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Kurt Cobain
Feminist, gay icon, ‘last great rock star’

20 years after his death, Nirvana frontman’s pop culture legacy lives on

Kurt Cobain has often been referred to as the last great rock star, a musical genius with an angry and altogether winning growl. Nirvana, in their short time together, enjoyed enormous and dizzying success before the internet changed how we communicate and consume. With their album Nevermind, they zipped to the top of the charts — and challenged established acts including Michael Jackson and Guns N' Roses.

Their fan base was diverse. Geeks and outsiders identified with the rebel band but so too did cheerleaders and frat boys. Fashion designers tried to emulate Cobain’s Pacific-Northwest-hardscrabble chic, making cardigans and flannel shirts essential style items. And, other bands predictably imitated Nirvana’s sound. None though ever managed to carry the alt-grunge mantle forward to its second act in the 20 years that have passed since Cobain’s suicide.

What was remarkable about Cobain, however, was his determination to carve out a new role as a rock star. Cobain sharply mocked the old-school sexism in rock and forced attitudinal changes, particularly towards women and gays. In their pivotal Smells Like Teen Spirit, the band eschewed leggy models for tough, anarchist cheerleaders

Motley Crue may have sung about Girls, Girls, Girls but Cobain instead vaunted outspoken actress Frances Farmer, who battled mental illness and alcoholism. One of the first rockers to appear on the cover of the LGBT magazine The Advocate, Cobain often wore dresses while performing. He and his bandmate Krist Novoselic freely kissed, riling up homophobes in conservative pockets of the U.S.

Cobain’s ultimate undoing was rapid. In the months before his death, he suffered drug overdoses and fell in and out of rehab. Never one to pander, Cobain seemed at times contemptuous of his fans and bored of the spotlight. News of his death reverberated and the grunge movement slowly spun out. Now, on the 20th anniversary of Cobain’s death, we explore how Nirvana influenced popular culture and pushed against the tide of mainstream convention.

The timeline below tracks Nirvana's rise from 1989 through to Cobain's death in 1994. The band's chronology is shown in the first thread, popular culture in the second and current events in the third. Scroll through the years using the buttons on the side and read more about each event by selecting the circular marker.

Kurt Cobain
Popular Culture
Current Affairs
  • 1989

    The Pixies release Doolittle

    April 18 • The Pixies release Doolittle

    Photo: Diane Bondareff/Invision/AP

    “We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard.”

    The Pixies release Doolittle. Surfer Rosa was released in 1988. Cobain would later say that he was trying to imitate the Pixies when he wrote Smells Like Teen Spirit. “When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily I should have been in that band — or at least in a Pixies cover band,” Cobain told Rolling Stone.

  • Tiananmen protests

    June 5 • Tiananmen protests

    Photo: Jeff Widener/AP

    A bloody military crackdown on student protests in China captures the world's attention. Amid that backdrop, journalists in Beijing capture the image of a man stepping before a line of tanks near Tiananmen Square. The man, who becomes known as the unknown protester, forces the tanks to stop momentarily. The arresting image becomes an immediate symbol of defiance against authority.

  • Bleach released

    June 15 • Bleach released

    Nirvana’s debut album Bleach — which was produced for about $600 — is released. That same night, grunge bands Mudhoney, Tad and Nirvana play a sold-out show at a Seattle theatre that seats 1,400 — suggesting a growing local musical movement. Bleach would go on to sell 40,000 copies before the release of Nevermind, and almost 1.7 million afterwards.

    Hip-hop interrupted

    June 15 • Hip-hop interrupted

    Public Enemy's Fight the Power soars to the top of the charts and is featured in Spike Lee's race relations film Do the Right Thing. Though the '90s are often referred to as hip-hop's golden age, at least one rap mogul would later say that Nirvana forced a necessary pause. As Jay-Z said in Pharrell: The Places and Spaces I've Been: "[Certain new musical forces] are inescapable, can't take your eyes off them, can't stop listening to them. [Kurt Cobain] was one of those figures. I knew we had to wait for a second before we became that dominant force in music."

