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Kurt Cobain Tributes: Living in Nirvana

Friends, loved ones, bandmates, young admirers, Seattle colleagues and more honor Kurt’s life and legacy

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In many ways, Nirvana were the sum of decades of groundbreaking music: early Beatles, Seventies punk, Eighties alternative. Nirvana were a band that generated omnidirectional, multigenerational goodwill, so it's fitting that these 15 tributes come from artists as different as CCR hero John Fogerty and rising indie-rock star Bethany Cosentino. As Rivers Cuomo says, summing up the awe Nirvana still inspire, "I was just so in love with the music that it made me feel sick."

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Iggy Pop

He Touched the World on Its Wound

You could smell the talent on Kurt Cobain. He had this sort of elfin delivery, but it was not navel-gazing. He was jumping around and throwing himself into every number. He'd sort of hunch over his guitar like an evil little troll, but you heard this throaty power in his voice. At the end of the set, he tossed himself into the drums. It was one of maybe 15 performances I've seen where rock & roll is very, very good.

I bought Nevermind, and I thought, "This has really got it." Nirvana genuinely achieved dynamics. They took you down, they took you up, and when they pressed a certain button, they took you over. They rocked without rushing, and they managed melody without being insipid. It was emotional without sounding dated or corny or weak.

As for his legacy: He was Johnny B. Goode. He was the last example that I can think of within rock & roll where a poor kid with no family from a small, rural area affected a serious emotional explosion in a significant sector of world youth. It was not made in Hollywood. There were no chrome parts. It was very downhome at its root. Somebody who was nobody from nowhere reached out and touched the world. He may have touched it right on its wound. 2008

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Dale Crover (The Melvins)

The Cinderella Story of the Century

We met at the smokers' shed at Aberdeen High School and became friends right away, because we were both interested in the same kind of music. The thing about punk rock was that there wasn't any set style, and I think that's what attracted us all to it.

I guess I'm biased about Bleach because I played on it, but Nevermind is their best record, I think. People were ready for a change, and they were in the right place at the right time. It's the Cinderella story of the century. Pop music has always been garbage, but there are a few shining things that get mixed in once in a while, and in my opinion, Nirvana is one of them.

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Buzz Osborne (The Melvins)

Kurt and I Spoke the Same Language

I'm torn on the whole thing because I'd rather him be not famous and alive than be famous and dead. It's not a fun position to be in. There are no happy memories. I only have tragic memories. When I hear those songs out in the world, all that stuff comes back.

The camaraderie of music in general brought us together. What you have to understand is that where we lived was pretty demented. We were living in an area that was once thriving, and we were living in its demise. We made music that we thought was great, that saved our lives, and Kurt spoke the same language that we did.

I admire the fact that they were able to make money and become a global phenomenon because I'm involved in it, and my musical sensibilities were right from the beginning, and that had a massive impact.

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Chris Cornell (Soundgarden)

What Rock Was Supposed to Be About

My first memory of Nirvana was getting a cassette of demos, which ended up becoming Bleach. Everybody's response was that this was an amazing band and these were amazing songs. It was another indication that the Northwest had something special that you couldn't argue with.

It was pretty shocking to see a threepiece that sounded like that, and trying to get inside the head of a guy who writes a song like "Floyd the Barber" – where does the kernel of a song like that start?

The Seattle scene benefitted from an MTV culture, and it was because of the way Nirvana looked and presented themselves that created this kind of unanimous support worldwide. Rock music had become kind of hedonistic – 35-year-old men taking a helicopter to the stage and dating supermodels, and going out of their way to separate themselves from their audience. Nirvana, more than any other band, rocked way harder, had significant originality, while looking like guys you went to high school with. I think that was their secret. There was an inclusion that was long overdue, and it was what rock was supposed to be about.

The legend isn't simply going to be the way that he took his life; I believe it will always be the songs.

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Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth)

Kurt Kissed Eddie Van Halen!

We did this show with Nirvana at the Warfield, in San Francisco. They plugged in, and from the first chord, Kurt flew into the audience. He was surfing over the crowd while playing the song. The crowd threw him back onto the stage, and [snaps his fingers] he hit the first line of the vocal. I was like, "Fuck it, there is no way we can beat that."

The last time I saw Kurt, it was in Los Angeles and San Diego; I went to both shows there on Nirvana's last tour. He seemed very content. He was having fun playing the gig, especially in L.A., because Eddie Van Halen was there. It was funny. Kurt was walking down the hall, and I said, "Dude, Eddie Van Halen's in your dressing room holding court." And Kurt goes, "No way!" He was real excited. Kurt went into the dressing room, walked right up to Eddie and kissed him on the mouth. He had to do that. 1994

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Curt Kirkwood (Meat Puppets)

Like Describing the Grand Canyon

I think people are still trying to figure out what made Nirvana so important. What makes them so interesting in a lot of ways is that the mystique remains to this day. People are still kind of scratching their heads going, "What was that?"

It was a strange time in music. A lot of stuff was going on in pop and rock and yet there was nothing, not even in alternative, that was a lot like Nirvana. Even with the cool music coming from the Seattle scene, a lot of those bands were really good, but Nirvana were just so different in a way that transcends the medium. It wasn't punk rock or heavy metal – it was just moving.

Kurt's voice was such a perfect rock voice. It was effortless and so open, and he was just a beautiful guy, full of raw emotions. What more could you want? I would always think that when I saw him perform, "What more could you do, my God?" It's like trying to explain the Grand Canyon to people when they haven't seen it.

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John Fogerty

Frozen in Time

It's weird how we take hold of certain music. We adopt it, we fall in love with it, we own it. In the case of Nirvana, it was millions of us that owned it. It's as if they're immortal, as if they never go away. When you think about what a great record Nevermind is, it seems kind of frozen in time. Maybe it's because I have a few years on me. You tend to look at these great big manifestations in our lives and in our culture with a really appreciative view. It's almost cinematic that they live on. I was never blessed to see Nirvana live. But sometimes it feels as if you could just turn a switch ever so slightly and Kurt would be still here with us and those guys would still be playing.

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