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It’s 20 years today since Kurt Cobain died. There’s still argument over whether it was a suicide or not.
I didn’t get into Nirvana’s music right off the bat, but I did like “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and once I dived into alternative music, they were right up there. They were one of those bands where I hated some of there songs and loved others … not a lot of middle ground. At first, I thought they were going to be the next fad, maybe be a big name band. Like everyone else, I had NO idea just how big they were gonna be. I don’t think I’ve seen anything else quite like it in my lifetime.
People just could not get enough of that song. It was everywhere. I think it inspired more people to pick up guitars than anyone since the Beatles, or maybe even since Elvis.
I wasn’t one of them. I had wanted to play music since before that, and didnt pick up guitar until well after Kurt was dead. But Nirvana was definitely a strong influence. Some of the first songs I learned to play on guitar were Nirvana tunes. Let’s face it – solos aside, a lot of them aren’t that difficult once you master power and barre chords. They are, however, teriffically arranged power and barre chords.
Reportedly, Kurt claimed that he knew he had “made it” when Weird Al Yankovic parodied one of his songs. To hear Al himself tell it –
For whatever reason, my manager tried and tried and said he couldn’t get through [to Nirvana]. He contacted them again and again and they never got back to him. So he said, “If you want to do this parody, it’s on you. You’ve gotta talk to the band.” A friend of mine was in the cast of Saturday Night Live [UHF co-star Victoria Jackson]. I told her, if you ever get Kurt Cobain alone in a room, put him on the phone, because I’d love to talk to him — and she did! Directly! He was sweet and he got it in like five seconds and said, “Of course you can do a parody.” The famous quote from him was, “Is it going to be a song about food?” because at that point that’s primarily what I was known for. And I said, “Well, no, it’s going to be a song about how nobody can understand your lyrics.” And he said, “Oh, sure, of course, that’s funny.”
Yankovic also stated –
It was exceptionally hard shortly after Kurt passed. It was still my biggest hit at the time, and I couldn’t not do it because the fans would want to hear it, but at the same time, it was uncomfortable for me, especially. So for a long time after Kurt passed, I would always preface my performance of the song by doing a somber dedication to Kurt in his memory. The hardest one was doing Seattle, because I didn’t know if I should be doing that song in Seattle at the time. I didn’t know how people would take it. I asked a lot of journalists there, “Should I do this? Should I not do this?” And almost unanimously they said, “You should do this. It would be cathartic.” And it actually went over extremely well.
I don’t remember where I was when I found out Kurt had died or anything like that. I’m not a hardcore fan keeping vigils or whatever. But I have always been a bit fascinated by him and the band, and sometimes pick up the odd and random bit or piece of history I trip across.