April 2014 will mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, who committed suicide at age 27, a somber reminder of the end of a musical era. Nirvana has been nominated for the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the same month and if inducted, the band will be one of the youngest nominees, barely making the 25-year minimum requirement for the honor.
More than 600 voters on RockHall.com will determine the inductees, who will be announced this month. The ceremony will be held in New York and will air on HBO in May 2014.
Nirvana was formed in 1987 by Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic in the town of Aberdeen, Washington. The band is considered one of the most influential of the modern era, despite only releasing three full-length albums in their seven-year career. Nirvana first made a name in the Seattle Grunge scene in the 1980s with their debut album “Bleach” in 1989.
According to prior interviews with the band members, Cobain and Novoselic attended Aberdeen High School together, though the two didn’t become friends until three years after meeting at the practice space of the band Melvins. Soon after adding their first drummer, Aaron Burckhard, the group began writing new material and the first single, “Love Buzz,” was released in November 1989.
The band found a sudden burst of popularity after changing labels from an independent record label Sub Pop to DGC records and releasing the hit song “Smells like Teen Spirit.” The song was the first single released from the second album “Nevermind” in 1991. Media surrounding the band during this time labeled Cobain the “spokesman of a generation” and the band itself was given the title “flagship band of Generation X.”
Their final album, “In Utero,” released in 1993. Despite a decline in sales for this particular release, it was still a critical part of Nirvana legend.
Influencing a Generation
The first mainstream song by the band “Smells like Teen Spirit” was given a great deal of play on MTV and quickly gained momentum for the band’s album “Nevermind”. The record was selling over 400,000 weekly by December 1991 when the DGC had only hoped for 250,000 in sales total. When the record final reached number one on the charts, Billboard was quoted as stating, “Nirvana is a rare band that has everything: critical acclaim, industry respect, pop radio appeal and a rock-solid college/alternative base”.
“Everybody knows Nirvana-they have a name you can recognize,” said Eastern Michigan University student Mirissa Couture.
“Hell yeah!” EMU student Matthew Keller said. “They changed the entire name of the game.”
Critics feel that Nirvana, specifically the release of “Nevermind” changed the way fans and record labels alike viewed the grunge style of music. Prior to Nirvana, few labels took the style seriously and it was usually found only in small sections of record stores. Even following the death of Cobain and the band’s breakup, Nirvana has been nominated for a number of awards, including an induction to the Mojo Hall of Fame 100 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004.
“I knew Nirvana growing up because of my brother,” said Carolyn Zeppa, criminology major at EMU.
Zeppa remembers some of the more influential history behind the band and is confident that they’ll be inducted.
“His wife Courtney Love is still in the media today, though not as mainstream,” she said. “Think of all the movies their songs are featured in still today and the classic videos played on MTV all the time. They will probably win because it’s the younger generation that will get online and vote.”
Nirvana still finds rotation on many rock and alternative rock stations today and though it is considered the band that led Generation X, many younger generations are finding the band to be an influential part of their lifestyle. Through the songs like “Smells like Teen Spirit” echo the ghost of a bygone revolution.