What Band Started Grunge Music?

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The answer to this question may surprise you – it wasn’t Nirvana, or Pearl Jam, or even Soundgarden. In fact, the band that started grunge music was a little-known group from Seattle called Green River.

The Origins of Grunge

Grunge is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s. grunge music is characterized by its dirty, guitar-driven sound and its themes of angst and alienation. The first band to really start grunge music was Nirvana. Nirvana’s 1991 album, Nevermind, brought grunge music into the mainstream and changed the course of rock music.

The Seattle music scene in the 1980s

While the roots of grunge go back to the early 1980s, it was the mid-1980s when the Seattle music scene began to coalesce around a distinctive sound that would come to be known as grunge. This sound was characterized by heavy guitars and a raw, aggressive approach to songwriting and performing. The bands that helped define this sound were Nirvana,Soundgarden, andAlice in Chains.

Grunge music was often seen as a reaction against the excesses of hair metal bands like
Poison and Guns N’ Roses. These bands celebrated glamour, wealth, and all things artificial, while grunge bands wereq more interested in authenticity and realism. Grunge fashion also reflected this aesthetic, with flannel shirts and ripped jeans becoming common style choices for fans of the genre.

The grunge movement reached its peak in the early 1990s with Nirvana’s album Nevermind. This album introduced grunge music to a mainstream audience and brought Seattle’s music scene into the national spotlight. Unfortunately, Kurt Cobain’s suicide in 1994 brought an abrupt end to Nirvana and signaled the beginning of the end for grunge as a musical movement.

The influence of punk rock

While grunge music is usually thought to be a product of the early 1990s, its roots can be traced back to the early 1980s and the punk rock movement. Punk rock was an aggressive form of music that rejected the mainstream values of the time, and it had a big impact on the grunge scene that developed in Seattle in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The grunge sound was created by bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, who combined elements of punk rock with heavy metal to create a new form of hard rock. Grunge lyrics were often dark and introspective, reflecting the troubled lives of the young people who listened to it.

Grunge quickly became one of the most popular forms of rock music in the early 1990s, but it also attracted a lot of criticism from older generations who didn’t understand it. In 1994, Cobain’s suicide brought an end to Nirvana and marked a turning point for grunge as a whole. The genre continued to be popular in the years that followed, but it never regained the same level of commercial success or cultural relevance.

The Rise of Grunge

Grunge music became popular in the early 1990s with the rise of bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Grunge music is a mix of punk and heavy metal, and is known for its bleak lyrics and dark sound. The genre was due in part to the grunge fashion trend of the early 1990s, which featured ripped jeans, flannel shirts, and dark, unkempt hair.

The formation of Nirvana

Nevermind and In Utero catapulted Nirvana into mega-stardom, effectively putting grunge on the map and making the band one of the most popular and influential bands of all time. But before they became the voice of a generation, Nirvana was just another band trying to make it big. Let’s take a look at how Nirvana came to be, and how they forever changed the course of music history.

Nirvana was formed in 1987 by singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic, who had been friends since high school in Aberdeen, Washington. The two were united by their love of punk rock bands like the Melvins and Black Flag, and their shared disdain for the popular music of the day. In search of a drummer, Cobain and Novoselic placed an ad in a local paper, which was answered by Chad Channing. The three musicians clicked immediately, bonded by their love of music as well as their shared sense of humor.

In 1988, Nirvana released its first album, Bleach, on the independent label Sub Pop Records. Though it was not an instant success (Bleach sold only 30,000 copies upon its release), the album did garner some attention from the press, particularly in Britain. Channing left the band shortly after Bleach was released (he would be replaced by former Scream drummer Dave Grohl), but Nirvana soldiered on, touring relentlessly to build up a following.

In 1991, Nirvana released its major label debut album Nevermind. The record was an instant smash hit, propelled to greatness by the popularity of its first single “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” With Nevermind’s massive success came global fame for Nirvana (and grunge music), something that Cobain famously struggled with. Nevermind would go on to sell more than 30 million copies worldwide and is considered one of the greatest albums of all time.

Nirvana followed up Nevermind with 1992’s Incesticide and 1993’s In Utero. Both albums were critical and commercial successes (though In Utero was initially considered a disappointment by some because it wasn’t as radio-friendly as Nevermind), cementing Nirvana’s place as one of the most popular bands in the world. Tragically, just months after In Utero’s release, Kurt Cobain committed suicide at his home in Seattle at the age of 27. His death sent shockwaves through the music world (and beyond), and left Nirvana’s dedicated fanbase heartbroken.

In 1995, Nirvana was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, cementing their legacy as one of the most important rock bands of all time.

The release of Nevermind

Grunge music rose to prominence in the early 1990s with the release of Nirvana’s album Nevermind. Grunge is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged from the Seattle music scene in the late 1980s. Grunge bands were characterized by their DIY ethic, grungy fashion, and disdain for the mainstream music industry.

Grunge music was initially influenced by punk rock and hardcore punk, but it eventually developed its own distinctive sound and style. Grunge bands typically used distorted guitars, downtuned to make them sound heavier, and they often incorporated elements of punk, metal, and indie rock. Lyrically, grunge songs typically dealt with topics such as social alienation, apathy, insecurity, and depression.

In the early 1990s, grunge music became mainstream with the release of Nirvana’s album Nevermind. The album’s success brought international attention to the Seattle music scene and popularized grunge music around the world. Grunge bands such as Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Nirvana went on to achieve widespread commercial success in the 1990s. However, by the end of the decade grunge bands began to decline in popularity as alternative rock shifted away from its grungy roots.

The Legacy of Grunge

Grunge is a subgenre of rock that emerged in the mid-1980s in the American state of Washington, particularly in the Seattle area. Grunge music is characterized by its dirty, distorted sound and its confessional, often anguished lyrics. The genre was made famous by bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden.

The influence of grunge on subsequent generations of musicians

Grunge was a movement that emerged in the early 1990s, characterized by a raw and aggressive sound that rejected the polished production values of mainstream pop music. The genre was propelled to mainstream success by a number of Seattle-based bands, including Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. While grunge ultimately faded from the mainstream in the mid-1990s, its influence can still be felt in current alternative and indie rock.

The enduring popularity of grunge music

The enduring popularity of grunge music can be attributed to a number of factors. First, the genre emerged at a time when popular music was becoming increasingly manufactured and homogenized. In contrast, grunge bands were seen as more “real” and down-to-earth, making them relatable to many listeners.

Furthermore, grunge music was marked by its heavy, distorted sound, which was a refreshing change from the polished pop of the time. Additionally, the lyrics of grunge songs often dealt with dark or depressing topics, which resonated with many young people who felt misunderstood or alienated.

Finally, grunge culture itself was very attractive to many people. The look and attitude of grunge bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam contrasted sharply with the clean-cut image of most popular musicians, and their disdain for the trappings of fame and fortune was appealing to many fans.

In short, there are many reasons why grunge music remains popular today. Its raw sound and emotionality continue to resonate with listeners, while its DIY aesthetic provides an inviting entry point for new fans.

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