Celebrate Kurt Cobain’s 45th Birthday: A Look Back at His 5 Most Memorable Songs

Believe it or not, Kurt Cobain would be 45-years-old today. It’s certainly hard to see the icon of “Grunge” and “Alternative” music as a middle-aged musician, given that he tragically ended his own life at the age of just 27. Cobain seemed to stand then, as he does now, as a metaphor for the angst of post-adolescence, and for resisting the transition into adulthood at the sacrifice of one’s youthful ideals and views. Who knows what the 45-year-old Cobain would be up to now, and what he’d think of the state of rock and roll.

We thought it might be a fitting tribute to Kurt on his 45th birthday to take a look at Kurt’s best work as the front man for Nirvana and present his 5 most memorable songs.

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Okay, this is definitely the most obvious choice for this list, but that doesn’t make it any less important or memorable. As the first track on their major label debut, “Nevermind,” it was the song that perhaps single-handedly stuck a dagger into the heart of hair metal, making it almost comical for the next fifteen or twenty years. The opening guitar riff alone is enough to elicit feelings of something new, or rather something old made new again. By the time the chorus kicks in, Kurt and company have already hit your ears with a solid right hook and there’s no end in sight. Slick production and raw emotion made this song the anthem of a generation.

“Come As You Are” – Another track from “Nevermind,” the song was another that epitomized what the band was all about. Stripped of a lot of the raw emotion and energy of their other tracks, “Come As You Are” has a devastatingly addictive guitar hook that immediately draws you in. Couple that riff with Kurt’s almost loping vocal and a chorus that just dips its toe into the land of distorted guitars, and you have yourself another vintage Nirvana song, forever linked to the Seattle sound.

“Heart-Shaped Box” – The story goes that Cobain’s widow Courtney Love actually gave him a box in the shape of a heart that helped inspire some of the lyrics. The song itself, the first single from their second and final studio-produced album “In Utero,” is extremely dark in both lyrical content and the very sound of the track. The verses contain an almost beautiful vocal melody that’s then beaten about the head by the driving, screaming nature of the chorus and its lyrics, “Hey! Wait! I’ve got a new complaint!” The video for the song was full of twisted interpretations of religious and cultural iconography, which helped to create a pretty dark aura around the song.

“All Apologies” – It doesn’t matter whether you’re listening to the version on “In Utero,” or from “Unplugged In New York,” which could easily be given the title of “Best MTV Unplugged Performance of All Time.” The song is hauntingly beautiful. “What else could I be? All apologies.” What exactly was Kurt apologizing for? That vague and ambiguous nature of the lyrics allow the listener to identify with the emotional tone of the song, making it one of the band’s most popular by far.

“Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” – It was covered by Lead Belly, which is the version that reportedly inspired the band to cover it themselves. What makes this song so important is that it’s the final song on what many experts consider Nirvana’s greatest work. “MTV Unplugged” was a juggernaut and the time, and for fans of Nirvana it was a real treat to hear their work stripped of the distorted guitars, allowing the melodic beauty of their music to shine through. The end of this song leaves a haunting resonance in your ears, as you clearly can hear him take a giant breath inward just before belting out the final “…night through” of the chorus, carrying the final note as far as his voice would let him. It just seemed like a fitting farewell, though no one could have seen it that way at the time.

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