  • Denmark OKs same-sex unions

    October 1 • Denmark OKs same-sex unions

    Denmark becomes the first country in the world to allow for civil unions between same-sex partners, marking growing acceptance of gay and lesbian couples. But it would be another 12 years before another country — the Netherlands — would legally grant same-sex marriages. Canada followed in 2005.

  • Introducing The Simpsons

    December 17 • Introducing The Simpsons

    Photo: Fox Broacasting Co./AP

    The Simpsons make their debut as a half-hour animated show. The antics of Bart, Homer and the rest of the dysfunctional Simpson clan come as a change of pace from The Cosby Show and the other cheery family sitcoms of the time.

  • Milli Vanilli's lip sync scandal

    December 30 • Milli Vanilli's lip sync scandal

    Photo: Douglas C. Pizac/AP

    Models turned 'singers' Milli Vanilli close the year atop the Billboard 200 list. The muscular, German R&B duo win throngs of fans around the globe with their hit singles Girl You Know It's True, Baby Don't Forget My Number, and Blame It on the Rain. Later, rumours begin to circulate that the two singers, Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan, didn't actually perform lead vocals on their hit albums and a year later, they make the embarassing confession that the rumours are true. They are immediately stripped of their Best New Artist Grammy Award and become a cruel punchline to many jokes. Other acts that enjoyed time on the 200 list in 1989 include: Paula Abdul, Motley Crue, The New Kids on the Block, Richard Marx, Prince, Guns N’ Roses and Debbie Gibson.

  • 1990

    Kurt + Courtney

    January 5 • Kurt + Courtney

    Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain meet at Portland's Satyricon.

  • Bewitching, creepy Twin Peaks debuts

    June 5 • Bewitching, creepy Twin Peaks debuts

    Photo: NBC

    David Lynch's haunting drama Twin Peaks debuts. The show, which revolved around the murder of a teenage homecoming queen, is set in a fictional town in Washington. The gritty show exposes the dark quirks and dangers of living in an isolated, small town. In later interviews, Cobain would describe his Washington hometown of Aberdeen as "Twin Peaks without the excitement."

  • Nirvana's 6th drummer: Dave Grohl

    September 25 • Nirvana's 6th drummer: Dave Grohl

    Dave Grohl becomes Nirvana's sixth drummer, replacing Dan Peters. The band shortly thereafter embarks on a U.K. tour.

  • Vanilla Ice tops the album charts

    November 10 • Vanilla Ice tops the album charts

    Photo: Reed Saxon/AP

    Vanilla Ice’s To the Extreme begins the first of 16 weeks atop the Billboard 200 album chart. He succeeds MC Hammer, who topped the album chart for 18 consecutive weeks with Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em.

  • Geffen signs Nirvana

    April 30 • Geffen signs Nirvana

    Nirvana signs with Geffen records.

  • 1991

    Operation Desert Storm

    January 16 • Operation Desert Storm

    Photo: Reuters

    The U.S.-led Operation Desert Storm begins in Iraq. The allied coalition's military offensive against Saddam Hussein's regime would end just over a month later.

  • Generation X

    March 15 • Generation X

    Photo: File 2000, Reuters

    Canadian novelist Douglas Coupland publishes Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. The label Gen X eventually takes hold as a demographic descriptor and is used widely to describe educated but disaffected young adults in the era, struggling to find jobs in the lean economy.

