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Michael Stipe Inducts Nirvana Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Michael Stipe
Larry Busacca, Getty Images

The late Kurt Cobain was a great admirer of R.E.M. So it’s fitting that the latter group’s vocalist, Michael Stipe, inducted Nirvana into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Both Nirvana and R.E.M. bubbled up from the American underground and provoked the mainstream into accepting their music, no matter how left-of-center it seemed at the time.

Stipe’s induction speech smartly and succinctly put Nirvana — who he called “artists in every sense of the word” — into social, political and cultural context, in order to capture what made the band great. “Nirvana tapped into a voice that was yearning to be heard,” Stipe said at one point. Later, he added: “They spoke truth, and a lot of people listened.”

These people included plenty of misfits and outsiders, a community that Stipe noted Nirvana reached with its music — much like his own band, R.E.M. “We were a product of the community of youth looking for connection beyond the mainstream,” he noted.

Yet Stipe also acknowledged the ephemeral nature of Nirvana’s career — “Nirvana captured lighting in a bottle. The potency and the power of their defining moment has, for us, become indelible” — and acknowledged how Kurt’s death left a void.

“That voice,” Stipe said. “Kurt, we miss you. I miss you. Nirvana defined a moment.”

Taken as a whole, Stipe’s speech summarized the seismic nature of Nirvana’s music: “This is not just pop music. This is something much greater than that.” In comparison, the speeches made by members Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and members of Cobain’s family — including his mother and widow, Courtney Love — overall touched more on the tangible aspects of Nirvana’s music.

Grohl gave credit to all Nirvana drummers before him — especially Chad Channing, who he singled out for his ‘Nevermind’ drum contributions — and all the people he’s played music with over the years. He also thanked his family for letting him drop out of high school and follow his passions. “I was lucky enough to grow up in a musical family in an environment that encouraged music,” Grohl says. “Parents that never told me not to listen to fucking Slayer.”

Novoselic shouted out Nirvana’s first label, Sup Pop, producers Jack Endino, Steve Albini and Butch Vig, and Melvins’ Buzz Osborne, “for turning us on to punk music.”

He also thanked the band’s many loyal supporters: “Nirvana fans walk up to me every day and say thank you for the music…When I hear that, that reminds me of Kurt Cobain.” Following a touching, teary appearance from Kurt Cobain’s mom, Wendy O’Connor — who simply said, “I just miss him so much. He was such an angel” — Courtney Love ended things in a slightly unsteady fashion.

Appearing overcome with emotion, the Hole frontwoman seemingly abandoned her planned remarks: “You know, I have a big speech, but I’m not going to say it.” Instead, after saying a few words, she ended up hugging other people on stage (including Grohl and Novoselic) and said, “That’s it. I just wish Kurt was here to hear this. Feel this. Tonight, he really would have appreciated it.”

Next: Linda Ronstadt Inducted Into Rock Hall

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