27 Years Ago Today: Kurt Cobain Dies

It’s hard to believe it’s been 27 years since we lost one of rock’s greatest icons.

On April 5th, 1994, Kurt Cobain died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Seattle, Washington. He wouldn’t be discovered until three days later on April 8th. Cobain’s story, drug abuse, and struggle with mental health are well known. To this day, he’s still painted as the reluctant rock star. A man who wasn’t ready for the massive success and fame Nirvana gathered in a short amount of time.

It’s easy to get bogged down in his death, the numerous theories surrounding it, and his drug abuse, but we should remember Cobain for the amazing music he left us with. Nevermind and In Utero are iconic albums. They redefined rock music; you didn’t need a gimmick, glitz, or glamour to be a rock star. All you needed was passion and something to say.

With songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Serve the Servants,” and “Something in the Way” he spoke to a generation that felt ignored and alone. With a bleak looking future, these teens now had an outlet, someone who understood them, someone they could turn to as a source of comfort. New generations are still discovering these records and connecting with Cobain’s feelings of alienation, loneliness, depression, and rebellion.

Oftentimes, Cobain is remembered for his struggles and untimely death. But he should be remembered for his groundbreaking music. So, to celebrate Cobain’s life, here are four of the most memorable Nirvana performances.

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Top of the Pops 1991)

It didn’t take long for Nirvana to grow tired of their biggest single “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” With constant radio airplay, late-night appearances, and concert performances Cobain decided he had enough. For their 1991 appearances on Top of The Pops, the band made it painfully clear they were not playing live with Dave Grohl waving his drumsticks in the air and Krist Novoselic wildly hopping around on stage. But what makes this one memorable is Cobain’s singing. Instead of his iconic growl, Cobain did his best Morrisey impression while slowly eating the microphone.

“Endless, Nameless” (MTV Live and Loud 1993)

Originally released as the secret track on Nevermind, fans had become well familiar with “Endless, Nameless” by this time. The band had already performed it in concert numerous times, but it’s their performance of it at MTV’s Live and Loud special that stands out. Cobain goes between an eerie calm as he sings and a deranged state as he starts screeching into the microphone and violently attacking his guitar. The performance ends in pure chaos as Cobain and the rest of the band destroy the stage and their instruments. Before walking off stage, Cobain starts clapping as if mocking the crowd.

“Lithium” (MTV VMAs 1992)

Despite being nominated for four Moonmen at the 1992 MTV VMAs, Nirvana was having a terrible night. MTV shot down Nirvana’s request to play “Rape Me” and asked them to play something from Nevermind, ideally “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” On top of that, Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose started a feud with Cobain backstage prior to the performance. When the band finally hit the stage, Cobain frightened producers by playing the opening lines of “Rape Me” and quickly switching gears to “Lithium.” Things seem to be going well until Krist Novoselic tossed his bass in the air only to have it smack him on the forehead. The performance has since gone down as one of the most unforgettable in Nirvana history.

“Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” (MTV Unplugged 1993)

Nirvana’s 1993 MTV Unplugged appearance has gone down in history as being the best and most iconic moment of the series. Though the entire concert is stellar it’s Cobain’s rendition of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” that stands out. Cobain’s raw vocals and the anguished howl he lets out at the end leave you with chills. His performance is eerie and haunting, especially since his tragic death.

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Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Illinois Entertainer. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Creeper, and Green Day.

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