Kurt Cobain always spoke highly of R.E.M. – " I don't know how that band does what they do," he once told Rolling Stone – and at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony Thursday night, Michael Stipe returned the favor with a deferential speech in praise of the singer and his former band.
"Nirvana were artists in every sense of the word," Stipe said. "Nirvana tapped into a voice that was yearning to be heard. Nirvana were kicking against the mainstream. They spoke truth and a lot of people listened."
Beyond mutual adoration, the two artists had a friendly real-life relationship. In the months leading up to Cobain’s death, Stipe invited the heroin-addicted singer-guitarist to record together, going so far as to buy Kurt a plane ticket to Georgia. According to Charles Cross’ Cobain biography Heavier Than Heaven, when Courtney Love looked in Cobain’s stereo after her husband’s dead body was discovered, she found R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People.
"They were singular and loud and melodic and deeply original," Stipe continued. "And that voice. That voice. Kurt, we miss you. I miss you. This is not just pop music. This is something much greater than that."
Nirvana joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility, alongside Kiss, Peter Gabriel, Hall and Oates, Cat Stevens and Linda Ronstadt. The E Street Band received the Award for Musical Excellence and Beatles manager Brian Epstein and original Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham earned the Ahmet Ertegun Award for non-performers. Stipe and R.E.M. were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007, with Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder giving their speech.
Watch Michael Stipe's speech: