"The force that is in this music can never be extinguished": Read the letter U2's Bono wrote to Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love's daughter Frances Bean hailing Smells Like Teen Spirit as a song that saved his life

Bono and Kurt Cobain
(Image credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images | Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images)

In May 2020, to mark the occasion of his 60th birthday, U2 frontman Bono decided to write fan letters to the authors of some of his favourite songs, 60 of them, to be precise. Bono being Bono, these 60 songs weren't just 'My Favourite Songs', but '60 Songs That Saved My Life'.

The diverse list, published in full on U2's website, spanned everything from The Beatles' I Want To Hold Your Hand to Kanye West's Black Skinhead, Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel to Billie Elish's Everything I Wanted, Public Enemy's Fight The Power to Lady Gaga's Born This Way. And one of the tracks included was Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit, the lead single from the Aberdeen, Washington trio's second album Nevermind.

With Kurt Cobain having passed away in 1994, Bono opted to address this particular letter to Frances Bean Cobain, the singer's daughter with Courtney Love. And while Bono's earnestness and sincerity has been mocked from the very earliest days of U2's career, his message to Frances Bean was undeniably heartfelt, sincere and rather touching.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Frances Bean Cobain,

Forgive my intrusion… you know all this stuff, but by addressing it to you I remind myself that before the internet a band could only be heard by having a record out, getting it on the radio, or blowing people away at their shows. Imagine that. You couldn’t hear them otherwise… but you might hear ABOUT them…

And around 30 years ago a wild rumour spread around Dublin about a band that had opened up for the great Sonic Youth in the Top Hat, Dun Laoghaire and torn the place apart. Everyone who was there was telling everybody who wasn’t there that they should have been there, to see this Seattle three piece incinerate the Dun Laoghaire ballroom where not that many years before we had seen The Clash and The Jam and The Stranglers. In fact, U2 had opened up for The Stranglers at the same venue.

The comparisons being made were to The Who, Hendrix, The Sex Pistols… the impossible rock greats with a punk soul and anger. Some were saying that they were the best band they’d ever seen or ever would see.

I didn’t immediately dismiss this as impossible, but I admit I found it unlikely…but people kept talking about this band Nirvana and how they were changing people’s lives and that this was happening every night everywhere they played.

When I heard SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT, it was like the hyperbole hadn’t even been half enough…it was insane, an instant classic that changed the world immediately.

What a band.
What a song.
What a sound.
What a voice.

The force that is in this music can never be extinguished, or covered up, or ignored or destroyed because it is too great.

For all its pain and anger, this is life force. Vitality. Hope.

This must be no compensation for you, but I just wanted to remember the flame that lit up so many lives.

Keep safe in every other way,

Bono can count at least one former member of Nirvana as a fan of his band. Dave Grohl attended the final show of the Dublin band's residency at the MSG Sphere in Las Vegas, and, by all accounts, had a beautiful day

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.