50 Cent to Neil Young: 10 songs that call out Kurt Cobain
April 5 will mark 20 years since the untimely death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. But despite the two decades that have passed since Nirvana came to a halt, the GRAMMY-winning grunge pioneers continue to gain recognition.
On April 10 Nirvana will become the first grunge-era band to join the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when they're inducted during a ceremony in New York. Earlier this year, Cobain's hometown of Aberdeen, Wash., declared Feb. 20 (the singer's birthday) Kurt Cobain Day. And widow Courtney Love recently revealed tentative plans for a Cobain-inspired Broadway musical.
Needless to say, people can't stop talking about Cobain and Nirvana, including their peers. Below we present a list of 10 songs that name-check (or were written for) the venerable musician.
Sheryl Crow, "Maybe Angels"
"My sister, she says she knows Elvis/She knows Jesus, John Lennon and Cobain, personally"
According to Songfacts.com, Crow was interviewed for a 1996 issue of New Musical Express and described the song — which appears on her 1996 GRAMMY-winning self-titled album — as an "extraterrestrial yarn that finds Kurt Cobain joining John Lennon in heaven's winged choir."
50 Cent, "A Baltimore Love Thing"
"I hung out with Marvin when he wrote 'Sexual Healin'/Kurt Cobain we were good friends, Ozzy Osbourne too/I been with rock stars/See you lucky I'm f***ing with you"
Featured on his 2005 GRAMMY-nominated album The Massacre, 50 Cent's tale of a relationship riddled by drugs coincidentally takes place in Baltimore, Md., considered the heroin capital of the United States. That same addictive substance plagued Cobain for a majority of his short life.
Deana Carter, "One Day At A Time"
"Thanks to Elvis and Kurt Cobain/The world will never be the same"
Why is a country singer/songwriter name-checking a grunge artist? Mostly as a symbol of a life lived, however short, on your own terms.
The Cranberries, "I'm Still Remembering"
"What of Kurt Cobain, will his presence still remain?"
Featured on the Irish band's 1996 Top 5 album To The Faithful Departed, which, as its title suggests, features songs about the deceased, "I'm Still Remembering" was written six months after the death of Cobain. "It was kind of sad how, you know, sometimes, when people die, you expect there to be a silence," said vocalist Dolores O'Riordan in an interview with MTV in 1996. "But there wasn't a silence."
The Cult, "Sacred Life"
"Kurt Cobain was so young/Sad to see this poet's gone"
Co-written by the Cult's Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy, "Sacred Life" is the title track to the band's 1994 self-titled album, which Astbury described as "very personal, and very revealing" songs about his life. Perhaps like Cobain's life, the song is a cautionary tale.
Talib Kweli, "I Try"
"Disturbed by the fame/Just like Kurt Cobain"
On this track, which features Mary J. Blige and was produced by Kanye West, Kweli compares Cobain's struggle over his unwanted fame to his own struggles, albeit slightly different: "Got searched on the plane, Arabic first name/Disturbed by the fame just like Kurt Cobain."
Neil Young, "Sleeps With Angels"
"He sleeps with angels too soon/He's always on someone's mind/He sleeps with angels"
The title track to Neil Young And Crazy Horse's 1994 GRAMMY-nominated album, Young wrote "Sleeps With Angels" following the death of Cobain, who quoted a lyric from Young's "Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)" in his suicide note. "When he died and left that note, it struck a deep chord inside of me," wrote Young in his 2013 autobiography Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream. "It f***ed with me." After being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, Young thanked Cobain "for giving me inspiration." Yeah, we know, it's not technically a name-check, but close enough for us.
Patti Smith, "About A Boy"
"Toward another, he has gone/To breathe an air beyond his own"
OK, no name-check again, but this was Smith's ode to Cobain. "About A Boy" was released on her 1996 album Gone Again. The production of the album was inspired by the deaths of Smith's friends and peers, including her husband Fred "Sonic" Smith, her brother Todd, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Cobain.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Tearjerker"
"I liked your whiskers/And I liked the dimple in your chin"
Featured on their 1995 album One Hot Minute, "Tearjerker" was co-written by the band as a tribute to Cobain and recalls the time Nirvana opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers on tour in 1991. "Kurt's death was an emotional blow, and we all felt it," frontman Anthony Kiedis said.
Lily Allen, "Air Balloon"
"I don't like dropping names but Kurt Cobain is all in my face"
Possibly one of the most recent songs to name-check Cobain, "Air Balloon" is the second single from Allen's forthcoming studio album, Sheezus. The shout-out proves that, even 20 years later, Cobain hasn't, and likely will never, fade away.