Where Did Grunge Music Start?

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Grunge music started in the early 1990s in the Seattle, Washington area of the United States.

The Origins of Grunge

Grunge music first originated in the Pacific Northwest in the 1980s. The term “grunge” was first used in a music magazine called “Greed” in 1965. Grunge music is a mix of punk, metal, and alternative rock. The first grunge band is said to be Green River.

The Seattle music scene in the 1980s

The Seattle music scene in the 1980s was a hotbed of activity, with many different genres and styles of music being played in clubs and bars across the city. One of the most popular genres was punk rock, which was championed by bands like the Melvins, Green River, and Soundgarden. These bands would often play shows with other local bands, such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam, who would later go on to become two of the most successful grunge bands in history.

The term “grunge” is thought to have been first used in a 1985 article in the Seattle fanzine Swirling Edge, which described the Melvins as “the champions of grunge rock”. The term was then popularized by music critic Mark Jenkins when he used it to describe Green River’s Dry as a Bone EP in a 1986 article for Washington City Paper.Jenkins later wrote that he had been using the term “grunge” to describe the Seattle music scene since 1984.

The origins of grunge music are closely linked to the city of Seattle and the state of Washington. The genre developed out of the punk rock and heavy metal scenes that were prevalent in the area in the early 1980s, and it was further shaped by the arrival of Nirvana and other influential bands in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The influence of punk rock

The sound of grunge is generally thought to be a melding of the riff-based guitar attack of heavy metal with the raw, angsty attitude of punk rock. While grunge did take cues from both of those genres (as well as classic rock and a few other styles), it is important to remember that grunge was very much its own thing. The pioneers of grunge made music that was dark, heavy, and often Feedback drenched, but also hooks-driven, pop-minded, and even—dare we say it—catchy.

The birth of grunge

Grunge music is often thought to have originated in Seattle in the late 1980s, but the genre actually has its roots in a number of different places. In the early 1980s, bands such as Green River, Melvins, and Mudhoney began to experiment with heavy guitars and a more aggressive sound. These bands were influenced by earlier punk rock groups, as well as by metal and hard rock bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.

As these bands began to gain popularity in Seattle, they helped to create a local music scene that would later be known as grunge. Other important early grunge bands included Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. These bands would go on to achieve massive success in the early 1990s, helping to make grunge one of the most popular music genres of that decade.

The Main Bands of Grunge

Grunge music started in the early 1990s in Seattle, Washington. The main bands of grunge were Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains. These bands brought grunge music to the mainstream and made it popular with a younger generation.


Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic formed Nirvana in Aberdeen, Washington in 1987. The band’s first member was drummer Aaron Burckhard; however, he was soon replaced by Chad Channing. In 1988, the band released its first single,”Love Buzz”; followed by its first album, Bleach, in 1989. The second album, Nevermind, brought Nirvana overnight success in 1991 due to the lead single,”Smells Like Teen Spirit”. The band’s popularity increased dramatically after the release of Nevermind; Nirvana was hailed as spearheading the alternative rock break into the mainstream.

Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam is an American rock band, formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1990. The band’s line-up consists of founders Jeff Ament (bass guitar), Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar), Mike McCready (lead guitar), and Eddie Vedder (lead vocals, guitar), as well as Matt Cameron (drums), who joined in 1998. Boom Gaspar (piano) has also been a session/touring member with the band since 2002. Drummers Jack Irons, Matt Chamberlain, and Dave Krusen preceded Cameron as official band members. Formed after the demise of Ament and Gossard’s previous band, Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam broke into the mainstream with its debut album, Ten, in 1991.

One of the key bands of the grunge movement in the early 1990s,[2] Pearl Jam was criticised early on for its attention-grabbing visuals, which included inducements to suicide.[3] Guitarist Mike McCready said that this negative reception was due to people finding it difficult to believe that “[a] bunch of guys from Seattle could play so hard and have such good songs”.[4] In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 2006, Vedder rejected the assertions made by some critics that grunge was a marketing ploy; he stated that people involved with grunge knew nothing about music: “It’s kind of embarrassing when you start realizing how simple music can be … You sit down and suddenly all this stuff rushes out on paper”.[5]

The band avoided having MTV film one of their concerts for inclusion on television’s Headbanger’s Ball because they felt the show promoted alcohol consumption.[6] Ten reached number two on the Billboard 200 chart,[7][8] maintained its position for nine weeks,[9][10] and was certified diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America in 2013.[11][12] In February 1992 reports surfaced that Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain had checked himself into a drug treatment program;[13][14] moments later, Billboard magazine announced that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” had reached number one on their Mainstream Rock Tracks chart—making Pearl Jam the only act to achieve this feat with a song released after Cobain’s death.[15][16][17] It eventually peaked at number two on both the Billboard 200 album chart[18][19] and Billboard Top Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.[20][21][22]”


Soundgarden was an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1984 by singer and rhythm guitarist Chris Cornell, lead guitarist Kim Thayil, and bassist Hiro Yamamoto. Matt Cameron became the band’s full-time drummer in 1986, while bassist Ben Shepherd became a permanent replacement for Yamamoto in 1990. The band’s fifth member was Vocalist Eddie Vedder.

