Tori Amos performed Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ to help grieving fans


  • Tori Amos has decided to put her own spin on Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
  • She said fans told her to sing the song after Kurt Cobain died.
  • She explained what it was like to have fans singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” quickly became part of the classic rock canon. After Kurt Cobain’s death, Tori Amos performed a live cover of the song in Ireland to help fans grieve. During an interview, Amos explained why she was set to perform “Smells Like Teen Spirit” shortly after Cobain’s death.

Irish Fans Asked Tori Amos to Perform Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ After Kurt Cobain’s Death

During a 2021 interview with Stereogum, Amos said she originally covered “Smells Like Teen Spirit” because she wanted to make it more vulnerable. “A few years later, in 1994, while I was in Berlin on tour and we all heard the news of Kurt’s death, I don’t think I remember any feelings other than the day of the death of John Lennon,” she recalls.

“And so by the time I got to Ireland I didn’t know if I was going to play the song or not,” she added. “The Irish said, ‘You have to play it because we have to grieve. Please you have to play it.

Tori Amos covered Nirvana’s signature song alongside Don McLean’s “American Pie”

Amos performed “Smells Like Teen Spirit” alongside another classic rock song. “So I paired [Don McLean’s] ‘American Pie’ and then played ‘Teen Spirit’,” she said. “And within seconds, once I started ‘Teen Spirit,’ I started hearing this crooner.

“And there were thousands of Irish people singing ‘Teen Spirit’, the version I did, in perfect key,” she added. “I’m sure you’ve heard of the Irish, ‘the moans’, when they cry. I’ve never felt anything like this before [or] since with an audience. Amos would have liked to have a recording of this performance “because it just sends shivers down my spine”. The singer said she felt like she had a connection to Cobain through the song, even though she had never met him.

How ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ performed on the US pop charts

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” became by far Nirvana’s biggest hit in the United States. The tune peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed on the chart for 20 weeks. The group never reached the top 20 again. Despite this, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” inspired covers by Hugh Jackman, Patti Smith and The Muppets. This last cover is a comic barbershop neighborhood.

Nirvana included “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on their album Nevermind. This album peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for a total of two weeks. Nevermind lasted on the chart for a total of 622 weeks. It became the band’s most popular album and arguably the defining album of the 1990s. Many grunge, post-grunge and emo bands owe so much to Nevermind.

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a huge hit and Amos covered it at a hugely important gig.

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