Written by Emilee Lindner • February 22, 2017
Chanteuse Lana Del Rey has pegged Kurt Cobain as her first musicial inspiration, revealing that listening to his music as a teen encouraged her to keep her own lyrics honest. She told Sirius XM in 2011: “When I was 11, I saw Kurt Cobain singing ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ on MTV and it really stopped me dead in my tracks. I thought he was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. Even at a young age, I really related to his sadness.”
The Thirty Seconds to Mars frontman loves Kurt Cobain so much, Leto dressed up as the Nirvana frontman (blonde wig and everything) to honor his work 17 years after his death. “Nirvana were a great band, Kurt was a genius songwriter with an unstoppable voice and they were three musicians that made a really unique sound,” he told Q Magazine. “But there was something else that Nirvana gave, and that was the gift of permission for all of us to have the right to pick up an instrument and create.” Get tickets for Thirty Seconds to Mars' joint tour with Muse.
Weezer loves Nirvana so much they once played an entire concert of covers under the name Goat Punishment. Rivers Cuomo explained to Rolling Stone in 2014 that he and Pat Wilson listened to Bleach on the way to band practice all the time and recalled the first time he heard Nirvana while working at Tower Records: “I remember they played 'Sliver' for me, and I was immediately in love. It had the aggression that I needed from my upbringing as a metalhead, but paired with strong, major-key chord progressions and catchy, emotional melodies and lyrics that felt so nostalgic and sweet and painful. It just sounded like it was coming from the deepest part inside of me – a part which I hadn't yet been able to come close to articulating in my own music.”
Cage the Elephant been compared to Nirvana since the Kentucky band debuted, and not only that, they have a song titled after Kurt Cobain’s hometown, “Aberdeen.” Beyond being sonically influenced by the legendary Seattle group, they also had the honor of having ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl sit in for their set when their own skinsman recuperated from a medical issue during Cage The Elephant's stint opening for Foo Fighters. Of course, CTE has also covered Nirvana: the band's version of “No Apologies” seems to channel Cobain.
Win Butler of Arcade Fire told the Associated Press in 2014 about Cobain’s influence on him growing up: “I was sort of like a weird kid who didn’t know where I fit in or whatever and just to have that kind of voice be that big in culture, I feel like that was a magical period of alternative music where we had Jane’s Addiction and R.E.M. and Nirvana, it was like seeing these kind of freaks from all the different cities of North America and you’re like, oh wow.” Although no footage exists on the internet, Arcade Fire once mashed up “Rococo” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in concert.
Patrick Stump explained that it was hard for him to get behind Nirvana in his music-snob childhood, but he quickly realized that Kurt Cobain was who he wanted to be. “[Cobain] was like, ‘No, I don’t want us to be this big popular band.’ ... That related to me a lot, and kind of informed a lot. It’s hard to relate to musicians who act like gods. It’s way different when they’re real people and you know that and that kind of comes through. And then, they’re kind of amazing in their own way. He's like the ultimate of that.”
Courtney Barnett, whose guitar sound often gets compared to Nirvana’s, has been extremely vocal about the band’s impact on her life. She told Stereogum in 2014: “I grew up with Nirvana and a few other bands, but basically that was it. My brother and I only had a handful of CDs, and Nirvana was the main bunch of them.”
Although he’s known for being a country artist, Sturgill Simpson hasn’t been shy about his love for Nirvana. He covered the band's “In Bloom” for his 2016 album A Sailor's Guide to Earth, and told NPR’s All Songs Considered: "Personally speaking, [Nirvana's] records had a huge impact on my life. I was about 12 or 13, seventh or eighth grade I think, and [my] parents had just divorced, so I felt like these records sort of emotionally captured a lot of things I wasn't able to grasp or articulate or comprehend within my own head and heart at the time.” Grab your tickets for Sturgill Simpson's tour here.
John McCauley of Deer Tick, who often cover Nirvana tunes as "Deervana" and once covered In Utero in full, told Rolling Stone in 2013 that Nirvana was his favorite band, saying, “In high school I was such a misfit, and Nirvana were kind of the perfect soundtrack for it. Kurt had long been dead, but I found a couple of other kids that didn't really quite fit in, and we all had Nirvana in common. We'd get stoned and listen to Nirvana and play our guitars and skip school. For me, it was always the voice that blew me away. I'd heard people with gravelly voices, but Kurt's was different. It's not a pretty voice; he was not a trained singer by any means. But it gave me hope.”
Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast inherited her love for Nirvana from her musician father, and she admitted to Rolling Stone in 2014 that she had Kurt Cobain’s poster framed in her room. “Nirvana did something similar to the early Beatles, before they became psychedelic – writing about emotions and situations that you've been through," she told the mag. "Both Nirvana and the Beatles did that. I feel like it's much more relatable, and that's always been something that I've really respected about Kurt Cobain as a lyricist and as a songwriter – that he just wrote what he wanted to write about; he was not afraid to say anything.”
(Kurt Cobain and Arcade Fire photos by Getty Images; Courtney Barnett photo by Pooneh Ghana/LNTV)
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