It's hard to believe that this would have been Kurt Cobain's 49th birthday. It's harder still to comprehend that the Nirvana frontman who helped changed the face of music has been dead and gone for almost 22 years. But his legacy remains as powerful as ever, and his music continues to inspire and move whole generations of fans.
His music wasn't all he was known for; Cobain's offstage antics made him the sort of celebrity he claimed to loathe, while his onstage performances were utterly unforgettable. Here are the top television appearances Kurt Cobain left us with before his untimely death. They're inarguable proof that there has never been an artist like Cobain before or since.
The Word (1991)
Looking for a bit of Nineties nostalgia? Then you'll love this, the first televised performance of the song that would define a generation: "Smells Like Teen Spirit." The wacky set design aside, it's clear the band is a powerhouse and a force to be reckoned with. It also features quite possibly the most original announcement of a relationship ever, with Cobain proudly calling Courtney Love "the greatest f*** in the world." The Nineties were a very different time. Anyone else suddenly missing their flannel?
Headbanger's Ball (1991)
Leave it to the grunge star to show up at MTV's Headbanger's Ball in an actual ball gown. Showing off his dry and sardonic humor, Cobain is a vision in yellow; bass player Krist Novoselic can barely contain his amusement over the entire situation (particularly the utter confusion of the interviewer).
MTV Video Music Awards (1992)
Well, there was a lot going down at the VMAs back in 1992. Let's review: Kurt Cobain teases a clip of what will become the hit song "Rape Me," Krist Novoselic nearly brains himself by tossing a bass, and the feud with Guns 'n Roses singer Axl Rose hits a new level. Rose and Cobain had previously traded barbs via the press, with Cobain calling Axl a woman beater and Axl disparaging Cobain as a junkie. The two almost came to blows backstage at the VMAs this year (and Dave Grohl's hilarious heckling probably didn't help things).
Saturday Night Live (1992)
It's not enough to be the biggest rock band in the world; sometimes you need to push the envelope. As the credits rolled for their Saturday Night Live performance, Novoselic grabbed Cobain and began passionately making out with him. Why? Partly to cheer up the despondent Cobain, but mostly to enrage any homophobes who might be watching their performance. SNL was not pleased with the impromptu makeout session, and refused to air it in reruns of the show.
MTV Unplugged (1993)
When Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994, MTV played his Unplugged performance on loop in memory of the musician. It remains one of his most haunting and devastating performances; as the band goes through their favorite songs and some memorable covers (including David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold The World"), it's clear that Nirvana has captured a sound unlike any other. Less than four months after this moving and unforgettable performance aired, Kurt Cobain was dead.