The song “The Man Who Sold The World” is a song originally written by David Bowie and was released in November 1970 in the United Kingdom and April 1971 in the United States. He had written the song when he was 19 years old. It was released as the title track of Bowie’s third studio Album with the same name of the track. Since its release, many bands and artists have made a cover of the song and it is sometimes performed at live concerts. According to secondhandsongs.com, this song in particular has over 121 versions that have been made within the years between 1970 and 2022. Some of the artists that made their own take on the song include but are not limited to: Midgre Ure in 1982, Simple Minds in 2001, Marcus Van Heller in 2007, and Nirvana in 1994.
From the many versions and performances that have been made of this song, there is one performance that I enjoy the most. Nirvana had a live presentation on Mtv called “MTV Unplugged” which took place in New York City in 1994. The show lasted for 45 minutes and Nirvana performed a lot of their hit songs such as “About a girl”, and “Come As You Are”. However, they also performed “The Man Who Sold The World” as part of their presentation. Kurt Cobain sang this song a couple times before this at other live shows. But this one was well known because it repeated numerous times on the MTV channel following Cobain’s Death.
The song itself is very short, containing the first verse which is followed by the chorus, second verse and then the chorus is repeated at the end. The lyrics of the song seem to be very dark, talking about death and uncertainty. Even so, the song is known for being soft and mellow. A similarity between performances of Nirvana and David is that they keep the lyrics the same. The lyrics don’t change in Nirvana’s rendition, which makes sense because it is only a cover of the song. Another similarity is you can hear both the drums and acoustic guitar. In the David Bowie performance, you can see people in the back playing these instruments while Bowie sings. Similarly in the show by Nirvana, you can see Kurt Cobain playing the guitar while delivering these beautiful vocals. There are also some differences between the two versions. In David Bowie’s performance, the tempo is quicker and fast paced while the one by Nirvana is slower and can almost be seen as a ballad. Although Nirvana is known for there more intense rock songs, this one was always performed with soft vocals and nice sounding guitar strokes. The drastic difference between Nirvana’s usual songs could be the reason this performance is more known than others.