Today would have been late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s 50th birthday. To celebrate the Grunge icon’s birthday, Alternative Nation has compiled a list of 10 projects we could have seen Cobain take on had he lived.
A Michael Stipe Collaboration
Kurt Cobain and Michael Stipe were scheduled to begin a collaboration spring 1994, around the time Cobain died. Stipe said after Cobain’s death in 1994, “In the last few weeks, I was talking to Kurt a lot. We had a musical project in the works, but nothing was recorded. He loved Courtney and Frances Bean, and he loved Krist and Dave in Nirvana, he really loved those guys. His death is a profound loss, and I just don’t think I can say anything else right now.”
“I was doing that to try to save his life,” Stipe told Interview Magazine of the project in 2011. “The collaboration was me calling up as an excuse to reach out to this guy. He was in a really bad place.”
Stipe’s words suggest that he knew the suicide was inevitable. “I reached out to him with that project as an attempt to prevent what was going to happen,” he explained.
R.E.M. was in Miami recording an album at the time, and Stipe attempted to convince Cobain to fly to meet him. “I simply constructed a project to try to snap Kurt out of a frame of mind,” he revealed. “I sent him a plane ticket and a driver, and he tacked the plane ticket to the wall in the bedroom and the driver sat outside the house for ten hours. Kurt wouldn’t come out and wouldn’t answer the phone.”
Kurt Cobain discussed wanting to join Hole in an interview that took place just under a year before he died.
“I’d like to [collaborate with Love],” he said in the interview eight months before his suicide. “But to tell you the truth, I would rather just quit my band and join Hole.
“When I have played music with them, there’s a level of connection that’s a little bit higher than with anyone else I ever played with,” he added.
We got a taste of what Kurt in Hole would have been like with an alternate version of “Asking For It” featuring Cobain on vocals with his wife Courtney Love.
Acoustic Solo Career
Cobain also discussed wanting to play acoustic, which he was only able to do on MTV Unplugged.
“It might be nice to start playing acoustic guitar and be thought of as a singer and a songwriter, rather than a grunge rocker,” he said. “I could sit down on a chair and play acoustic guitar like Johnny Cash or something, and it won’t be a big joke.”
Cobain’s surviving contemporaries Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell have gone on to have successful solo careers performing with a ukulele and acoustic guitar respectively. There is no doubt Cobain could have done the same had he lived to see his 50th birthday.
1994 Solo Album
Kurt Cobain was beginning to work on solo material in early 1994. Former Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson, who was speaking to US TV station Fuse in 2012, said that Cobain was heading in “a really cool direction” and that the solo album could have been the singer’s ‘White Album’.
He continued: “I was really excited about some of the stuff he was working on. I got to see him play it in front of me. That’s why I was really sad when he died. He was cut short. Who knows where this music would have gone?”
Cobain, Erlandson, and Pat Smear recorded a 4-track demo of “Do Re Mi” in early 1994, with solo acoustic version Cobain did being released on posthumous albums and box sets.
Dave Grohl Collaboration
Kurt Cobain discussed his excitement about collaborating with Dave Grohl on “Scentless Apprentice” for In Utero, and he enjoyed the demos of songs for what would become Foo Fighters’ first album that he heard.
Dave Grohl said, “There were a few songs that Kurt liked a lot and wanted to turn into Nirvana songs, but for some reason he just never did. That song ‘Alone+Easy Target’ Kurt really liked a lot. Then there is a song called ‘Exhausted’ that apparently, he never said to me, but he liked the song a lot. He just wanted to write his own lyrics to it. I think he was afraid to ask me if we could do the song but with his lyrics; that would have been fine, it would have been great.”
While Dave Grohl seemed destined to form his own band like Foo Fighters regardless of if Kurt Cobain had died or not, it seems inevitable that the two would have collaborated more songwriting wise.
Following up on the previous point, it does seem inevitable that Nirvana would have split and Dave Grohl and Kurt Cobain would have focused on their own individual projects, but a Nirvana reunion also would have definitely been on the cards.
Frances Bean Designing Cover Art
While many predicted Frances Bean Cobain would be a musician, she has instead focused on her art work, and one could imagine her designing cover art for her father’s albums.
Kurt Cobain had an appreciation for comedy, as seen by the sketches heard on the Montage of Heck soundtrack, so perhaps Cobain would have done some work as a comedian in a Tenacious D type project? Cobain also was friends with comedians like Bobcat Golthwait.
“I was in Ann Arbor, and I was told that this singer-songwriter guy wanted to meet me. It was Kurt Cobain. Nirvana had just made Bleach.”
“Kurt interviewed me on a college radio station. It was very strange. He was a fan of mine and he gave me his album. I listened to it. I was like, ‘Wow, these guys are really good. You know, too bad you’ll never hear from ’em again.’ A year later I was opening for them.”
“I was opening because Kurt had heard that when I did dates with Cheap Trick – I’d do comedy and kind of emcee. On that that tour, I’d also be the one that would knock on his door to get him to come out and go do the show.”
“I actually spent a lot of time with Kurt and got to be his friend. At the time, he wanted to do a video for ‘All Apologies.’ Kurt wanted it to be him drunk at a party with a gun, but I said, ‘No. You know, you should sing that song as Lee Harvey Oswald. You know, and you’re, like, singing into the lens. And then, you’re assembling your rifle up in the book depository.’ He says, ‘Yeah, but I can’t because MTV won’t let you have guns.’ And I said, ‘What if it’s a pie? You’re assembling a pie. And then you throw it. Either Dave [Grohl] or Kris [Novoselic] could be [John F] Kennedy, and the meringue would hit the back of their head.'”
“He was like, ‘Yeah! That’s a really good idea!’ That’s when Nirvana’s manager told us we couldn’t travel together anymore.”
Kurt Cobain’s Nirvana bandmate Krist Novoselic has become very politically active with his vocal support for Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson and his push for voter reform. Perhaps Cobain would have Made America Grunge Again by running for office?
Kurt was passionate with his support of other bands, and his eye for talent could have been used today to launch his own record label.