Kurt Cobain would have turned 50 this month. That doesn’t sound like much, but that’s before you realize Kurt Cobain had one of the greatest influences on rock music of all time.
Rock has always been a flowing genre, filled with influences from other styles of music. Jazz loaned itself towards the creation of folk-rock and later country-rock, while the surge of alternative lifestyles and an explosion of psychedelics in the 60s and 70s lead to the rise of rock n’ roll and punk-rock.
It was the late 80s and 90s, however, that threw rock into the limelight and gave it the mainstream influence it enjoys today. Discontent with the stagnating lifestyle of the 90s, groups came together and declared their hate for the mainstream through music.
One of these bands was Nirvana, formed in 1987, the flagship of grunge and a beacon for angst-ridden teens everywhere.
Grunge was one of those genres that just hit you, and you never knew where it came from or where it was going. Once you started listening, you either got off the ride immediately or you stayed on until you didn’t know which way was up. Its lyrics often entailed dramatic dialogue or ballads about breaking the status quo to express individuality.
Its mainstream success was partially because of that; following the psychedelic high of the 60s came a depressive slump that was especially prominent among teens in the late 80s. Grunge appealed to kids, who were angry not only with the sudden shift in society, but also with their parents (as most teens are).
Grunge was one of the first genres to address teens as a demographic, which not only shot their bands into the mainstream but also had lasting effects on music as a whole; just look at pop music today and their almost obsessive focus on pandering to the teen and young adult demographic.
Nobody, however, had quite the impact that Kurt Cobain and Nirvana did. Cobain was particularly young when he started his band with fellow guitarist Krist Novoselic. At only 24 years old, he became a huge hit in 1991 with the release of Nirvana’s second album “Nevermind.” His connection with younger audiences, as well as his forays into the drug scene, enamored him with young and old alike.
Cobain’s success was short-lived, however. As is a trend in the rock genre, drugs interfered with his life to the point that he committed suicide. Even this, though, was a huge pull for teens. Depressed and suicidal adolescents who tried and failed to commit suicide would point towards Kurt Cobain and romanticize his death, making it something beautiful instead of a chilling reminder that heroin’s a hell of a drug.
Even after death, however, Nirvana’s influence continues to shine; Novoselic has become extremely politically active, founding the JAMPAC (Joint Artists and Musicians Political Action Committee), while drummer Dave Grohl founded the Foo Fighters and has become one of the frontrunners for alternative rock.
Nirvana’s been around for 30 years, Kurt Cobain would have been 50, but it’s impossible for their influence to fade after the profound impact they’ve had on the music industry.