The surviving members of Nirvana and others from the Seattle music scene have paid tribute to their former publicist, Susie Tennant, who has passed away on Friday (January 19) at the age of 61.
Tennant’s death was announced by the “Susie Tennant Fan Club” Facebook page, which was created by Seattle’s music community. According to her husband Christopher Swenson, she passed away surrounded by family members. She had suffered from a rare form of early-onset dementia, named frontotemporal degeneration.
Susie passed away yesterday surrounded by family and love. She was calm and at peace. Thank you all for your love and support ❤️
Tennant was significant for being an integral figure to Seattle’s music scene. Her storied career involved a stint with Geffen Records’ alternative rock imprint DGC Records and as a marketing and promotion personnel under Sub Pop, Experience Music Project, Tower Records, BMG, University Book Store, M3 Marketing and Town Hall. Presumably due to her work with DGC Records, she worked extensively with acts including Nirvana, Hole, Sonic Youth, Weezer and Beck.
In a tribute written by local music journalist Charles R. Cross for The Seattle Times, various figures from the Seattle scene expressed their love and admiration for Tennant’s work. Notably, Dave Grohl and Kirst Novoselic – whom Tennant served as publicist while they played in Nirvana – responded to news of her death over email, writing: “We loved Susie a great deal, and she will be missed.”
The pair recalled their 1991 release party for Nirvana’s breakout sophomore LP, ‘Nevermind’, which was held at local venue Re-bar. When the band were kicked out of their own event after starting a food fight, Tennant remained buoyant and simply shifted the party to her house. “Susie laughed it off,” they said. Cross noted that Tennant once recalled how Kurt Cobain tried on one of her dresses, stating: “He looked really good in it.”
Additionally, Jim McKeon of M3 Marketing stated that Tennant was successful in promotion because “she was able to get even the most cynical radio program directors to play her bands simply because she truly believed in everyone she promoted”. Kim Warnick of The Fastbacks – once a roommate of Tennant’s – also suggested that she was the most important personality in the local scene, stating: “There was no one in Seattle music that was as well-loved, or as respected as Susie. She was the bond that connected so many, and there wasn’t a person in Seattle music that didn’t love her.”
For 13 years, Tennant had suffered from a variety of ailments before her recent death. In 2011, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which eventually went in remission. Nonetheless, she struggled with the brain fog following chemotherapy – which she called “chemo brain” – and eventually developed frontotemporal degeneration.
Cross wrote that in her final years, Tennant continued to make friends in healthcare settings, and continued to “live a full and active life with her family, children and friends”. Amid her health issues, the Seattle community continued to support her – Novoselic and other bands organising a fundraising concert to cover Tennant’s medical expenses when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and a “Susie Tennant Fan Club” Facebook page being set up to rally support for the scene leader.
In 2021, a former Sub Pop employee started a GoFundMe page to help Tennant with “rising hospital bills” in light of her developing dementia. The campaign surpassed its $100,000 goal, with Grohl, Novoselic, Sub Pop and Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard named among its prominent contributors.
Aside from Swenson, Tennant is survived by their children, Ella and Eli. Details of a memorial service for Tennant will soon be announced on the “Susie Tennant Fan Club” page.
Read tributes to Susie Tennant from Thurston Moore and others below.
Susie Tennant, the brightest smile in the room, seen here surrounded by her punk rock pals. Completely instrumental in…
Very sad to hear of the news of Susie Tennant’s passing. She and her family have been through monumental struggles over…
Susie Tennant was our one-time co-worker and all-time friend, and we’ll miss her terribly. RIP Susie.
In the meantime, her family requests that donations made in her name be made to any of the following foundations:
Seattle Musicians Access to Sustainable Healthcare (smashseattle.org)
Seattle Musicians for Children’s Hospital (smoochforkids.com)
The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (theaftd.org)