Remembering when Kim Gordon fronted Nirvana for their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction
For Nirvana’s 2014 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic knew they had to mix things up for the evening’s proceedings. With a new take on the band, the duo decided to go with all-female singers to take over on vocal duty and breathe new life into their songs. In a bid not to sound like a Kurt Cobain tribute act, Sonic Youth’s enigmatic Kim Gordon arrived to steal the show.
Once the surviving members of Nirvana found out that they were due to be inducted into the esteemed rock and roll pantheon, they were initially nervous about what direction their live performance could take without their uncompromising frontman to lead the way. After brainstorming, Novoselic and Grohl decided to ensemble an all-star cast of vocalists who could replicate Cobain’s contributions. However, every male artist asked to join refused point blank because of the pressure to do the late singer justice.
Grohl told Rolling Stone: “Some of them were nervous, I think some of them were maybe apprehensive because of how heavy the whole thing is.” Things all changed once Joan Jett signed up to take part and following a conversation with P.J. Harvey who said she’d love to be an honourary member of Nirvana for the night but, unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts, she was forced to pass.
Despite Harvey not being able to take part, it did give Grohl a lightbulb moment, he recalled: “We thought, ‘Wait, it has to be all women. Don’t even ask anyone else. If we can fill the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance with these incredible women singing Nirvana songs, then we’ll have achieved our own revolution. It also added a whole other dimension to the show. It added substance and depth, so it didn’t turn into a eulogy. It was more about the future.”
Once he explained that it would be an all-women cast, the likes of Lorde, St. Vincent and Kim Gordon all happily obliged to join Nirvana on vocals for the celebratory event. All four of the pioneering women, who represent different eras, were a relatively straightforward choice for Grohl, who said: “Joan Jett, who formed the Runaways, changed rock and roll for women, Kim Gordon, from Sonic Youth, was this beacon of light in the predominantly macho, male underground punk rock scene. St. Vincent is a wicked musician that’s pushing boundaries now. And Lorde has an incredible future ahead of her as a writer, performer and vocalist.”
Gordon went on to perform a blistering rendition of ‘Aneuresym’ that night which was electrifying with the former Sonic Youth member looking like she’d been performing alongside for Grohl and Novoselic for decades.
Another reason why Gordon was such a fitting choice to take part was that she played a monumental part in Nirvana’s mainstream success having recommended the band to major label Geffen who, in turn, would go on to sign the band and bring grunge to the masses.
Without Gordon’s influence who knows if Nirvana would have gone onto the same level of success and end up being inducted into the hall of fame all those years later.