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Indrita Ganguly


Sounds of Seattle: how grunge became a lifestyle

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24 days ago
24 days ago
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“Punk is musical freedom. It's saying, doing and playing what you want. In Webster's terms, 'nirvana'

means freedom from pain, suffering and the external world, and that's pretty close to my definition

of Punk Rock.” -Kurt Cobain

The 1990s was an era of distortion. After the Black Monday fall of the stock market on 1987, people

were left unemployed and poverty stricken. The first voice was, however, raised from Seattle.

Whenever we think about world changing music, we reminisce of the Beatles era, when everything

was easy and smooth. But for a fact, rock music changed a lot after that. Till the 80s, rock was

essentially high-powered stadium anthems with bands such as Kiss and Bon Jovi. But it all changed in

the early 90s

In the summer of 1991, three fine young men, from Seattle topped the US billboards with their

flagship song from their debut album. The band was Nirvana, the album was Nevermind and the

song was Smells Like Teen Spirit. The contribution of Nirvana, in the entire 90s music scene is

inexplicable. In their short-lived time, Nirvana released three albums which were massive success

among the youth.

The success of nirvana lied in the desperate times. Not to say that the lyrics had deep meaning and

distorted harmony in them. The music style of music made famous by Nirvana came to be known as

Grunge. The definition of grunge was simple, dirty, unclean and shabby. The music, on the other

hand talked about real life issues. Grunge music was the mixture of 70s metal and punk rock. Along

with distorted music and cryptic, meaningful lyrics grunge soon became the anthem of the

generation-X. And Kurt Cobain, the frontman of Nirvana became the voice of an angry alienated


The grunge musicians were normal day to day people, wearing ordinary clothes and that is mostly

why the youngsters could relate to them. Grunge music was filled with anger, rage, grief and the

sense of not being able to do anything about it. Eric Garber in The Psychology of Grunge, says

“Teenagers today are bombarded by rock music and visual images stemming from the covers of

magazines (Rolling Stone) and from the greatest medium of all- TV. MTV, that is. Young people can

affiliate with the bitter emotions of loneliness and abandonment by looking up to such individuals as

Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana who radiate the true meaning of grunge.”

Nirvana as a band lived a very short time in fame. The band came to an end after Cobain’s suicide in

5 th April 1994. But the fire that Nirvana has ignite was burning throughout America. Seattle gave

birth to newer bands like Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Foo Fighters. Among them, a band named

Soundgarden, topped the charts again with their debut song Black Hole Sun. Grunge, after the death

of Kurt Cobain did not just “burn out” or “fade away”, but became an Idea. And ideas are


“It's better to burn out than to fade away.” -Kurt Cobain in his suicide note

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