The Big Four Grunge Bands You Need to Know

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Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The Big Four Grunge Bands You Need to Know – Get to know the four grunge bands that shaped a generation and influenced countless other bands today.


Nirvana was an American rock band that was formed in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1987. Nirvana went through a succession of drummers, the longest-lasting and best-known being Dave Grohl, who joined in 1990. With the lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain as the primary songwriter, Nirvana developed a blend of punk rock and heavy metal into a subgenre of alternative rock called grunge.

Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain was the lead singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter of the American rock band Nirvana. He was born February 20, 1967, in Aberdeen, Washington. Cobain formed Nirvana with bassist Krist Novoselic in 1987 and established it as part of the Seattle music scene which later became known as grunge. Nirvana’s debut album Bleach was released on June 15, 1989, on independent record label Sub Pop. The band soon built a strong local following in Seattle and had a growing career in the American underground music scene.

On September 24, 1991, Nirvana released its second album Nevermind. The album’s popularity increased rapidly after the release of its first single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in late 1991. The album went on to become a global success selling over 30 million copies worldwide. In 1992 and early 1993, Nevermind topped various international music charts including the Billboard 200 for a total of nine weeks.

Cobain has been described as one of the most iconic and influential rock musicians in history. He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with Nirvana bandmates Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl in 2014.


Nevermind is the second studio album by American rock band Nirvana, released on September 24, 1991. Produced by Butch Vig, Nevermind was the band’s first album on DGC Records. Despite minimal radio and television exposure and NEVERMIND’s late 1991 release, the album sold 30 million copies worldwide and became one of the best-selling albums of all time. In January 1992, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” from Nevermind peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100, bringing mainstream attention to Nirvana and alternative rock for the first time. The success of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” aided in propelling Nevermind to pole position on Billboards Top Heatseekers chart for two weeks in February 1992, and it spent 331 weeks on the Billboard 200 album chart.

Nevermind was critically acclaimed upon release and has been ranked highly on various publications’ best album lists. In 2005, CNN placed it at number eight on their list of the 40 Greatest Albums of All Time;[7] Rolling Stone ranked it number 17 in their list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time;[8] NME named it the greatest album of all time in its 2013 poll;[9] Pitchfork Media ranked it number 90 in its list of The Top 100 Albums of the 1990s.[10] In 2003, never mind was voted 245th greatest album out of 500 by Arabica magazine.[11][12]

Pearl Jam

You can’t talk about grunge without talking about Pearl Jam. Along with Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden, Pearl Jam defined the genre with their unique sound. With hits like “Alive,” “Jeremy,” and “Even Flow,” Pearl Jam helped put grunge on the map.

Eddie Vedder

Eddie Vedder (born Edward Louis Severson III; December 23, 1964) is an American musician, multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter best known as the lead vocalist, one of three guitarists, and the primary lyricist of the American rock band Pearl Jam. He is known for his deep, baritone voice.


Pearl Jam is an American rock band, formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1990. The band’s lineup consists of founder Eddie Vedder (lead vocals, guitar), Jeff Ament (bass), Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar), Mike McCready (lead guitar), and Matt Cameron (drums). Boom Gaspar (piano) has also been a session/touring member with the band since 2002. Drummers Jack Irons, Matt Chamberlain, Dave Krusen and Dave Abbruzzese are former members of the band.

Pearl Jam achieved mainstream success with their debut album, Ten, in 1991. A critical and commercial success, the album peaked at number two on the Billboard 200 chart and sold over 13 million copies worldwide. It produced three hit singles: “Alive”, “Even Flow”, and “Jeremy”. Their next album, Vs., released in 1993, reached number one on the Billboard 200 and became the band’s best-selling album to date vs. has sold more than nine million copies worldwide. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album[5] and produced five successful singles: “Go”, “Animal”, “Daughter”, “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town”, and “Dissident”. In 1996, Pearl Jam released No Code to mixed reviews but enjoyed substantial commercial success. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart,[6] became one of only two albums to sell more than two million copies without being certified gold or platinum by Recording Industry Association of America,[7] went double platinum in Canada,[8] and was certified Gold in several European countries.[9][10][11] Yield followed in 1998[12][13][14] and achieved better reviews than No Code.[15][16] Like its predecessor vs., Yield debuted at number one on the Billboard 200.[17][18]

