- 🇺🇸 Seattle, WA
- Years Active
1987 - 1994
Nirvana spearheaded the alternative rock revolution that transformed American popular music at the dawn of the 1990s, introducing to the mainstream what fans and critics called "grunge" - i.e., melodic but aggressive guitar rock shaped by punk, heavy metal and pop.
Nirvana formed in Aberdeen, Wash. in 1987, and initially consisted of singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain, bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Aaron Burckhard. The trio cycled through a series of drummers in the coming months, among them Chad Channing, before joining forces with Dave Grohl to cement the classic three-piece Nirvana lineup.
While Nirvana was not the first grunge band to emerge from the fertile Seattle music scene - acts like Mudhoney and the Melvins were already finding favor with critics and audiences - the quality and depth of Cobain's songwriting and his raw, emotional vocals set the trio apart from its peers, and after recording its 1989 debut LP Bleach for buzzmaking indie Sub Pop Records, Nirvana signed to major-label DGC to record the follow-up Nevermind with producer Butch Vig. The album's lead single and music video, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," became a generation-defining anthem and radically reshaped pop radio in the U.S., opening the doors for a wave of left-of-center acts to reach the Top 40.
Nirvana's third and final studio album, 1993's In Utero, captured the band at its most raw and aggressive, although the singles "Heart-Shaped Box" and "All Apologies" were still fixtures at radio and on MTV. Nirvana also appeared on the cable network's hit series Unplugged, playing a now-revered acoustic performance bolstered by second guitarist Pat Smear, who previously served as a member of pioneering Los Angeles punk band the Germs. But behind the scenes, Cobain struggled with health issues and drug addiction, and on Apr. 5, 1994, he died by suicide in his Seattle home. Grohl and Smear later reunited in the Foo Fighters, one of the most commercially successful rock bands of the early 21st century.
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