The Nonconformity of Kurt Cobain
Any 90’s baby or rock fan can testify that Nirvana is one of the most iconic bands to have ever been born from rock. The band’s lead singer and composer, Kurt Cobain, bent the rules of rock to change music forever. In this article, we learn about Kurt’s struggles with addiction and depression and highlight their most famous song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.
The following content has been aggregated from: thisdayinmusic.com
Kurt Cobain, guitarist, singer, songwriter with Nirvana was born on 20th Feb 1967. During the last years of his life, Cobain struggled with heroin addiction, illness and depression. He also had difficulty coping with his fame and public image. Cobain committed suicide on April 5th 1994.
Like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and a handful of other artists, Kurt Cobain helped change music forever. Nirvana’s second album Nevermind is a landmark in the history of popular music, and from it “Smells Like Teen Spirit” came from nowhere.
During the last years of his life, Cobain struggled with heroin addiction, illness and depression. He also had difficulty coping with his fame and public image, and the professional and lifelong personal pressures surrounding himself and his wife, musician Courtney Love. On April 8, 1994, Cobain was found dead at his home in Seattle, the victim of what was officially ruled a suicide by a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head. The circumstances of his death at age 27 have become a topic of public fascination and debate. Since their debut, Nirvana, with Cobain as a songwriter, has sold over 25 million albums in the U.S., and over 50 million worldwide.
When in 1991, was released in the US. The unexpected success of Nirvana’s single ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ in late 1991 propelled Nevermind to the top of the charts at the start of 1992, an event often marked as the point where alternative rock entered the mainstream.
Cobain didn’t begin to write “Smells Like Teen Spirit” until a few weeks before recording started on Nevermind in 1991. When he first presented the song to his bandmates, (just the main riff and the chorus vocal melody), bassist Krist Novoselic dismissed it at the time as “ridiculous.” In response, Cobain made the band play the riff over and over again until collectively the band members slowed the riff down so they had fast and slow sections. As a result, it became the only song on Nevermind to credit all three band members as joint composers.
Cobain came up with the song’s title when his friend Kathleen Hanna (at the time the lead singer of the Riot Grrrl punk band Bikini Kill) spray painted “Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit” on his wall. Since they had been discussing anarchism, punk rock, and similar topics, Cobain interpreted the slogan as having a revolutionary meaning. What Hanna actually meant, however, was that Cobain smelled like the deodorant Teen Spirit, which his then-girlfriend Tobi Vail wore. Cobain later claimed that he was unaware that it was a brand of deodorant until months after the single was released. (Sales rocketed of the deodorant and the grunge army were no longer smelly!).
The unexpected success of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in late 1991 propelled Nevermind to the top of the charts at the start of 1992, an event often marked as the point where alternative rock entered the mainstream. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was Nirvana’s first and biggest hit, reaching number six on the Billboard Hot 100 and charting all over the planet in 1991 and 1992.
The video, which was based on the concept of a school concert which ends in anarchy and riot, won the group two MTV Video Music Awards, was in heavy rotation on music television, and in 2000 the Guinness Book of World Records named “Teen Spirit” the Most Played Video on MTV Europe.
A notable alternate performance of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” occurred on BBC’s Top of the Pops in 1991, during which the band refused to mime to the prerecorded backing track and Cobain sang in a deliberately low voice with hilarious result. Kurt also changed lyrics in the song (for example, “Load up on guns, bring your friends” became “Load up on drugs, kill your friends”). Cobain later said he was trying to sound like one of his heroes — former Smiths frontman Morrissey.
Nirvana grew uncomfortable with the success and attention “Spirit” received as a result. In the years since Cobain’s death, listeners and critics have continued to praise “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as one of the greatest rock songs of all time.
In 2005, a sign was put up in Aberdeen, Washington, that read “Welcome to Aberdeen – Come As You Are” as a tribute to Cobain. The sign was paid for and created by the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee, a non-profit organization created in May 2004 to honour Cobain. The Committee planned to create a Kurt Cobain Memorial Park and a youth center in Aberdeen. Because Cobain was cremated and his remains scattered into the Wishkah River in Washington, many Nirvana fans visit Viretta Park, near Cobain’s former Lake Washington home, to pay tribute. On the anniversary of his death, fans gather in the park to celebrate his life and memory.