Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses are perhaps the most quintessential rock stars of the early 1990s.
Nevermind and Use Your Illusion I came out in 1991, so both bands rode the highest waves of their international popularity at the same time, before Nirvana disbanded after Cobain’s death, and GN’R jumped headfirst in a swamp of lineup changes and Chinese Democracy.
As such, it’s only natural that the two frontmen knew of each other.
Unfortunately, they didn’t much care for each other … or rather, Cobain didn’t particularly like Rose.
As Keith Harris and Kory Grow of Rolling Stone tell , Rose started out as a huge Nirvana fan, to the point that he wore a Nirvana hat in the “Don’t Cry” music video, and tried to get the grunge superstars to tour with them.
Cobain, on the other hand, was having none of it.
“We’re not your typical Guns N’ Roses type of band that has absolutely nothing to say,” he said in 1991.
Later, he took things even further, with comments like: “Rebellion is standing up to people like Guns N’ Roses.”
Eventually, Rose grew weary of Cobain’s mockery, and the badmouthing became mutual.
Things culminated in a showdown at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, and the bands didn’t truly mend fences until after Cobain’s death.
But what started all this enmity?
What was the real reason Kurt Cobain hated Axl Rose so much?
In an interview with Daniel Kohn of The Wrap, Nirvana’s former manager, Danny Goldberg, reveals that the bad blood between Kurt Cobain and Axl Rose was largely fueled by Cobain’s philosophy.
As Goldberg puts it, the Nirvana frontman had an “ethos of inclusion” that compelled him to be a champion of every marginalized group: “He was also a master songwriter who was able to combine rock intensity, memorable melodic hoods and lyrical depth,” Goldberg says.
“On another level, his body of work continues to speak to people who feel isolated, or too sensitive for their surroundings, or misunderstood.”
This ideology fueled Nirvana’s history of opposing anti-gay bills, and made Cobain a dedicated feminist.
As a flip side, Cobain hated toxic masculinity with all his heart.
“He had a revulsion for macho behavior that was hostile to women or to gays,” Goldberg notes.
“That was part of who he was.”
Guns N’ Roses being the most popular band of the macho variety at the time, Cobain simply felt that Rose was a poster boy for such toxicity — and hated him for it.