  • Recording Nevermind

    May 2 • Recording Nevermind

    Photo: Reuters
    Nirvana starts recording Nevermind at Sound City studios in California with producer Butch Vig. Cobain would later say he was uncomfortable with the album's polish. He told Nirvana biographer Michael Azerrad that "[Smells Like Teen Spirit is] such a perfect mixture of cleanliness and nice, candy-ass production ... It may be extreme to some people who aren't used to it, but I think it's kind of lame, myself."
  • European tour

    August • European tour

    Photo: Charles Peterson | Anthony Bolante/Reuters (Original in background: Charles Peterson)

    Nirvana tours Europe as the opening act for Sonic Youth. Filmmaker David Markey follows the bands for his film 1991: The Year Punk Broke. Markey later recalled documenting Cobain's undeniable charisma. "You saw it at the end of their Reading performance: Kurt diving into the drum set and then the crowd just sort of coming alive, 60,000 people really being won over," he told LA Weekly in a 2011 interview.

  • Smells Like Teen Spirit video

    August 17 • Pep rally gone wrong: Smells Like Teen Spirit video

    Photo: Geffen/YouTube

    Nirvana films the video for Smells Like Teen Spirit. Sam Bayer is hired to direct the shoot and he and Cobain famously clash during the filming. Cobain's vision for the video was that of a "pep rally gone wrong." Courtney Love later told New York Magazine, "Kurt wanted fat cheerleaders, he wanted black kids, he wanted to tell the world how f**ked up high school was. But Sam put hot girls in the video." Bayer defended his work, saying he'd broke new ground. "In my eyes, the whole video was dirty. It’s all yellows and browns. It was the opposite of everything on MTV at the time; every video was blue and backlit with big xenon lights. I was a painter. I was trying to rip on Caravaggio and Goya."

    Birth of the web

    August 6 • Birth of the web

    Photo: Shutterstock

    Tim Berners-Lee publishes the very first website. The possibilities of the Internet are as yet unrealized and the world remains largely unconnected. Google and YouTube have not supplanted MTV and radio. The notion of "going viral" simply doesn't exist and music isn't downloaded but rather is purchased in bricks-and-mortar shops or through mail-order album of the month clubs.

  • Grunge rivals Pearl Jam release Ten

    August 27 • Grunge rivals Pearl Jam release Ten

    "They're a safe rock band. They're a pleasant rock band that everyone likes.”

    Rival band Pearl Jam releases Ten. The album would eventually sell more than 10 million copies in the U.S. alone. In a long-simmering feud, Cobain often criticized Pearl Jam for riding the grunge bandwagon. Ultimately, Cobain would later soften his stance, calling Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder a good guy. But, he noted in a 1994 Rolling Stone interview that the bands were working to opposite ends. “I'm pretty sure that they didn't go out of their way to challenge their audience as much as we did with this record," he said.

  • North American tour

    September 20 • North American tour

    Nirvana starts a six-week tour of the U.S. and Canada.

  • Nevermind released

    September 24 • 'Gutsy' Nevermind released

    Photo: Geffen

    Nevermind is released and Rolling Stone gives the album a tepid 3-star review. MTV shortly thereafter premieres the Smells Like Teen Spirit video on its 120 Minutes. Host Dave Kendall later said he had no inkling the video and the song would be such a massive cultural touchpoint. He told MTV, "It brought guitars back into the music, and took the emphasis away from keyboards and synthesizers. It was gutsy and heavy and authentic, and that's what changed the landscape."

  • MTV hires 'grunge VJ'

    October • MTV hires 'grunge VJ'

    MTV hires Steve Isaacs, its first “grunge VJ.”

  • Riling up MTV metalheads

    October 25 • Headbangers Ball

    Photo: MTV/YouTube

    Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic appear on the MTV metal show Headbangers Ball. Cobain wears a yellow ball gown — a move that watchers speculate is intended to whip up metal fans — and appears largely bored with the proceedings.

  • Nirvana-mania sweeps U.S.

    November 2 • Nirvana-mania sweeps U.S.

    The band begins its European tour as Nirvana-mania sweeps the U.S. Nevermind producer Butch Vig would later describe the phenomenon as a true grassroots movement. "When Nevermind happened, it was still a slower time," he told the Associated Press. "That record really took off from a grassroots level. The label printed something like 40,000 copies. Word of mouth was faster than the Geffen publicity machine could handle."

