Cultural impact of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ still resonates today

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The year is 1991. Operation Desert Storm begins in Kuwait. Internet becomes available and has a network of one million users. “Beauty and the Beast” comes out in theaters across the country.

In 1991, change was happening in many aspects of human society. One of the biggest changes, however, had nothing to do with the military, the internet boom or Disney princess cartoons.

A new wave in music was changing the face of the industry forever. Nirvana, a foursome from Aberdeen, Wash., performing out of Seattle, had hit the scene with its new album “Nevermind.”

This album sparked the beginning of a new genre of music. “Grunge,” a combination of heavy metal and alternative rock, officially marked the end of the hair metal stage that plagued the late 80s.

The album, led by the hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” started off slow, selling only 250,000 copies in its first two months. But eventually, it went to the top of the charts, knocking off Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous.”

Since then, “Nevermind” has gone Diamond, selling over 40 million copies worldwide.

Though the album has had tremendous success as a product, it has had a more noteworthy impact as an influence for now successful artists of all musical genres.

The most common spawn of Nirvana and “Nevermind” is the Foo Fighters, led by then-drummer Dave Grohl. While playing with Nirvana, Grohl practiced and recorded songs and rhythms on his own. After Kurt Cobain’s death, Grohl used these tracks as a stepping-stone for the Foo Fighters.

The Foo Fighters latest album “Wasting Light” featured former Nirvana bassist Krist Noveselic. The album sold over 235,000 copies in its first week. This album was recorded in Grohl’s garage, which gave it a grunge-like tone similar to “Nevermind,” which Nirvana recorded in its producer’s Madison, Wis. home.

 Because Grohl’s time with Nirvana became the forefront of what would soon be the Foo Fighters, it is evident that without “Nevermind” and its success, this alternative, post-grunge group may have never existed. 

In a recent interview with Q4 Music, Jared Leto, lead singer of 30 Seconds to Mars, and “Fight Club” actor spoke about “Nevermind” and how it led him to begin a new type of music career.

Nirvana gave him and other musicians “permission to pick up an instrument and create,” and without their influence he “would not be here.”

As part of the 20th anniversary of the album, SPIN Magazine interviewed 40 musical artists and asked them to speak about “Nevermind” and what influence it had on them.

One might think because of its grunge style and hint of alternative rock, most artists and bands influenced would be of the same genre. As shown by SPIN Magazine, that is not the case.

Greg Gillis of Girl Talk said “Nevermind was “the pivotal album in my life.”

Talib Kweli listed it alongside Bob Marley’s “Talkin’ Blues” as an album that is “damn near perfect.”

Flea, the bassist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, spoke about how “Nevermind” came out on the same day as their new album “Blood Sugar Sex Magik.”

After hearing the album continually on the radio instead of his own band’s, he insisted that Nirvana “turned out to be the greatest band in the world.”

Ben Folds said after hearing Nirvana perform “Nevermind” in Australia,  “I left feeling inspired in a way I hadn’t felt before, and the next day I did the thing that punk rock was always meant to make you do. I started a band.”

The Nirvana dynasty lasted only seven years in total, due to the abrupt death of Kurt Cobain. However, the impact and influence Nirvana had on the music industry is unprecedented. As shown by the diverse musical artists they have affected, its influence and success will live on forever.

Easterhouse is a freshman from Evergreen Park, Ill. majoring in communications.

features@thedepauw.com