Last Thursday night, Nirvana were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame (on their first ever eligible entry) in a star-studded ceremony at the Barclays Center in New York.
The induction also saw the surviving members of the Seattle grunge icons – Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Pat Smear – performing a live set with a rotating cast of female frontwomen, namely Lorde, Joan Jett, Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, and St. Vincent, filling in for Kurt Cobain.
While that performance brought the star power (and nearly broke the internet), it was the band’s induction and acceptance speech prior that brought the emotional side to the glitz and glam.
R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe had the honour of inducting Nirvana, giving a heartfelt turn at the podium that touched on the band’s enduring legacy and personal thoughts on Cobain, a close friend of Stipe’s. He praised Nirvana as “artists in every sense of the word” that galvanised a “movement for outsiders.”
If Stipe’s induction gave people the shivers (watch the full thing here), the acceptance speech by the surviving Nirvana troupe and family brought the significance home. With an entourage including Cobain’s mother, Wendy, Courtney Love, and Krist Novoselic (but no Frances Bean Cobain, who was ill); Grohl – ever the public speaker – took the lion’s share of the time at the podium. “Don’t look up at the poster on your wall and think, ‘Fuck, I can never do that.’ Look at the poster on your wall and think, ‘Fuck, I’m going to do that!'”
The self-described fifth and luckiest Nirvana drummer opened by joking “I was the quiet one in Nirvana,” before going on to thank everyone from the band’s label and management to the underground punk scene Nirvana sprung from, to his predecessor, drummer Chad Channing, who had actually played on ‘Love Buzz’ – the 1988 single that got Nirvana the nod for 2014 induction to begin with.
“If you listen to a song like ‘In Bloom’, that’s Chad,” said Grohl, imitating the thundering drum part – to a huge swell of applause. (Chiefly because Channing had been denied an invite to the ceremony before scoring a ‘plus one’ with Mudhoney).
“Don’t look up at the poster on your wall and think, ‘Fuck, I can never do that.’ Look at the poster on your wall and think, ‘Fuck, I’m going to do that!'” concluded Grohl before handing the mic to Krist Novoselic who thanked the fans and honoured Cobain’s memory.
Following a brief word from Wendy Cobain, Courtney Love took to the mic – to audibly mixed reactions. “I have a big speech but I’m not going to say it,” she offered, giving a heartwarming round of hugs to Grohl and the rest of “her family.”
Read Nirvana’s full Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame acceptance speech (or watch some fan footage of it) via Rolling Stone below, or check out clips of their induction performance here.
Dave Grohl: Thank you very much.
I was the quiet one in Nirvana. I was the drummer. But most of you don’t know that I was the fifth drummer of Nirvana. For whatever reason, I got to be the luckiest person in the world and also be in Nirvana.
But I have to give credit to all of the other drummers that came before me: Aaron Burckhard, thank you very much. Dale Crover, from the Melvins, who is my absolute drumming hero. Chad Channing, who was the drummer for Nirvana. Chad, where are you? I know that you’re here somewhere. Isn’t Chad here somewhere? Chad’s around here, isn’t he? [points at camera] Are you over there? Hey, Chad! So, here’s the thing — guess what Chad’s responsible for? If you listen to a song like “In Bloom” [imitates opening of “In Bloom”], that’s Chad. When I joined the band, I had the honor of playing Chad’s parts, so Chad, thank you very much for allowing me to play your drum parts; I appreciate that very, very much. Dan Peters, from Mudhoney, who got to play one show with Nirvana — thank you, Danny.
But there’s a lot of people that made this possible, people that you might not know, people that I grew up with in Springfield, Virginia. Like Michael said … [reacts to people from Springfield] Really? You could afford the train?
We came from this underground punk rock scene where there really were no awards or ceremonies or trophies — it was all about doing it for real, and the reward was doing it right and doing it for real and sharing the community of music. Helping other musicians and inspiring people. And so I got really lucky to grow up in the Washington D.C. punk rock scene where I was inspired by all these amazing people; too many to list. But everyone from Chris Page to Ralph to Dave Smith to Reuben Radding to Peter Stahl and Franz Stahl and Skeeter Thompson; all the people that I ever played music with — Barrett Jones — I have to thank all of you because I wouldn’t be here.
I’m also lucky that when we first started out, we didn’t know anything about business — we were in a fucking van, buying corn dogs from t-shirts that we had sold. We were lucky that we found a manager named John Silva and we met an accountant named Lee Johnson. And I’m happy to say that I’ve never, ever strayed from those two people in my life. It’s been 25 years! I mean, it’s a long list of people and I’m going to forget most of them.
Most of all, I have to thank my family because I was lucky enough to grow up in a musical family and in an environment that encouraged music. Parents that never told me not to listen to fucking Slayer, you know what I mean? I listened to some really, really fucked-up shit! But my parents never told me not to, because I was finding myself. So Mom — thanks. Thanks for letting me drop out of high school [laughs, points at trophy]. Kids, stay in school, don’t do drugs — it’s a bad idea.
I have to thank my beautiful wife, Jordyn, and my two daughters, who I hope grow up to inspire people just like every musician I grew up inspired by. Because I think that’s the deal — you look up to your heroes and you shouldn’t be intimidated by them; you should be inspired by them. Don’t look up at the poster on your wall and think, “Fuck, I can never do that.” Look at the poster on your wall and think, “Fuck, I’m going to do that!”
Krist Novoselic: Thank you Michael, for that great introduction, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I want to thank all of the Nirvana fans: Nirvana fans walk up to me every day and say, “Thank you for the music.” And when I hear that, it reminds me of Kurt Cobain.
I want to say thank you to Kurt Cobain, and I wish Kurt was here tonight, OK? And that music means so much to so many people, and there’s new generations and new fans coming up, and it’s really powerful. Kurt was an intense artist and he really connected with a lot of people.
With Nirvana, we started in Aberdeen, Washington — in Washington state — and we had a infrastructure there to support us. It was a music community. I want to thank Sub Pop Records; the music community in Seattle, in Washington State. I want to thank Buzz Osborne — thank you, Buzz, for joining us in punk rock music. I want to thank Jack Endino, who recorded our first record. Steve Albini and Butch Vig. Thank you Susan Silver for introducing us to the music industry properly. And thank you all again.
Wendy Cobain: I’m probably going to cry. I’m already crying because he’d be so proud — he’d say he wasn’t — but he would be. I just miss him so much. He was such an angel. Thank you.
Courtney Love: You know, I have a big speech, but I’m not gonna say it. This is my family I’m looking at right now — all of you. Brother Michael, Brother Krist, Grandma Wendy, Mr. Grohl. David!
And that’s it. I just wish that Kurt was here to feel this and be this. Twenty years ago, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame maybe wasn’t — but tonight, he would have really appreciated it. He would’ve appreciated Krist and Dave and Michael and his mother and his sisters being here. And I just want to give this to Frances, our daughter, who’s not here because she’s ill. That’s it —that’s all I have to say. Thank you so very much.