Thursday night, Kurt Cobain reaches his final resting place, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Oh, the irony, seeing how the Nirvana frontman was firmly anti-establishment.
When Nirvana joins the elite club, the trio will do so alongside such hitmakers as Linda Ronstadt and Hall & Oates, interesting bedfellows considering that the punk-rock-inspired grunge era signified the rejection of all things mainstream.
Had Nirvana not unleashed Nevermind in 1991, grunge might have been just a footnote in history rather than a turning point. Rolling Stone editor David Fricke and authors Charles R. Cross and Mark Yarm explain grunge's importance in music history.
On Nirvana leading grunge into the mainstream: "A lot of those (grunge) bands, like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, probably would've broken big anyway. But without an album as all-out catchy and ubiquitous as Nevermind — or without Kurt's charismatic presence and his mystique — I doubt grunge would have exploded the way it did," says Yarm, author of Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge. "That Nirvana was inducted into the Hall of Fame on the first try, whereas other bands like Kiss took awhile, speaks to their power."
On saving the world from hair metal: Grunge eschewed girls, booze and partying, and instead spoke to the disenfranchised youth of Generation X.
"Nirvana woke people up to the fact that there was an alternative nation of hard rock bands slaving away in the shadows," says Fricke, who has interviewed Cobain. "They said, 'Wake up, there's a whole iceberg of this music and you're not even looking at the tip.' What they did was really important to the history of rock."
On putting Seattle on the map: "There was no idea that grunge was going to break mainstream, especially in the beginning, because there was no expectation in Seattle," says Yarm. "It's isolated from the rest of the country and touring bands would skip it. It was a musical wasteland, so people there had to make their own fun."
On influencing other bands: "Kurt gave permission to songwriters to write confessional songs," says Cross, who wrote the Cobain biographies Heavier Than Heaven and Here We Are Now. "He opened the door that pop could be more than about girls and cars."
On influencing younger generations: "I see all these kids that weren't even born yet when Kurt was alive and they're fanatical," says Yarm. "They have nostalgia for an era they never knew. "