The ’90’s: The Rise and Fall of Grunge Music

In late 1991, an unknown band from Seattle released their first album, “Nevermind”. The first track on that album was, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. I’m sure not even frontman for the group, Kurt Cobain saw,”Teen Spirit” becoming the anthem for a whole new musical and cultural movement, that would become known as, ‘Grunge’.

The Grunge movement originated in the city of Seattle, Wa.. The look was youthful, minimum wage working class. Long hair, goatees, t-shirts with plaid over-shirts, and torn jeans. The music was loud, heavy, and a little on the dark side.

Many bands from the Seattle area came along with the movement, with names like, ‘Collective Soul’, ‘Stone Temple Pilots’, and ‘Soundgarden’. But the two bands that stood out at the top of the totem-pole were, of course, Nirvana and ‘Pearl Jam’. Pearl Jam’s debut album, Ten, was released in August of 1991. With deep-voiced, hard singing front-man, Eddie Vedder, the album produced three hits, “Alive”, “Even Flow”, and the thought provoking, “Jeremy”, about a boy, (the title character), who is bullied and harassed at school until he lashes out violently against all of his fellow classmates. The video for the song became a fan favorite and was one of the most played on Mtv in 1992. As for some of the other bands that shined in this genre, ‘Collective Soul’ hit the pop charts with “World I Know” and “Run”, a track from the movie soundtrack for “Varsity Blues”.

The song, ‘Plush’,became a chart hitter for the ‘Stone Temple Pilots’. The band, ‘Blind Melon’, with their melodic, offbeat, but very like-able tune, “No Rain”, became the groups one and only hit. On the flip-side, there was ‘Soundgarden’s’ dark and foreboding, “Black Hole Sun”. The song-title says it all, but still entertaining. Even the established and successful, R.E.M., jumped on the grunge bandwagon with their haunting and almost hypnotic song, “Drive”.

But tragedy would strike that would arguably mean a death-nail for Grunge. On April 8, 1994, the body of Kurt Cobain would be found at his Seattle, Washington home by an employee of an electric company who had come out to Kobain’s residence to install security lighting.

Cobain had just gotten out of rehab for a heroin addiction he’d been battling since before Nirvana became famous. Upon his release from rehab, wife, Courtney Love described the artist as “suicidal” and “deeply depressed.” Cobain was discovered in a spare room above the garage of his home. With a shotgun lying across his body, a gunshot wound to his face, and a suicide note just a few feet away, the final ruling from authorities was indeed suicide. Murder theories arose however, but the performer’s medical examiner and homicide detectives that worked the case, all state that the evidence points to the fact that Cobain died by his own hand. The note that was found contained info about the singer’s immediate future plans. Such as, leaving wife, Love and the music business. Then, the last lines of the note spoke of suicide being the only way out for the troubled star.

Thousands of devoted fans saw Kurt Cobain as an iconic figure who had ushered in the Grunge movement. Sadly and inevitably, when he died, Grunge died with him. Bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Stone Temple Pilots, carried on, but by mid 1996, it was evident that Grunge had peaked and was now spiraling towards the history books. Like the rain-drenched city of it’s birth, Grunge was kind of that way. The clouds of Grunge came and brought the rain with it. Then, it rained that day, the next day, and the day after that. Then the rain stopped. The music will live on.