Happy Birthday Kurt Cobain: Watch Nirvana’s ‘MTV Unplugged’ Rehearsals
Today marks what would have been Kurt Cobain’s 54th birthday. The legendary singer-songwriter and guitarist was born on February 20, 1967 in Aberdeen, Washington and would go on to form Nirvana in 1987 with bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Aaron Burckhard.
Nirvana would establish themselves in Seattle’s burgeoning grunge scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s alongside bands like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. Buoyed by Cobain’s songwriting, which captured the angst and anti-establishment views of a new generation, Generation X, who largely rejected the over-the-top excess of mainstream rock at the time, Nirvana found moderate success with their 1989 debut album, Bleach.
But it was the lead single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” from their 1991 album, Nevermind — the first with new drummer Dave Grohl — that propelled Nirvana and Cobain to commercial superstardom, ironically the very thing Kurt railed against in many of his songs. In November 1993, Nirvana would perform for MTV Unplugged in New York City. The landmark concert is one the band’s most famous performances. Sadly, Kurt Cobain died less than a year later in Seattle on April 5, 1994 from what the police controversially deemed as a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
The MTV Unplugged performance aired on December 16, 1993 before Kurt’s death and a live album was released posthumously a year after the performance was filmed. The MTV Unplugged session saw Cobain bucking the trend of playing hits on the show. Nirvana — along with touring members guitarist Pat Smear and cellist Lori Goldston — performed a number of deeper tracks as well as covers from The Meat Puppets — Nirvana welcomed the band’s Cris and Curt Kirkwood — David Bowie, The Vaselines and Lead Belly. “Come As You Are” would be the only commercial hit song the band performed.
A rehearsal of that tune and more were included in the 25th anniversary edition of MTV Unplugged in New York and arrived along with video of the band prepping the legendary concert. To celebrate Kurt Cobain’s birthday, watch Nirvana rehearsing for MTV Unplugged below via the Jambase Live Video Archive: