When Kurt Cobain tragically lost his life in 1994, the entire musical world were united in grief for the treasured Nirvana singer. Few were more devastated than Red Hot Chili Peppers’ honcho Anthony Kiedis who wrote ‘Tearjerker’ as a response to the harrowing event.
While the two bands were thriving within different scenes, there was mutual respect between both acts following a joint tour in which they headed out alongside Pearl Jam in 1991. Even if Kurt Cobain might not have particularly been a massive Red Hot Chili Peppers fan, they did see eye to eye as people.
Two years later, when both bands found themselves on the same bill at Brazil’s Hollywood Rock Festival, Flea even briefly joined Nirvana on-stage and played the trumpet during the performance of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.
As someone who has also struggled with addiction problems, Cobain’s death had a profound impact on Kiedis, who had not only lost a cherished friend, but he also knew that it could easily have been him resting six feet under. The Chili’s singer dealt with his grief the only way he knew how: by channelling it through his music and penning his memories of Kurt on the 1995 track, ‘Tearjerker’.
During the song, Kiedis details his memories of first meeting Kurt when the Nirvana frontman was “sitting backstage in a dress” and referred to him as “the perfect mess”. He then remembers how Cobain was unaware of how much he wanted to impress him and sings, “I wanted badly for you to requite my love”.
Addressing the moment when his world came crumbling down as he heard the news that Cobain had passed. “My mouth fell open, Hoping that the truth would not be true, Refuse the news,” Kiedis emotionally reveals on the track. He also lovingly remembered Kurt’s “whiskers”, as well as the “dimple in (his) chin” and his “pale blue eyes”.
During an appearance on MTV in 1999, Kiedis spoke further about his relationship with Kurt, adding: “You know the first thing I think of with him is the beauty of his spirit, and what a beautiful and soulful loving spirit he had to come to this place and make so much music. As far as him being a drug addict, that just happens sometimes.
“People have a certain void inside of themselves that you know drugs fill into. Drugs are a pretty strong thing, and you can’t always turn it on and off. It affects your brain chemistry, and it’s a pretty complicated mixture of loneliness, depression, drugs, beauty, pain, pleasure, and sometimes it gets all confused, and you end up dying.”
When Kiedis speaks about Cobain’s battle with addiction, it feels like the singer is not discussing the late Nirvana singer at all but instead about his own problems. Their respective struggles further explain why Kiedis felt their souls were so intensely connected, which is also heartbreakingly demonstrated on ‘Tearjerker’.