The most punk rock thing Nirvana ever did was play MTV Unplugged

Twenty-two years ago today, Kurt Cobain killed himself. He was still just a kid, really, talented and tortured and burdened by a weight he wasn’t equipped to handle. Nirvana’s music left a mark on people, but they left as quickly as they came. How strange to disappear when still at your peak.

Cobain was a little playful, a little rebellious, and a little punk rock – he taunted jocks, smashed instruments, and thumbed his nose at his fame – but the most punk rock thing he ever did was strap on an acoustic guitar and play one of the most intimate, revealing sets of music of the last 30 years.

The boldness wasn’t just in the stripped down set, despite it being unusual for a band known for the raw loudness. MTV Unplugged specialized in that, though Nirvana was one of the last bands we expected to do it. No hiding behind rage and huge sonics; all he had were the songs. The bigger boldness came in their song choices. Six cover songs, including a set of Meat Puppets tunes (see above), old folk songs, and obscure pop tunes. This was a band at the peak of its powers and popularity saying, “Eh, we’ll do what we want.”

And they did, with no apologies. Or rather…

… all of them.

You suck for killing yourself Kurt. I think you had a lot left to offer us. But we’ll take what we can get, because the little you left behind is still pretty damn large.

R.I.P.