When Kurt Cobain tragically took his own life in 1994, he left a generation of music lovers in mourning. Some mourned the loss of an all-conquering icon, others mourned Nirvana’s frontman and their favourite singer no longer being there to serenade their restless souls. For Dave Grohl, he mourned for his friend.
The two members of Nirvana shared a special relationship. Much like anyone who has been through seismic life experience with someone close to them, Grohl and Cobain shared an unbreakable bond. After Cobain’s death, Grohl would go on to form his own group, something Cobain had always encouraged him to do, and write a ream of rock classics—but Grohl has only ever written one song about his friend Kurt.
In the immediate aftermath of Cobain’s tragic death, Novoselic and Grohl were unwilling to open up to the press and unfurl their personal stories for tabloid fodder. The media had descended on them and every other aspect of Cobain’s life like ravenous vultures following the sombre news.
The idea of the drummer and bassist offering their own personal relationship with Cobain up as fresh meat seemed self-destructive at best. More recently, Grohl has shared some of his more poignant moments with the singer.
He recently explained that The Beatles song ‘In My Life’ always reminds him of the singer, “It means a lot to me, because it was the song that was played at Kurt Cobain’s memorial,” Grohl explained to Radio 2. “That day, after everyone had said their piece, this next song came over the speakers and everyone got to celebrate Kurt’s love of The Beatles one last time together.
“Still to this day, when I hear it, it touches a place in me that no other song ever will. It’s called ‘In My Life’ and knowing how much of a fan Kurt was of The Beatles, and how much of an influence they were, to everything we’ve done ever done…I’d like to play this one for him.”
His privacy on the matter also meant that while Grohl has always written directly from the heart, he has tended to keep his and Cobain’s relationship off record. There is one song though that Grohl wrote for the singer and it might not be the one you’re thinking of. Many people have pointed to 1997’s ‘My Hero’ from Foo Fighters’ album The Colour and the Shape but that idea was quashed in 2008.
Republican John McCain used the song as part of his campaign without Grohl permission and he revealed the song was actually an ode to the “common man”. The Foo Fighters man said at the time: “The saddest thing about this is that ‘My Hero’ was written as a celebration of the common man and his extraordinary potential. To have it appropriated without our knowledge and used in a manner that perverts the original sentiment of the lyric just tarnishes the song.”
Instead, it was a song from later in the Foo Fighters’ journey, it’s a song that features on the 2005 album In Your Honor but was actually written by Grohl in 1990. ‘Friend of a Friend’ is the track the newly-Nirvana man wrote while staying in Kurt’s Olympia apartment having moved to Seattle to join the band.
The heartbreaking track is a description of his first take of the frontman and bassist Krist Novoselic. The first impressions of two important men in Grohl’s life paint quite a dark picture of the band’s early days. The acoustic track being picked up some fifteen years later to be released by Grohl offers an incredibly reflective performance from Grohl.
The song shows off a dramatic foresight that nobody could have expected as well as offering a vignette of a growing band, “He plays an old guitar/ With a coin found by the phone/ It was his friend’s guitar/ That he played”.
There is also foreshadowing of Cobain’s addiction issues rendered within the lyrics: “He thinks he drinks too much/’Cause when he tells his two best friends/’I think I drink too much’/No-one speaks”. The visceral lyrics suggest why the song has rarely been played live and only featured under Grohl’s name in 2005.
Grohl told Q Magazine about the track: “I’d just moved in with Kurt. I didn’t know anybody. I had a drum set packed in one box and flew up there. I would stay up till the sun came up and sleep all day. Olympia, Washington, is fucking depressing enough and I was living with this person that I didn’t know. But he had a four-track so I wrote songs: Marigold and Friend Of A Friend. It was an observation of Kurt and Krist and I.”
The Foo Fighters man was also asked if he had ever played the song to Kurt, he replied: “No. I don’t think I did. Probably not.”
Below, listen to the only song Dave Grohl wrote about Kurt Cobain.