Soundgarden was one of the seminal bands of the grunge movement in the early 1990s. The band built its audience with extensive touring and consistent releases throughout the decade. By the early 1990s, Soundgarden was ready to break into the mainstream. The band’s third studio album, Badmotorfinger (1991), spawned the singles “Rusty Cage”, “Outshined”, and “Jesus Christ Pose”, and brought the band to a new level of commercial success. Soundgarden subsequently became one of the most successful rock bands of the 1990s.

The album Superunknown (1994) debuted at number one on Billboard 200, yielding hits such as “Spoonman”, “Fell on Black Days”, “Black Hole Sun”, and “My Wave”. In 1996, Down on the Upside was released to critical acclaim but relatively little commercial attention; it would prove to be Soundgarden’s final studio album for 14 years. Cornell voluntarily entered rehab in 1996 due to his struggles with alcohol abuse; this effectively put an end to Soundgarden for several years. Cameron also worked with Pearl Jam during this period; both he and Vedder returned to Soundgarden in 1997 to work on A-Sides, a greatest hits collection that featured three new songs: “Bleed Together”, “Boot Camp”, and “Kickstand”.

Alice in Chains

With a grunge sound that was influenced by metal, Alice in Chains became one of the most successful bands of the early 1990s. The band’s first album, Facelift (1990), debuted at number 18 on the Billboard 200 chart and contained the singles “Man in the Box” and “Sea of Sorrow.”

The band’s second album, Dirt (1992), entered the Billboard 200 chart at number six and contained the singles “Would?” and “Rooster.” The album was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album. Alice in Chains’ third album, Jar of Flies (1994), debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and contained the single “No Excuses.”

The band went on hiatus in 1996 due to singer Layne Staley’s drug addiction, but reformed in 2005 with new lead singer William DuVall. In 2009, Alice in Chains released their fourth studio album, Black Gives Way to Blue, which debuted at number five on the Billboard 200 chart.

The Legacy of Grunge

Grunge music emerged in the early 1990s and quickly became a sensation. The genre was a reaction to the polished and overproduced music of the 1980s. Grunge music was characterized by its raw and unpolished sound. It was also known for its dark and angsty lyrics. Many grunge bands came out of the Seattle music scene, which is why the genre is sometimes also referred to as “Seattle Sound.”

The impact of Kurt Cobain’s death

Kurt Cobain’s death on April 5, 1994, was a shocking and unexpected event. For many fans, it felt as though the voice of a generation had been silenced. Cobain was just 27 years old when he died, and Nirvana was one of the most popular bands in the world.

In the months and years that followed, there was a great deal of speculation about what might have led Cobain to take his own life. Some people believe that he was simply unable to handle the pressure of fame and fortune. Others have speculated that he may have been suffering from undiagnosed mental health issues.

Whatever the reasons for Cobain’s suicide, there is no denying that his death had a profound impact on the music world. Nirvana was one of the key bands of the grunge movement, and their success paved the way for other Seattle-based acts like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.

Cobain’s death also brought attention to the issue of mental health in the music industry. In the years since, there have been numerous initiatives aimed at supporting musicians who are struggling with mental health issues.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, there is help available. In the United States, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit their website at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

The decline of grunge in the late 1990s

In the late 1990s, grunge music began to decline in popularity. This was due in part to the commercial success of Nirvana and Pearl Jam, who were seen as sellouts by some members of the grunge community. In addition, Kurt Cobain’s suicide in 1994 was a major blow to the genre. Grunge music became less popular as other genres, such as electronic dance music and nu metal, rose to prominence. However, it remains an important part of alternative rock history and continues to influence contemporary musicians.

The enduring popularity of grunge

It has been over two decades since the suicide of Kurt Cobain signalled the end of Nirvana, the grunge band that broke into the mainstream and changed the face of rock music forever. In the years since, grunge has undergone something of a revival, with new bands taking inspiration from the genre’s classic sounds. This renewed interest in grunge is perhaps unsurprising, given the timelessness of the music itself.

Grunge emerged in the early 1990s as a response to the polished sounds of popular 1980s bands such as Bon Jovi and Poison. These hair metal bands were all about image and success, something that many young musicians found stifling. In contrast, grunge musicians were more interested in writing songs that reflected their own lives and experiences. This was a music that was raw and real, and it struck a chord with many people who felt alienated by mainstream culture.

While Nirvana will always be remembered as the most successful grunge band, there were many other great groups active during this time. Bands like Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden all released groundbreaking albums that defined the genre. Grunge may have had a relatively short lifespan, but its impact on music is still being felt today.

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