  • Death of Freddie Mercury

    November 24 • Death of Freddie Mercury

    Photo: Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty

    Queen's Freddie Mercury dies at the age of 45 from AIDS-related bronchial pneumonia. The next spring, musicians and fans would celebrate the charismatic rock star with a tribute concert that promoted AIDS awareness. In 1992, AIDS became the leading cause of death for men aged 25 to 44.

  • Nevermind goes platinum

    November 27 • Nevermind goes platinum

    Nevermind is certified platinum in the U.S. It would go on to sell more than 30 million copies worldwide. Grohl later theorized the success of the album was tied to a growing disdain for artifice. "I think that album came out at a time when a lot of kids didn't have anything to believe in and Nirvana was entirely real," he told the Associated Press.

  • Michael Jackson, Vanilla Ice top the charts

    December 28 • Michael Jackson, Vanilla Ice top the charts

    Photo: Pongsak Chaiyanuwong/AFP/Getty

    Michael Jackson’s Dangerous closes the year atop the Billboard 200 album charts. Other acts that topped the list in 1991 include: Vanilla Ice, Mariah Carey, R.E.M., Michael Bolton, Paula Abdul, N.W.A., Skid Row, Van Halen, Natalie Cole, Metallica, Garth Brooks, Guns N’ Roses and U2.

  • 1992

    Nevermind zips to No. 1

    January 8 • Nevermind zips to No. 1

    Photo: Geffen

    Nevermind overtakes Michael Jackson’s Dangerous for the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart and is the first punk-rock record to reach the top spot on the vaunted list. Eddie Gilreath, vice-president of sales at Geffen, is surprised by the album's sudden surge. He tells the New York Times, "It seems to be a project appealing to both the younger or hip set. Nirvana has outsold over the last two or three weeks U2, Hammer, Michael Jackson, Metallica: real big-name values. If you told me last year it would outsell U2 I'd probably die laughing."

  • Live from New York!

    January 11 • Live from New York!

    Photo: NBC/YouTube

    "That's when I thought, 'Oh my God. We're one of THOSE bands now.'"

    Nirvana plays Saturday Night Live. They perform Smells Like Teen Spirit and Territorial Pissings before smashing their instruments onstage. As the credits rolled and the cast waved farewell, Kurt and Krist kissed — an act people speculated was designed to provoke homophobes. Grohl later recalled that evening as the night he realized everything had changed. "Being asked to be on SNL was without a doubt that moment for me," he told the Associated Press. "That's when I thought, 'Oh my God. We're one of THOSE bands now.'"

  • Triple-platinum in Canada

    February 17 • Triple-platinum in Canada

    Nevermind is certified triple-platinum in Canada. It would go on to sell more than 1 million copies in this country.

    90210's teen spirit

    February 20 • 90210's teen spirit

    Photo: Andrew Eccles/Rolling Stone

    Rolling Stone runs a cover featuring the actors of the teen soap opera Beverly Hills, 90210 with the tag line “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The cover irks Cobain who cancels an interview with Rolling Stone before relenting.

  • Rock's new power couple

    February 24 • Rock's new power couple

    Photo: Courtney-Love.org

    Cobain and Love marry in Honolulu. She reportedly learned she was pregnant a month earlier when the band performed on Saturday Night Live.

  • Kurt & Courtney: the new faces of feminism

    April • Kurt & Courtney: the new faces of feminism

    Cobain and Love appear on the cover of Sassy, an indie magazine directed at young women. Love is quoted in the magazine as saying, "I mean, the reason we're doing this interview is girls have been trained to look up to rock star boys as these... objects ... For me, I didn't want to marry a rock star, I wanted to be one." In subsequent interviews, Cobain derided sexism that he found particularly offensive in mainstream music. "Although I listened to Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin, and I really did enjoy some of the melodies they’d written, it took me so many years to realize that a lot of it had to do with sexism," he would tell Jon Savage in 1993. "The way that they just wrote about their dicks and having sex. I was just starting to understand what really was pissing me off so much, those last couple of years of high school."