After touring extensively behind Vs., Pearl Jam took a break before working on their next album.[19]”Do the Evolution” was released as a single[20] prior to the release of Yield in February 1998.[21][22] In March 1998, Pearl Jam began recording their fifth studio album with producer Brendan O’Brien at Studio Litho in Seattle.[23][24] The result was Binaural which was released via J Records on May 16th 2000; it entered Billboard’s album charts at #2 selling almost 500 000 copies in its first week.[25][26]”Alive” from Ten was nominated for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance at the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards,[27] held on February 21st 2001; however it lost to Lenny Kravitzss Are You Gonna Go My Way?.[28]”Binaural” won Pearl Jam their first Grammy Award for Best Recording Package during pre-televised ceremonies that same evening.[29]”I Am Mine,” written by Eddie Vedder won Grammy for Best Male Hard Rock Performance during main event ceremony broadcast live on television later that night; this was their second award overall for evening


Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell, the frontman ofSoundgardenand laterAudioslave, was one of the most celebrated singers of his generation. He was known for his powerful, four-octave vocal range and for his wide-ranging musical interests, which included punk rock, metal, grunge, and acoustic ballads.

Cornell was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1964. He began playing guitar at an early age and soon started writing his own songs. In 1984, he formed Soundgarden with guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Hiro Yamamoto. The band’s debut album, Ultramega OK (1988), was a critical success but failed to achieve commercial success. With the release of their second album, Louder Than Love (1989), Soundgarden began to break through to a wider audience; the album’s first single, “Loud Love”, became a hit on the Alternative Songs chart.

Soundgarden’s third album, Badmotorfinger (1991), was another critical and commercial success; it spawned the hit singles “Rusty Cage” and “Outshined”, both of which received heavy airplay on MTV. The band’s fourth album, Superunknown (1994), was an even greater success; it debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart and spawned the Grammy-winning single “Black Hole Sun”. After a series of solo albums and side projects, Soundgarden reunited in 2010 and released their sixth album, King Animal (2012).

Cornell died unexpectedly in 2017 at the age of 52; the cause of death was later determined to be suicide by hanging. His death shocked the music world and left many fans devastated. He was survived by his wife Vicky Karayiannis and their two children; his first child with ex-wife Susan Silver, daughter Lillian Jean Cornell Silver (born June 30th 2000), also survives him.


Badmotorfinger is the third studio album by American rock band Soundgarden, released on October 8, 1991 through A&M Records. After touring in support of their previous album, Louder Than Love (1989), Soundgarden began work on Badmotorfinger in January 1991. The album was co-produced by Terry Date and the band.

By May 1991, the album was completed and released to critical acclaim. It has been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America and has sold over two million copies in the United States. Badmotorfinger is widely considered to be one of Soundgarden’s best albums, and is often cited as one of the best albums of 1991.

Alice in Chains

One of the four major grunge bands from Seattle, Alice in Chains was founded in 1987 by guitarist Jerry Cantrell and singer Layne Staley. The band rose to mainstream fame with their second album, Dirt (1992), and their hit single “Would?”, which peaked at number two on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.

Layne Staley

Layne Staley was the lead singer of Alice in Chains, and one of the defining voices of the grunge era. Staley was known for his powerful vocal delivery and his dark, personal lyrics. He struggled with addiction for much of his life, and his battle with drug addiction ultimately led to his untimely death in 2002.


Alice in Chains is an American rock band that formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1987. The band rose to fame as part of the grunge movement of the early 1990s. The band’s classic lineup consisted of vocalist/guitarist Layne Staley, guitarist Jerry Cantrell, bassist Mike Inez, and drummer Sean Kinney.

The band’s first album, Facelift (1990), was a commercial success, debuting at number 42 on the Billboard 200 chart and selling over two million copies in the United States. The album’s second single, “Man in the Box”, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance. The band’s second album, Dirt (1992), was also a commercial success, debuting at number six on the Billboard 200 chart and selling four million copies in the United States. The singles “Would?”, “Them Bones”, and “Angry Chair” all reached the top 30 of the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.

In 1996, Staley unsuccessfully attempted to enter a rehabilitation facility to deal with his drug addiction. He died two years later from a heroin overdose. After his death, Cantrell canceled all touring plans and took a hiatus from music to deal with his grief. In 2006, Alice in Chains reunited with new vocalist William DuVall and released their fourth studio album, Black Gives Way to Blue (2009). The album debuted at number five on the Billboard 200 chart and received positive reviews from critics. Alice in Chains has sold over 20 million records worldwide

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