100 Greatest Guitarists: David Fricke's Picks

From Jerry Garcia and Joan Jett to B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stone critic chooses the best and most influential guitarists in rock

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Kurt Cobain

12. Kurt Cobain

"Grunge" was always a lousy, limited way to describe the music Kurt Cobain made with Nirvana and, in particular, his discipline and ambition as a guitarist. His cannonballs of fuzz and feedback bonfires on 1991's Nevermind announced the death of 1980s stadium guitar rock. Cobain also reconciled his multiple obsessions — the Beatles, hardcore punk, the fatalist folk blues of Lead Belly — into a truly alternative rock that bloomed in the eccentric, gripping hooks and chord changes of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Come as You Are." Recorded six months before Cobain's suicide in 1994, MTV Unplugged in New York reveals, in exquisite acoustic terms, the craft and love of melody that illuminated his anguish.

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