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The late and great Kurt Cobain, the voice of a generation and leader of the grunge movement, was not only a talented songwriter but also an eclectic music lover. Kurt Cobain’s tastes crossed boundaries, incorporating punk, indie rock, folk, and plenty in between.

This article pays tribute to the legendary Nirvana frontman as we delve into Kurt Cobain’s 10 favorite bands – forming the soundtrack of an icon.


Who Were Kurt Cobain’s Favorite Bands?

1 – Bikini Kill


Kurt Cobain’s enthusiasm for Bikini Kill, a Riot Grrrl band known for its feminist stance, reaffirmed his support for women’s rights. Kurt greatly admired their DIY spirit, provocative lyrics, and profound socio-political messages. Musically too, their raw, aggressive punk sound impacted Kurt Cobain.


2 – The Buzzcocks


The Buzzcocks have evolved from northern punk scene pioneers to an evergreen influence on grunge, emo, and pop-punk. Despite not reaching the heights of contemporaries like The Clash or the Sex Pistols, Kurt Cobain’s love for punk shines through his admiration for The Buzzcocks.

The British band’s fast-paced, hook-laden songs left a profound impact on the Nirvana frontman. Without the Buzzcocks and their raw, powerful style, Nirvana’s sound might have taken a drastically different course.


3 – Daniel Johnston


Kurt Cobain’s devotion to Daniel Johnston extended beyond music, resonating not only with Johnston’s offbeat and innocent melodies but also with his struggles with mental health. The iconic Nirvana frontman often wears a Daniel Johnston t-shirt, sparking widespread interest in the relatively obscure artist.

It was in the distant summer of 1992 that Kurt Cobain, then arguably the most celebrated left-handed guitarist on Earth, proudly displayed a white shirt adorned with a simple drawing of a friendly, wide-eyed extraterrestrial creature seated atop an inviting inscription that read, “Hi, How Are You.”

This t-shirt would reappear in interviews, concerts, and photo sessions, prompting a discreet buzz of curiosity— “Where did this come from?” For many, this marks the beginning of the story of American composer, musician, and visual artist Daniel Dale Johnston.


4 – The Frogs


The Frogs held a special place in Kurt Cobain’s heart, admired for their idiosyncratic approach to music, humorous lyrics, and unorthodox performances. Kurt Cobain, drawn to the strange and offbeat aspects of the music spectrum, found a kindred spirit in The Frogs. Despite their focus on homoeroticism, which stirred controversy and angered the gay community, their home recordings embraced a comedic manner, embodying their distinct attitude.

In the face of struggling record sales and ongoing controversy, The Frogs defied the odds, cultivating a cult following that included luminaries such as Beck, the Smashing Pumpkins, Sebastian Bach, Eddie Vedder, and, notably, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain.

Their connection deepened after meeting Cobain in 1993 when The Frogs dedicated two songs to the Seattle native. Going beyond, the brothers crafted a videotape titled “Toy Porno,” featuring live performances and stop-motion animation with painted toys. According to urban myth, this tape became a constant source of amusement on Nirvana’s tour bus, showcasing the enduring impact of The Frogs on Kurt Cobain’s world.


5 – Leadbelly

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Nirvana – Where Did You Sleep Last Night (Live On MTV Unplugged Unedited)


After Nirvana’s first album ‘Bleach,’ which didn’t receive much commercial support, Kurt Cobain decided to seek more influences to aid in his growth. This led Kurt Cobain to discover an artist who gained fame at the beginning of the 20th century: Leadbelly.

Kurt Cobain’s obsession with Leadbelly was known for his blues and distinctive folk style, having composed over 300 songs, many of which profoundly impacted the Nirvana leader. Little-known is Leadbelly’s time in prison, where he was released after singing a song to the governor of Texas, expressing forgiveness and remorse.

Due to this profound admiration, Nirvana paid a small tribute to Leadbelly in their performance of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” on the ‘MTV Unplugged’ album. Kurt Cobain’s adoration for blues music resonates in his love for Leadbelly, who became a significant influence on his acoustic work.


6 – Meat Puppets

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Kurt Cobain’s profound love for punk and alternative music extended to his strong admiration for the Meat Puppets, an influential American rock band from Arizona. Nirvana’s cover in 1993 on “MTV Unplugged in New York City” showcased the convergence of their musical styles.

Nearly 30 years after Kurt Cobain’s death, the Meat Puppets continue to thrive, recently releasing the EP “In A Car”. The enduring influence of the Meat Puppets on Nirvana and Kurt Cobain’s musical journey remains a testament to their lasting impact on the alternative rock scene.


