The Greatest Cover Song of All Time


Maddox Wolfgram, Staff Writer

Okay maybe not the GREATEST cover song of all time, but it is easily my favorite. In 1993, Nirvana covered “The Man Who Sold The World” which is the title track from David Bowie’s 1970 album. The original song opens with one of my favorite guitar riffs of all time. The lyrics are dark and poetic, and they are sung in a mystical/somewhat menacing way. Bowie was incredibly notorious for not providing meaning for his lyrics, so they are left up to the listener’s interpretation. One of my favorite aspects of the song is the bass running scales during the chorus. The song comes to a close with a small instrumental section featuring the main guitar riff.

Don’t get me wrong, David Bowie’s original rendition of “The Man Who Sold The World” is great, but in my opinion the Nirvana version perfects what it tried to achieve. The song was officially released as a part of Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged In New York album, which was a collection of live performances from MTV. The song remains quite similar, but everything is upped a notch. The guitar riff sounds much fuller than on Bowie’s version. Kurt Cobain’s vocals fit the song PERFECTLY. I sometimes forget that this is a live rendition, not a studio recording. The end section features a much longer instrumental section, with some improvised riffs. Nirvana would go on to play this song at live shows, but they never released an official studio recording. Overall, I think this version encapsulates everything David Bowie could have wanted in the song. He has gone on to say in interviews how much he prefers Nirvana’s version over his own. In my opinion, “The Man Who Sold The World” by Nirvana is the greatest cover song of all time.

On April 5th, 1994, Kurt Cobain would commit suicide. The world lost an incredible songwriter/vocalist that day. Kurt had a strange charisma that just made everyone around him calm. It pains me to think about the potential that Nirvana, and especially Kurt, had. In the short time they were around, Nirvana released 3 perfect albums. Below I have linked the live performance from MTV Unplugged In New York. The performances encapsulates Kurt’s charisma, and the bands cohesiveness as a whole.