The Truth Behind Neil Young’s Nickname ‘The Godfather Of Grunge’

Grunge music first emerged in the USA in the 1980s as a subgenre of rock music, and it is the fusion of punk and heavy metal sounds. However, the sound is slower than punk music and also includes pop elements. It wasn’t popular when it first emerged because it was considered a street or underground sound and wasn’t seen as ‘classy’ in the rock world.

When one utters the words ‘grunge music,’ the first bands that come to mind are Nirvana and Pearl Jam. With their unique rock sound, highly acclaimed songs, like ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and ‘Come As You Are’ by Nirvana and ‘Even Flow,’ and ‘Jeremy’ by Pearl Jam, commercialized the genre, making it an essential part of rock and roll.

Neil Young Was The Inspiration Of Nirvana’s Grunge

Even though the genre got famous thanks to Nirvana and Pearl Jam, they were also inspired by someone. Neil Young was one of the first people to use grunge elements in his music. His 1990 album ‘Ragged Glory’ was considered ‘garage rock’ as the term ‘grunge’ wasn’t coined yet.

Not long after, he was informally given the title ‘Godfather of Grunge’ and continues to inspire musicians. Unfortunately, in 1994 Kurt Cobain died, and in his suicide note, he quoted Neil Young by writing, ‘It’s better to burn out than to fade away.’ This shows that Young had such an impact on Kurt that he thought about Neil even minutes before his death.

He stated his sadness in his memoir ‘Waging Heavy Peace’:

“When he died and left that note, it struck a deep chord inside of me. It fucked with me. I, coincidentally, had been trying to reach him. I wanted to talk to him. Tell him only to play when he felt like it.”

However, this really affected Young, and so in the same year, he released his album ‘Sleeps With Angels.’ The title track of the album is dedicated to Cobain, and in the album, he included a 14-minute track, ‘Change Your Mind,’ which had emotional lyrics and melancholic guitar sounds.

The song was genuine, soft, and showed a lot of vulnerability. It explored all the themes of the grunge genre, which are mainly emotions, trauma, freedom, and social alienation. After this song, Young’s nickname was solidified and stuck with him as he has influenced so many musicians.

You can listen to ‘Change Your Mind’ below.