  • Yankovic parody

    April 3 • Yankovic parody

    Photo: YouTube

    Parody artist Weird Al Yankovic releases Smells Like Nirvana with Cobain's blessing. Yankovic sings, "What is this song all about? Can't figure any lyrics out, How do the words to it go? I wish you'd tell me, I don't know." Yankovic would later tell Esquire, "I know Kurt cringed at the whole 'voice of a generation' label, but I'd be hard-pressed to name a more influential group from the ‘90s — or arguably since. When I did my parody, I just thought I was making fun of a popular, catchy alternative song — I didn't know at the time that Teen Spirit was basically going to be the defining song of the decade."

  • The Rolling Stone interview

    April 16 • The Rolling Stone interview

    Photo: Mark Seliger/Rolling Stone

    Nirvana appears on the cover of Rolling Stone, which also declares Seattle “the New Liverpool.” Ever the rebel, Cobain wears a t-shirt that reads “Corporate Magazines Still Suck” on the cover.

  • L.A. riots

    April 29 • L.A. riots

    Photo: John Gaps/AP

    Rioters take to the streets in Los Angeles after a jury acquits four LAPD officers who were videotaped beating Rodney King, an African-American man.

  • Cobain enters rehab

    May • Cobain enters rehab

    Cobain enters a drug rehab program in Los Angeles for his heroin addiction.

  • U.S. unemployment climbs to 7.8% as recession worsens

    June • Unemployment climbs to 7.8% as recession worsens

    U.S. unemployment reaches 7.8 per cent as the country continues to muddle through a recession.

  • Hollywood goes grunge with Singles

    June 30 • Singles

    Photo: Amazon

    The soundtrack to Cameron Crowe’s Singles is released, featuring Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Smashing Pumpkins. Taking place in Seattle, the film was marketed to capitalize on the emerging grunge “scene."

  • Grunge dominates Lollapalooza

    July 18 • Lollapalooza

    Photo: (File 2000) Chris Butler, The Idaho Statesman/AP

    The second annual Lollapalooza tour begins with a grunge-heavy lineup including Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. It continues yearly until 1997.

  • Birth of Frances Bean Cobain

    August 8 • Frances Bean

    Cobain and Love’s daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, is born.

  • The Reading Festival

    August 30 • The Reading Festival

    Photo: Amazon

    Nirvana performs at the Reading Festival. The performance is bootlegged and circulated widely. The band would release an official recording of the concert in 2009.

  • Smackdown at the VMAs

    September 9 • Smackdown at the VMAs

    Photo: Frank Micelotta/Getty

    "The guy is a f**king sexist and a racist and a homophobe, and you can't be on his side and be on our side."

    Nirvana continue to cement their role as rebels at the MTV Video Music Awards. Organizers ask the band to not perform their song Rape Me, fearing controversy. Nirvana take the stage and brazenly start playing Rape Me anyway before switching over to their hit Lithium. Cobain and Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose also have an epic confrontation behind the scenes. After being taunted by Cobain and Love, Rose tells Cobain to "shut your b**ch up". In later interviews, Cobain criticized Guns N' Roses for their sexist and homophobic lyrics. He recalled playing a benefit concert and making a joke about Guns N' Roses which prompted a kid in the audience to say the two bands should just work things out. "And I just couldn't help but say, 'No, kid, you're really wrong,'" he told The Advocate. "Those people are total sexist jerks, and the reason we're playing this show is to fight homophobia in a real small way. The guy is a f**king sexist and a racist and a homophobe, and you can't be on his side and be on our side. I'm sorry that I have to divide this up like this, but it's something you can't ignore. And besides they can't write good music."

