Nirvana had only released three albums by the time Cobain died. The recording of Nirvana’s Unplugged show, released after his death in November 1994, would debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and sell 300,000 records in its first week. The band’s fan base was and continues to be adoring, something the 27-year-old singer had conflicted feelings about. I was part of that crowd—someone who knew nothing about Cobain, but felt intensely connected to him through his music.

But beyond that, Nirvana’s music, and the level of vulnerability Cobain showed performing, demonstrated to the world that there was value—perhaps even a release—in expressing uncomfortable and difficult feelings. People might even love you for it.

My feelings about the band and the performance moved me enough to discover my future career, eventually leading me to journalism school in Johannesburg and then New York, and a career at Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and now, as Europe news editor for Quartz.

I hope that Cobain knew the very profound ways he changed people’s lives. He certainly changed mine.

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