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Ongoing History Daily: The origin of the word “grunge”

We all know what “grunge” is right now. But did that word–“grunge”–ever come to describe a sound and musical movement? Where did it come from? There are lots of theories.

The earliest use of the word seems to have the writings of Lester Bangs, the legendary (but dead) rock critic as a way to describe a particular sound. Then came a letter to the editor of a Seattle music paper written as a joke by a member of a band called Mudhoney. He used the word “grunge” to describe the sound of a fictional band.

But then other people suggest that Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham should get part of the credit. He’s written a song called “The Crunge” for the band’s 1973 album, Houses of the Holy. Since grunge was influenced by the sludgier side of bands like Zeppelin, maybe the word “grunge” was just a modification of the word “crunge.”

Bottom line? No one is really sure.

Ever wonder about that weird whispering in the Foo Fighters’ “Everlong?” That story was in yesterday’s post.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38346 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “Ongoing History Daily: The origin of the word “grunge”

  • I was 14 and living in Seattle when Nevermind came out, and I had started listening to Soundgarden et al. a couple of years before. All I can say is, so far as I could tell at the time, nobody called *themselves* “grunge”.


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