  • Vanity Fair heroin controversy

    September • Vanity Fair heroin controversy

    Photo: Fred Prouser/Reuters

    Vanity Fair publishes an article about Cobain and Love titled, "Strange Love" by Lynn Hirschberg. The article refers to the couple as possibly the next John and Yoko or Sid and Nancy. It also famously quotes Love referring to a drug binge that occurred when Nirvana filmed their Saturday Night Live appearance — around the time Love found out she was pregnant. "We did a lot of drugs. We got pills, and then we went down to Alphabet City and we copped some dope. Then we got high and went to S.N.L.. After that, I did heroin for a couple of months." Love later says her comments were taken out of context. The couple temporarily lose custody of their daughter.

  • Marc Jacobs burned

    November • Marc Jacobs burned

    “Do you know what we did with it? We burned it. We were punkers — we didn’t like that kind of thing.”

    Marc Jacobs reveals his grunge-inspired collection for Perry Ellis at New York’s Fashion Week (the controversial line was never released to stores). He sends pieces to Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love who later recalls, “Do you know what we did with it? We burned it. We were punkers — we didn’t like that kind of thing.” Other designers including Anna Sui and Christian Francis Roth also embrace the grunge aesthetic into their lines.

  • Vogue embraces 'grunge & glory'

    December • Vogue embraces 'grunge & glory'

    Photo: (AP)

    The grunge look is ubiquitous, claimed by teens, young adults, and fashionistas alike. Vogue magazine runs an essay and photo shoot called “Grunge & Glory” written by Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan Poneman. Newspaper columnist Scott Walton would later probe the flannel shirt, grandpa cardigan trend in March 1993. “The who-cares look is thriving among disaffected youth, who use it to symbolize their feelings of hopelessness: They can’t find jobs, the hole in the ozone layer is growing and no one really listens to them.”

  • Incesticide released: Sexists, homophobes, racists not wanted

    December 15 • Incesticide released: Sexists, homophobes, racists not wanted

    Photo: Geffen Records

    Incesticide is released. The band includes this message in the liner notes for the CD: "If you're a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, we don't want you to buy our records." Cobain was asked about the directive in an interview with the Advocate and replied, "I know there are those people out in the audience, and there's not much I can do about it. I can talk about those issues in interviews — I think it's pretty obvious that we're against the homophobes and the sexists and the racists, but when Teen Spirit first came out, mainstream audiences were under the assumption that we were just like Guns N' Roses."

  • The Bodyguard tops Billboard 200

    December 26 • The Bodyguard tops Billboard 200

    Photo: Warner Bros.

    Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard tops the Billboard 200 list at the end of the year. Other artists to spend time at the top of the charts in 1992 include: Michael Jackson, Nirvana, Garth Brooks, Def Leppard, Kriss Kross, The Black Crowes, Billy Ray Cyrus, Michael Bolton and Ice Cube.

  • 1993

    Clinton era begins

    January 20 • Clinton era begins

    Photo: Ed Reinke/AP

    Bill Clinton is inaugurated as the 42nd president of the United States. Clinton campaigned in large part on a pledge to turn around the slumping economy.

  • 'Definitely gay in spirit,' says Cobain

    June 5 • 'Definitely gay in spirit,' says Cobain

    Photo: The Advocate

    Cobain is featured on the cover of The Advocate, an LGBT magazine. He is among the first rock stars to appear in the magazine and tells interviewer Kevin Allman that he is "definitely gay in spirit." He also recalls, "I used to pretend I was gay just to f**k with people. I've had the reputation of being a homosexual ever since I was 14. It was really cool, because I found a couple of gay friends in Aberdeen — which is almost impossible ... But I had some really good friends that way. I got beat up a lot, of course, because of my association with them."

  • Beavis & Butt-head

    March 8 • Beavis & Butt-head

    Photo: AP

    Mike Judge's cartoon Beavis and Butt-head debuts on MTV. The show centres on delinquent, rocker teens who critique music videos. The duo, who gave a thumbs-up to Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit, were recognizable to Cobain who told People magazine, "I grew up with people like that. I recognize them."

