The world was gifted with one of the greatest musicians and songwriters to ever live Feb. 20, 1967. Kurt Cobain became best known as the vocalist of the Seattle grunge act Nirvana and as a man full of wit and “fuck you” tendencies.
In honor of what would’ve been the late, great Cobain’s 53rd birthday, we’ve compiled some of our favorite iconic moments from Cobain, usually with Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl in tow. Check out our list below, and keep in mind that we couldn’t include all of his greatest moments.
1. Top Of The Pops performance
Nirvana were prepared to perform “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the British music show Top Of The Pops. However, at the time, the show’s policy required live artists to solely perform vocals over prerecorded music. In classic Nirvana fashion, they took what they were told to do and turned it into a giant middle finger. After making it obvious that they weren’t really playing the music, Cobain hilariously butchered the vocals to their larger-than-life single.
2. Wore pajamas to his own wedding
Cobain married Hole frontwoman Courtney Love in Honolulu Feb. 24, 1992. A pregnant Love showed up in a dress previously owned by actress Frances Farmer, while Cobain made his appearance in flannel pajamas. This alone showcases Cobain’s “fuck it” attitude, but only he could pull off the no-fucks-given mindset at his own wedding and still manage to win over his bride.
3. Wheelchair at Reading And Leeds Festival
Before their iconic 1992 Reading set, Cobain and his relationship with Love were all the tabloids could talk about, from drug use to rumors of the band possibly splitting up. To mock these reports, Cobain was pushed out in a wheelchair at the beginning of their set wearing a blond wig that resembled Love and a dress. After a very short time on the mic, Cobain fell, confusing the audience even more before the grunge icons kicked off their set with “Breed” from Nevermind. Unknown at the time, this was the final set Nirvana would play in the U.K.
4. Tonight With Jonathan Ross
Nirvana were set to play a live version of their radio hit “Lithium” on Tonight With Jonathan Ross in 1991, but the band had a different idea in mind. After being introduced, Nirvana ripped into an insane performance of “Territorial Pissings” before smashing their gear and exiting the stage. The camera cuts back to host Jonathon Ross, who immediately plugs one of his ears with his pinky, signaling that the loud performance had hurt his ear.
5. VMAs “Rape Me” performance
After being asked to perform at the Video Music Awards, Cobain and crew wanted to play their anti-rape track “Rape Me” on the MTV stage, but the network had other ideas. After threatening to fire an employee who was friends with the band, Nirvana agreed but naturally with a twist. When the grunge band took the stage, they started off playing “Rape Me” before cutting into “Lithium,” giving then-MTV President Judy McGrath a momentary heart attack.
6. Made fun of corporate magazines on the cover of Rolling Stone
This day in music / April 16, 1992 /
Nirvana appears on the cover of Rolling Stone. Read Kurt Cobain's T-shirt: pic.twitter.com/OIUrc3ZavT
— @vinylradar (@vinylradar) April 16, 2018
Being on the cover of Rolling Stone is a feat most bands would love to accomplish. Nirvana graced the cover in April 1992 and were supposed to be dressed in Brooks Brothers suits. After refusing to be something he wasn’t, Cobain ditched the suit for a white T-shirt under a green cardigan. The words “Corporate magazines still suck” could be read on the lead singer’s shirt.
7. MTV Unplugged
MTV Unplugged had been known up until that point as a place where artists showcased their most popular work, but Nirvana decided to turn the tables, playing some lesser-known tracks and covers by artists such as David Bowie and Lead Belly. Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged In New York became the most popular Unplugged performance to date and their most successful posthumous release.
8. Nirvana’s first time playing “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Shortly before Nirvana hit the studio to record what would become Nevermind, the grunge act debuted “Smells Like Teen Spirit” at the OK Hotel in Seattle in April 1991, five months before Nevermind was released. The crowd can be seen going absolutely crazy for the song that they had never heard before. Aside from Nirvana, the benefit concert (which was organized by Cobain) also saw appearances from Bikini Kill and Fitz Of Depression, making for a show any rock fan would do anything to attend.
9. Nevermind goes No. 1, knocking out Michael Jackson
Nirvana released their sophomore full-length, Nevermind, Sept. 24, 1991, unaware of the influence that album would have on the music community. In January the following year, Nevermind grabbed the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200, knocking out Michael Jackson’s Dangerous and showing the world that rock was here to stay. Nevermind is certified multi-platinum and has become one of the best-selling records of all time, as it’s sold over 30 million copies worldwide.
10. Fed Frances Bean Cobain on MTV
Cobain brought his daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, with him during a 1992 interview with MTV. He let Novoselic and Grohl handle most of the talking as he was preoccupied with feeding his daughter. This spontaneous yet beautiful act reflects the frontman’s heart of gold that we all love and miss.
What’s your favorite Kurt Cobain moment? Let us know in the comments below!