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Nirvana brought grunge to the masses

Hall of Fame induction causes time to reflect

Kellen Reeder, Staff Reporter
Originally published April 24, 2014

(Keneth Cruz/Flickr)Before and after his death, Kurt Cobain was extremely popular in the grunge scene. His band Nirvana was one of the most popular rock and roll bands of all time.

(Keneth Cruz/Flickr)

Before and after his death, Kurt Cobain was extremely popular in the grunge scene. His band Nirvana was one of the most popular rock and roll bands of all time.

Nirvana reliably birthed the grunge scene, took hold of the nation musically and had a very popular frontman that music analysts say was the “voice of a generation.” “Kurt Cobain was a cultural figure of his time and a lot of people associate the early 90s with Nirvana, Dan Long, a special education teacher and former intern at Baby Monster Studios in New York, said. “To this day I don’t think Kurt is as appreciated enough for his music.”

Well, now they have been inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame.

From age 8, Cobain started having problems such as the divorce of his parents. Kurt also suffered from depression and drug abuse and did not respond well to excessive fame. “Kurt was at the record release party for Nevermind and this is a party with 150 people and he hid in the photo-booth for most of the party,” Charles Cross said in the VH1 documentary The Rise and Rise of Kurt Cobain. All this fueled the music of Cobain we know and love today, the creation of the band Nirvana in 1985, and ultimately his suicide in 1994.

Nirvana was among many bands such as The Melvins, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden to pioneer grunge, a musical genre that mixed aspects of punk rock and heavy metal and heavily influenced the music industry in the early 90s.

From the start Nirvana did something different from the proto-grunge predecessors Green River and Tad; they played for a younger teenage audience. “I first saw them at this venue called COCA and it was jammed to the rafters full of people,” Jack Thompson, history teacher and former writer for an underground music fanzine said.

The top song to come off their hit album Nevermind was “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” filled with teenage angst and punk rock aggression. The album and the song went platinum. “I was involved in music and when ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ broke it was just huge, it was on MTV, and it was the number one hit in the country. That was shocking,” Thompson said.

“It was so fast and explosive,” Cobain said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. “I didn’t know how to deal with it. If there was a rockstar 101 course, I would have liked to take it. It might have helped me.”

The album made Grunge bands famous but they were not all that happy about the surge of record company scouts that suddenly came into the area. “The good thing about our scene is that everyone liked each other and the message coming from Seattle was ‘don’t come here, seriously we don’t want you,’” Language Arts teacher Jeff Calderwood said.

The ripples of Nevermind were felt throughout the world. “I first heard about them in New York and everyone one was like what’s going on in Seattle because everyone in New York thought that New York was the center of the universe, so people were a little bit skeptical,” Long said.

Death Of Kurt Cobain
On April 5 1994, Cobain locked himself in the greenhouse of his Seattle home and wrote a suicide note using a pen with red ink. Then he shot up 1.52-milligrams of heroin, loaded up the shotgun full of shotgun cartridges which, according to Carrie Borzillo’s book Kurt Cobain: The Nirvana Years, he allegedly bought at Seattle Guns, and shot himself in the head. He was only 27 years old.

“He almost died a month before by drinking champagne and taking pain killers in Rome,” Noam Gundle, a science teacher and fan of the band, said.

The impact of his death reached world wide but it hit the hardest in Seattle. “There were gargantuan vigils where everything stopped and shut down for a week. It really showed how much Nirvana really connected to a young audience. It was almost like the death of John Lennon,” Thompson said.

Some people in Seattle blame the death of Cobain on the fashion and record industries that took a huge toll on Kurt as a person. “We had this really cool thing going on in Seattle and then the industry came, blew it up and at some point it cost people’s lives,” Long said.

Some blame the death of Cobain on his wife Courtney Love. “A lot of people seem to think that she might have had something to do with it, I imagined she came out of his death pretty well, and she was probably heir to all Cobain’s residuals, money, the house on Lake Washington,” Calderwood said.

What was felt for the rest of the year was a feeling of sadness and the fact that the era of Alternative music and Grunge was finally ending in Seattle. “It’s sad to me. I’m not angry about it, but I think it’s just sad that someone gets to a point where they think that’s the only way out and there is always another way out and that’s a powerful lesson to me, but there’s no judgement because I never had to go through what he went through,” Long said.

Nirvana’s impact on the Seattle community
Whenever we think about Nirvana we’re always left with that feeling of what might have been. What might Nirvana or Kurt Cobain have been like if they were still around today? What Seattle might have been like if Kurt’s death hadn’t extinguished the Grunge scene? What might music today have been like if Nirvana was still a band?

Dave Grohl, the drummer for the band has started his own band called the Foo Fighters and Krist Novoselic is a local political activist.

“I think that if Kurt Cobain had lived Seattle would have gotten much ‘grungier’ and dirtier but it could have gone either way; either he died literally or later on he would die musically and people wouldn’t listen to him,”  student and musician Sean Adair said.

The impact was bands keeping the Seattle music flame alive and trying to keep it from dying out after Cobain’s death. “I think people learned from that time, they learned how to keep their lives sane while making music and we still had a vibrant music scene even in the wake of Kurt’s death,” Long said.

That certainly holds true for Adair who has learned from Kurt Cobain and has applied it to his band Stone Sinister. “You don’t need to be a super great guitarist to make it big, you just need to have perseverance and he had perseverance,” Adair said.

Nirvana in their wake also created acceptance for punk rockers by bringing punk to the mainstream. “They took a sound that was a Northwest kind of sound or a punk-ish kind of sound and produced it in a way that was enjoyable,” Gundle said.

Nirvana will always be remembered as a band of great inspiration and will be put in the trophy case of Seattle music past and present.

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Nirvana brought grunge to the masses