  • Cobain ODs in Seattle

    May 2 • Cobain ODs in Seattle

    Cobain overdoses in Seattle and is taken to Seattle's Harborview Medical Centre.

  • Kim Campbell Canada's first female PM

    June 25 • Kim Campbell Canada's first female PM

    Kim Campbell becomes Canada's first female prime minister, following the resignation of Brian Mulroney.

  • Cobain ODs in New York

    July 22 • Cobain ODs in New York

    Photo: Robert Sorbo/AP

    Cobain admits having used heroin in the past during an interview with British rock journalist Jon Savage. "My body is damaged from music in two ways,' he says. 'I have a red irritation in my stomach. It's psychosomatic, caused by all the anger and the screaming. I have scoliosis, where the curvature of your spine is bent, and the weight of my guitar has made it worse. I'm always in pain, and that adds to the anger in our music. I'm grateful to it, in a way." A day later, Cobain overdoses in a New York hotel room. He recovers and plays the Roseland Ballroom that night.

    Smashing Pumpkins 'the next Nirvana'

    July 27 • Smashing Pumpkins 'the next Nirvana'

    Photo: Virgin Records

    Smashing Pumpkins release Siamese Dream and are billed as "the next Nirvana" in Creem magazine. The album sells around six million copies worldwide.

  • In Utero released

    September 21 • In Utero released

    Photo: Geffen/YouTube

    Nirvana’s third album, In Utero, is released. Big-box stores tell Geffen execs they will not carry the record because it contains a song titled Rape Me. Geffen tells Nirvana they can choose not to sell their records in the chain stores but Cobain relents and suggests they change the name to Sexually Assault Me before settling on Waif Me.

    Grunge declared dead

    September 21 • Grunge declared dead

    Sensing the end of a movement and a shift in Nirvana’s sound, Time magazine declares the grunge era over when reviewing In Utero. “Grunge: loud, crunching rock 'n' roll. Grunge is dead. Put away the flannels that dressed it up, because real innovators like nothing better than to tear off the labels stuck on them by criticism,” writes reviewer Christopher John Farley.

  • 2nd SNL performance

    September 25 • 2nd SNL performance

    Photo: NBC/YouTube

    Nirvana performs on Saturday Night Live and play Heart-Shaped Box and Rape Me. Guitarist Pat Smear joins the band while Charles Barkley, pictured above, hosts.

  • In Utero tops Billboard 200

    October 9 • In Utero tops Billboard 200

    Photo: Geffen

    Nirvana leads the Billboard 200 list for one week with In Utero.

  • Going Unplugged on MTV

    November 18 • Going Unplugged on MTV

    Photo: Frank Micelotta/Getty

    Nirvana records its MTV Unplugged set at Sony Studios in New York. The band invites the Meat Puppets as their guests and they perform 14 songs, filmed in one take. Cobain appears tense and at odds with his bandmates. On a stage lit with candles and adorned with stargazers lillies — as per Cobain's explicit instructions, — Nirvana performs what MTV would later call "the defining performance of the Unplugged era."

  • 1994

    European tour, Cobain ailing

    February 2 • European tour, Cobain ailing

    Nirvana begins a European tour that includes stops in Lisbon, Paris and Rome. The band performs their final show together in Munich. Cobain's voice is haggard and he is diagnosed with severe laryngitis and bronchitis.

    Green Day's Dookie

    February 1 • Green Day's Dookie

    Photo: Reprise Records

    Green Day releases Dookie, a straight-up California punk riff.

  • 'Don't ask, don't tell' military policy

    February 28 • 'Don't ask, don't tell' military policy

    Photo: File, Bruno Domingos/Reuters

    President Clinton's 'Don't ask, don't tell' policy becomes official in the U.S. military. The policy barred the military from discriminating against closeted gay or lesbian people but also banned openly gay or lesbian people from service.

