Dartmouth Soundoff: Remembering Cobain

By Margarette Nelson, The Dartmouth Staff | 4/2/14 8:00am

Saturday will mark the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death. As an icon for the misunderstood, Cobain struggled with drugs, depression and his ailing health before committing suicide at age 27. Nirvana, formed over the course of 1988, paved the road for Seattle grunge to travel from local basements to the Billboard charts. To date, Nirvana alone has sold over 25 million records in the US, and over 75 million worldwide. In 1992, Rolling Stone called Nirvana a voice for Generation X and compared Cobain to John Lennon. As a critical figure in music history, Cobain's legacy is indisputable and this week’s playlist features music of his, those who impacted him and those he inspired.

"Where Is My Mind?" -- The Pixies

Perhaps of all the influences that Cobain cited, The Pixies is the most indispensable. Allegedly, Cobain even admitted to ripping off some of the band’s music. One of their most widely recognized songs, "Where Is My Mind?" was a single off their 1988 album Surfer Rosa.

"My Best Friend's Girl" -- The Cars

As a teenager learning to play guitar, Cobain learned a number of classic rock hits, "My Best Friend's Girl" among them. Nirvana even performed the song live in the early 90's. Preceded by "Just What I Needed," the 1978 Cars single peaked at #35 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

"Incinerate" -- Sonic Youth

Cobain also credited the experimental art-punk band as an influence. The single "Incinerate" — released in 2006, long after Cobain's death — appeared on Sonic Youth's fourteenth studio album Rather Ripped.

"Start Choppin'" -- Dinosaur Jr.

Formed just a few years before Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr. was both a peer and predecessor for Cobain. Following an eight-year-long hiatus, the band reformed in 2005 and has released several albums since.

"1,000,00 Kisses" -- Half Japanese

Eighties garage punk band Half Japanese also impacted Cobain. Still around and touring, the band has a small but steady following and released a greatest hits album in the mid-90's. The song "1,000,000 Kisses" appeared as an additional track on Half Japanese's 1988 album Charmed Life.

"Love Buzz" -- Nirvana

Originally by Dutch rock band Shocking Blue, "Love Buzz" was Nirvana's first single in 1988 and was subsequently released on their 1989 debut album Bleach.

"Garbage Man" -- Hole

One of the most controversial aspects of Cobain’s life was his relationship with Courtney Love (conspiracy theorists even postulate that his death was at the hands of Love, not his own). Among the many musical acts that Love has been associated with throughout her career, anarchist-punk band Hole is the one connected to Cobain. Shortly after the release of Hole’s debut Pretty on the Inside, Cobain and Love started dating before marrying in 1992.

"Lithium" -- Nirvana

By the time Nirvana’s third single “Lithium” from Nevermind was released in July of 1992, the album had already risen to the top of the charts. Earlier that year, Nevermind knocked out Michael Jackson's Dangerous from the #1 spot on the Billboard charts.

"True Love Will Find You In the End" -- Daniel Johnston

Possibly one of the more obscure major influences of Cobain, Daniel Johnston received more attention after pictures of Cobain wearing a t-shirt featuring Johnston’s cover art started circulating in the early 90’s.

"Alive" -- Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam's debut Ten was released a month before Nevermind and was a slow success. After Nevermind exposed the public to grunge, palettes were whetted. By the end of 1992, Ten reached #2 on the Billboard charts.

"Man on the Moon" -- REM

Among the artists who are often thought of as influencing Cobain, REM had the most haunting impact. One of the band’s most widely recognized singles —"Man on the Moon," released in late 1992 — references the conspiracy theories surrounding the moon landing some decades earlier. According to wide speculation and music trivia junkies, the song was playing in the background when Cobain died.

"The Man Who Sold the World" -- Nirvana

In November of 1993, Nirvana performed a live acoustic set at Sony Music Studies in New York City, which aired as part of the MTV Unplugged series the next month. Almost a year later, MTV Unplugged in New York was released as the first album after Cobain's death. Nirvana's cover of David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World" was released as a promotional single and a music video in late 1994.

"Everlong" -- Foo Fighters

After the death of Cobain, and consequently the end of Nirvana, drummer Dave Grohl continued his career by forming Foo Fighters, which is still around today. "Everlong" was the second single off of their 1997 sophomore album The Colour and the Shape.

Margarette Nelson, The Dartmouth Staff