Michael Stipe Recalls Meeting Kurt Cobain — And His Blue Eyes

The former R.E.M. frontman, along with St. Vincent, reflect on a legend.

A litany of musicians were honored at Thursday’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony — KISS, Peter Gabriel, Cat Stevens — but the name of everyone’s lips as the night drew to a close was undoubtedly Nirvana.

The seminal grunge band found its place among the legends last night, a fitting tribute that fell close on the heels of the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death.

Nevermind came out when I was nine and it changed my life and I wouldn’t be playing music if it wasn’t for Nirvana,” St. Vincent — a.k.a. Annie Clark — said backstage before she joined Lorde, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, Joan Jett and the remaining members of Nirvana in a medley of classics.

“It’s a real honor and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little bit melancholy, too — with the gravity of it,” she added, reflecting on how surreal it was to practice with the band before the show. “Hearing Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear f—ing playing,” she said. “That was rad.”

Michael Stipe inducted Nirvana into the Hall of Fame, a fitting choice, as he served as kind of a mentor to Cobain as R.E.M.‘s former frontman, the glory of which you can relive on Record Story Day when Unplugged: The Complete 1991 and 2001 Sessions drops and right now on the band’s MTV Artist page.

On stage, Stipe said, simply, “That voice, that voice. Kurt, we miss you. I miss you,” after earlier in the evening recalling how he first met Cobain.

“He was late,” Stipe said backstage to a room full of reporters, his tie loose around his neck. “It was in Krist’s basement in Seattle — he and Courtney had moved into the house next door to my former guitar player Peter Buck. … The first time I looked into his eyes I just went, ‘I get it. He is all that. He is a very special person.’”

Then, almost as an afterthought, Stipe said with a smile, “He had really blue eyes.”

Stipe and Clark were only two of many performers and friends to remember Nirvana and Cobain Thursday night. In addition to the aforementioned medley, Cobain’s family, along with Hole’s Courtney Love, offered up remembrances, and a cadre of musicians extended the Nirvana tribute after the show at a venue in Brooklyn.

What was your favorite Nirvana moment from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony?

Brenna Ehrlich is a reporter for MTV News as well as the senior writer/editor for the O Music Awards. In the past, she served as associate editor at Mashable, penned a netiquette column for CNN and co-authored the blog and book "Stuff Hipsters Hate." She likes trying not to die in moshpits and listening to songs on repeat. Follow her on Twitter @BrennaEhrlich for news on cats and punk bands.