  • Cobain ODs in Rome

    March 4 • Cobain ODs in Rome

    Cobain is rushed to hospital after overdosing in Rome, reportedly from a mixture of Champagne and painkillers.

    Soundgarden's smash hit

    March 8 • Soundgarden's smash hit

    Photo: A&M

    Soundgarden releases their hit album Superunknown, which would eventually reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Less than three years later, though, they would disband as the influence of grunge faded after Cobain’s death.

  • Intervention

    March 25 • Intervention

    A group of friends, including Krist Novoselic and Nirvana manager John Silva, hold an intervention for Cobain. Love leaves the same day to enter a rehab clinic in Los Angeles. Cobain and Love clashed earlier in the month, leading to a raucous domestic dispute. Love called the police and said her husband had locked himself in a room with a .38-calibre revolver and threatened to kill himself. The police confiscated the gun and bottles of pills from the house.

  • Cobain enters, exits rehab

    March 28 • Cobain enters, exits rehab

    Cobain enters the Exodus Recovery Clinic, a rehab facility in Marina del Ray, Calif. Three days later, he tells staff that he's stepping out for a cigarette and returns to his home in Seattle.

  • Cobain found dead: 'I don't have the passion anymore'

    April 8 • Cobain found dead: 'I don't have the passion anymore'

    Photo: Frank Micelotta/Hulton Archive/Getty

    Kurt Cobain is found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Cobain left behind a letter, which read in part, "I appreciate the fact that I and we have affected and entertained a lot of people. I must be one of those narcissists who only appreciate things when they're alone. I'm too sensitive. I need to be slightly numb in order to regain the enthusiasm I had as a child. On our last three tours, I've had a much better appreciation of all the people I've known personally and as fans of our music.... I love and feel for people too much, I guess. Thank you all from the pit of my burning, nauseous stomach for your letters and concern during the last years. I'm too much of an erratic, moody person, and I don't have the passion anymore, so remember it's better to burn out than to fade away."

    Eddie Vedder: 'Don't die. Swear to God.'

    April 8 • Eddie Vedder: 'Don't die. Swear to God.'

    Pearl Jam performs in Washington, D.C. Lead singer Eddie Vedder pays tribute to Cobain, saying, "I don't think any of us would be in this room tonight if it weren't for Kurt Cobain." He added, "Don't die. Swear to God."

  • 5,000 fans mourn at vigil

    April 10 • 5,000 fans mourn at vigil

    Photo: Therese Frare/AFP/Getty

    About 5,000 fans gather in the park by the Space Needle and hold a vigil for Cobain. In a taped message to the crowd, Cobain's widow Courtney Love says, "That '80s tough-love bulls**t, it doesn't work. I should have let him, we all should have let him have his numbness. We should have let him have the thing that made him feel better." Love later joined the mourners and handed out Cobain's old clothes.

    Live Through This released

    April 12 • Live Through This released

    Photo: Geffen

    Live Through This, by Courtney Love's band Hole, is released. It is certified platinum a little over a year later and eventually sells more than 1.6 million copies.

  • Weezer's blue album released

    May 10 • Weezer's blue album released

    Photo: Lucas Jackson/Reuters (2010)

    Weezer releases their blue album. Rivers Cuomo would later say Nirvana was hugely influential on him and declared himself the band's "biggest fan." Cuomo described how Nevermind — specifically the chord progressions and melodies — inspired him to write some of the biggest hits that appeared on his own album, including The World Has Turned and Left Me Here and My Name is Jonas. "[I] was like, 'This is the best music ever.' It felt so close to what I wanted to do," he told Rolling Stone. "It's impossible to avoid the conclusion that Nevermind really inspired us to go for it.”

  • Nirvana Unplugged in New York is released

    November 1 • Nirvana Unplugged in New York  is released.

    Photo: Frank Micelotta/Getty

    Nirvana Unplugged in New York is released. The album debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and is later awarded a Grammy for best alternative music performance. Rolling Stone has since ranked the album No. 313 on its list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.