7 – The Melvins


From Kurt Cobain’s hometown of Washington came The Melvins, hugely influential sludgy forefathers to the grunge movement. Kurt Cobain, in his teenage years, frequented their shows and even worked as a roadie at one point. The Melvins’ sludgy, doom-laden sound became a profound influence on grunge music, shaping bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Green River, and many others from Seattle.

Fans of Nirvana and Soundgarden owe a lot to Buzz Osborne and The Melvins for their contribution to the grunge scene. Kurt Cobain’s affection for The Melvins remained unwavering throughout his career, leading him to offer to sign the band to his label late in his life.


8 – Sonic Youth


New York noise icons and godparents of indie cool, Sonic Youth gave Nirvana their first real break by taking them out on tour and helping them get signed to DGC Records. When “Nevermind” blew up soon after, Nirvana returned the favor by publicly praising the band and ensuring a substantial number of art-damaged experimental rock records reached the hands of budding grunge enthusiasts.

Sonic Youth, the alt-rock pioneers, were close allies and mentors to Kurt Cobain. Their unique blend of rock noise, artistic aesthetics, and underground ethos served as a guiding light for Kurt Cobain.


9 – The Vaselines


The Vaselines’ simplistic charm and subtle humor seamlessly resonated with Kurt Cobain’s sensibilities. Their impact on Kurt Cobain’s songwriting style, particularly in crafting emotionally charged and delicate lyrics, remains indisputable. As the seismic wave of “Nevermind” erupted in 1991, the Vaselines had long disbanded, leaving behind a somewhat obscure legacy rooted in a couple of delightfully unpolished recordings that had scarcely ventured beyond Scotland.

Yet, Kurt Cobain wielded his newfound mega-fame as a force for good, tirelessly championing the band as his all-time favorite. This included electrifying covers of their tracks such as “Molly’s Lips” and “Son of a Gun” (featured on the outtakes collection Incesticide), a breathtaking rendition of “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam” for Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged and even naming his daughter Frances Bean in homage to one of the group’s key members.


10 – Wipers


Formed in 1977 in Portland, Oregon, by Greg Sage (guitarist and vocalist), Sam Henry (drummer), and Dave Koupal (bassist), the punk band Wipers garnered acclaim for their tight song structure and heavy distortion, earning praise from critics and musicians alike.

Kurt Cobain’s favorite albums list notably included their 1980 LP “Is This Real?,” 1981’s “Youth of America,” and 1983’s “Over the Edge,” showcasing his genuine appreciation for the Wipers’ sound and influence on his musical taste.

What Were Kurt Cobain’s Favorite Albums?


Kurt Cobain’s 50 Favorite Albums, as revealed in his handwritten list found in the 2002 scrapbook Journals, provide a fascinating glimpse into the musical influences that shaped the iconic Nirvana frontman. Despite his discomfort with fame, Kurt Cobain used his platform to spotlight lesser-known artists, steering fans toward underground gems spanning the globe. His list encompasses diverse genres, reflecting his eclectic taste and commitment to supporting the music he loved.

The Classics: Kurt Cobain’s early musical obsessions included The Beatles, with a nod to their U.S. debut, Meet the Beatles. Mid-’70s Aerosmith and David Bowie also left lasting impressions, showcasing the diverse influences that contributed to Nirvana’s sound.

The Punks: Cobain’s punk-rock initiation covered pioneers like The Stooges and the Sex Pistols, as well as more extreme hardcore acts like Black Flag and Fear. The list highlights how Nirvana absorbed and reinterpreted punk elements, evident in tracks across their discography.

The Alt-Rock Peers: Nirvana’s success was influenced by alt-rock predecessors, with nods to Mudhoney, Sonic Youth, Pixies, Breeders, and R.E.M. Each played a role in shaping Nirvana’s sonic landscape, evident in tracks like “Negative Creep” and “Drain You.”

The Lo-Fi Loves: Cobain championed amateurism and lo-fi indie pop, embracing bands like The Shaggs, Vaselines, Daniel Johnston, Shonen Knife, and more. These influences brought out Nirvana’s playful side, evident in Incesticide’s odds ‘n’ sods and MTV Unplugged moments.

Cobain’s list not only showcases his musical tastes but also reflects his commitment to dismantling rock’s patriarchal power structure. It’s a testament to his role as a tastemaker, guiding listeners through a rich tapestry of sounds that inspired the grunge movement and Nirvana’s enduring legacy.


Is just a guy who got tired of bothering his friends talking about music, and decided to create a blog to write about what he loves the most.
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