells Like Teen Spirit" wrapped up in a tight and dynamic musical package, it was unlike anything I had ever heard. Soon after that initial taste I purchased Nevermind and couldn't get enough of the album. Two years later In Utero came out and showed a different side of Cobain's musical genius. There's a phrase I love, "all killer, no filler," that adequetely describes Nirvana's last two albums - it's tough to pick out a weak track on either. Nirvana were the masters of dynamics as there was so much power and strength even in the slower sections of their songs. Kurt and Dave Grohl's harmonies in "All Apologies," especially the version from MTV Unplugged, hit like a lyrical gut punch.

[Believe It Or Not MTV News Did A Stellar Job Of Reporting That Day]

Nirvana were the rare act that cut through the notion of genre. It's impossible to pigeonhole the band's music as displayed by the unbelievably diverse list of acts that have covered Nirvana's songs over the years: Robert Glasper to Phish to Tori Amos to Lana Del Rey to the Flaming Lips to Ben Gibbard to the Disco Biscuits to Herbie Hancock to Miley Cyrus to Deer Tick to Polyphonic Spree to Amanda Palmer to Best Coast to The Bad Plus. Kurt, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic will be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame later this month based on a career of just seven years and three full-length albums, but you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone of sound mind who doesn't believe they deserve their spot in the institution. Nirvana is among the most important acts of the '90s and Kurt's death did little to dispel that notion.

And let's not sleep on Nirvana as a live band. Cobain had no patience for convention and would routinely call audibles in concert, lead the group through noise jams and even throw in impromptu covers, like the take on The Cars's "My Best Friend's Girl" they opened their final concert with on March 1, 1994. The group's appearance on MTV Unplugged was unlike any in the show's history as instead of playing the hits, they delivered an instant classic performance that combined lesser-known gems from the band's repertoire with a batch of covers from a group of acts that ranges from David Bowie to Leadbelly to Meat Puppets. Nirvana honored their influences that night in a special way and even brought up Cris and Curt Kirkwood for three of their group's, the Meat Puppets, songs to the disappointment of MTV executives. It was just under five months from Nirvana's taping of Unplugged until Kurt killed himself. It's incredibly sad all that was lost when Cobain pulled the trigger. A family was left without a father, husband and son; while fans will forever wonder how else Nirvana would've continued to change the course of music history had Kurt found the happiness that seemed to elude him.

When I need a dose of live Nirvana I usually head to YouTube to watch the band's incredible set from the Hollywood Rock festival in 1993. All three members of the group are as animated as I've ever seen them throughout the whole performance. Want guest appearances? Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers helps out on "Smells Like Teen Spirit" with a trumpet(!?). The "hits?" There all here for the most part with the exception of "All Apologies." Covers? A brief jam on "Sweet Emotion," more improv on "Possibilities" by The Viletones and the most-played cover in Nirvana history (and their first single) - Shocking Blue's "Love Buzz." Instrument swaps? You'll find out about Grohl's bass skills by the time you finish watching. Auto-destructive art? Check out the end of "Territorial Pissings." If you've never watched Nirvana's 1993 visit to Rio, you're in for a treat:

1:41 School
4:43 Drain You
8:26 Breed
11:38 Sliver
13:50 In Bloom
19:01 Come As You Are
23:18 Love Buzz
26:55 Possibilities (jam)
2:02 Lithium
33:38 Polly
36:55 About A Girl
41:29 Smells Like Teen Spirit
47:34 On A Plain
51:14 Negative Creep
54:30 Been A Son
57:00 Blew
1:00:30 Heart-Shaped Box
1:06:35 Scentless Apprentice
1:19:36 Sweet Emotion (jam)
1:21:20 Dive
1:25:18 Lounge Act
1:27:56 Aneurysm
1:32:31 Territorial Pissings

Written By: Scott Bernstein

[Published on: 4/4/14]

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