The Heartbreaking Van Halen Song About Kurt Cobain’s Suicide

Van Halen: Tim Brakemeier, Getty Images. Kurt Cobain: Frank Micelotta/Getty Images
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When Nirvana blew up, no one knew what to do about hair metal.

Although Van Halen started the ’90s off strong, the rest of the decade was not kind to them after grunge.

Sammy Hagar enjoyed Nirvana’s music on first listen but was definitely thrown for a loop saying,

“Nirvana took all of that out and it just became dark – a little bit darker rock ‘n’ roll. These guys mean all this shit, you know? I mean, there is something deeper than just sitting and talking about girls and stuff. It affected me the same way too and it freaked me out… It freaked all of us out.”

After Kurt Cobain passed away, the tragedy weighed on Hagar’s mind during Van Halen’s next record.

When recording the album Balance, Hagar talked about his desire to write a song to help people like Cobain saying,

“When I heard that Kurt Cobain had taken his own life, the first thing I thought of was I wish I were there and could have tried to save him. The original title for these lyrics was ‘I want to show you what love can do,’ but because it was such a dark horrible thing I just couldn’t shine a light on it. So I changed the final line to ‘Don’t tell me what love can do.’” The song ended up as “Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do),” the third track on Balance.

Although Hagar claimed to want to help people, he also saw parallels between the lyrics and the tension within the band saying:

“It was also the time of the breaking up of Van Halen, our last album and tour so it added a lot of emotion, negativity, and pain in the original vocal performance which surfaced the second I started singing this song for the first time since 1995.”

Van Halen might be the opposite of grunge, but they could still empathize with grunge. Listen to the song, “Don’t Tell Me” below, including the lyrics about Cobain: