Just over 20 years ago, Kurt Cobain silenced the music of Nirvana by committing suicide. A generation of music lovers cried out about this injustice.
On the 20th anniversary of his death, Nirvana’s surviving members learned that the band would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Although Cobain was not alive to see his hard work made immortal, musicians around the world did what they could to show that his music still lives.
A band in transition
Back in the late 1980s, music in Seattle was changing. Glam rock, metal and pop were giving way to a dirtier sound.
This new music would be called Grunge, a relationship to the muted tones of the music and the more casual attitude of the performers. It is in this world that singer, songwriter and guitarist Kurt Cobain, along with bassist Krist Novoselic, created the band Nirvana.
They released their first album, “Bleach,” in 1989. But, they would not achieve notoriety until they accepted Dave Grohl as their permanent drummer and released “Nevermind” in 1991.
The first single, titled, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” catapulted the band into fame. Unfortunately, Nirvana only released one more album, “In Utero” in 1993, with Cobain at the head of the band. Although there have been a few songs and an album that were released after Cobain’s suicide in 1994, the band did not reform under a new lead-singer and guitarist.
Novoselic, who had been with Cobain since the very beginning, engaged in a variety of pursuits after Nirvana. He started a few different bands with other well known musicians.
However, he did not experience the same success as Dave Grohl. Grohl, a talented musician and songwriter who can play many instruments, created the band Foo Fighters in 1994. Grohl and Novoselic agreed that they would not form a band together, lest people think it was just Nirvana with another name.
Although Nirvana is more ubiquitous in the minds of music lovers everywhere, Foo Fighters demonstrated amazing staying power. Under Grohl’s direction, Foo Fighters produced seven full-length albums, as well as a “Best Of” album, with the most recent in 2011.
In April 2014, those who had longed to see Nirvana again or for the first time, got their chance, in a way. Michael Stipe, the leader of former band R.E.M., served as host for the band’s induction ceremony into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Stipe argued that the members of Nirvana were artists, not just musicians. Novoselic and Grohl chose to have famous female singers from other groups head the band for its induction performances.
They said that they felt this was in keeping with the band’s overall perspective. They chose Joan Jett, Lorde, Kim Gordon and St. Vincent to represent Cobain. Jett sang “Smells like Teen Spirit, Lorde presented “All Apologies,” Gordon sang “Aneurysm” and St. Vincent covered “Lithium.” Some critics were upset that the performances did not feel legitimate. But as Cobain’s widow Courtney Love noted, without Cobain, they could not have been.
Anytime a member of an important band dies suddenly, the chance for closure is gone. With Kurt Cobain, the world lamented the loss of such a gifted individual, and still wonder what he might have done if had lived. But, at the 20th anniversary of his death, the induction of Nirvana into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gives an opportunity to heal some very old wounds.