This Date In History: In Court With Nirvana L.L.C.

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On December 12, 2001, [lastfm]Dave Grohl[/lastfm] and [lastfm]Krist Novoselic[/lastfm] sued [lastfm]Courtney Love[/lastfm]. It was a counter suit in response to Courtney Love Cobain’s suit against them filed on May 9, 2001. In Courtney Love’s filing of May 9, she sought to terminate the Nirvana L.L.C., Grohl and Novoselic did not want to do that and stated that Nirvana L.L.C. had functioned effectively and professionally in releasing two albums and in managing the reputation and assets of the band. One of the matters at hand was the song You Know You’re Right and the release of a boxed set of Nirvana music, which was scheduled to be release Fall of 2001. Krist Novoselic was quoted as saying “Frankly, we’re sick of Courtney trying to paste herself into Nirvana’s legacy.” Grohl and Novoselic sent an open letter to Nirvana fans on December 12, 2001.

Dear Nirvana Fans,

We are writing with a sense of appreciation and thanks to all of you for your support and enthusiasm over the last decade. As many of you know, for this Christmas, we had planned to give our fans a wonderful gift — a boxed set of the best of Nirvana’s music. Released to coincide with the tenth anniversary of Nevermind, the set was going to include “You Know You’re Right,” recorded in 1994 just before Kurt’s death. This project had been in the works for nearly five years. But this collection never came out. And there is only one reason: Courtney Love.

Today, our attorneys went into a Seattle court to stop Courtney from trying to take control of the legacy of Nirvana. We had no choice but to respond to her misguided campaign and lawsuits to appropriate the music of Nirvana.

We have been mostly silent for the last few years as she filed lawsuits, waged a continuous negative campaign in the media, and tried to rewrite history. It is now time to act and speak out. Here is some background.

When Kurt was alive, Nirvana was an equal partnership of the three of us. After Kurt’s death in 1994, the partnership continued and we fulfilled what we saw as our obligation to preserve the legacy of Nirvana’s music. We oversaw the releases of Live in New York and From the Muddy Banks of Wishkah, both of which were critical and commercial successes. We enhanced rather than exploited the memory and image of Nirvana.

In September, 1997, we decided to set down some rules by which we could make decisions together. We formed Nirvana L.L.C. (‘limited liability corporation’), with equal representation from Dave, Krist and the Cobain Estate, ultimately represented by Courtney. Our agreement is structured so that each of the members can voice his or her opinion on any matter. Courtney’s interest in the L.L.C. is that of representative of the Estate of Kurt Cobain. The fact is that Nirvana L.L.C. makes the decisions about the band, not Courtney nor any other individual. Our agreement has served all three parties well.

In 1998, we decided together to produce a great boxed set and include “You Know You’re Right.” All of the members of Nirvana, including Courtney, made and signed a deal with Geffen Records for its release. This February, Courtney filed the first of multiple lawsuits against her and Nirvana’s label (Geffen Records / Universal Music Group) over her personal recording contract for the group Hole.

As for the boxed set, everything was on track, we were very excited and were busy promoting the release to coincide with the tenth anniversary of Nevermind. Then, in May, Courtney filed a lawsuit to take over control of Nirvana, then went to court to block the release of the never before released track, “You Know You’re Right.” Courtney claims that her lawsuit is concerned with the proper management and revitalization of Kurt’s legacy. In truth, her actions are only about the revitalization of her career motivated solely by her blind self-interest. She couldn’t care less about Nirvana fans. She is using Nirvana’s music as a bargaining chip to increase leverage for her personal gain, without any regard for the Nirvana legacy. Our music is just a pawn in her endless legal battles and her obsessive need for publicity and attention.

Courtney talks and talks about her “valuable career.” As far as we are concerned, her career is her own affair and of no interest to us. Our concern is when she pastes herself into music she didn’t write or perform. By her actions, the Nirvana legacy is becoming tangled up in her own ambitious agenda. We have a simple challenge for Courtney — play your own music for people.

We miss our dear friend Kurt. We are thankful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with such a gifted artist. We hope that our actions, in regards to Nirvana, are befitting of the stature that so many people have granted us.

We will always be proud of the music we made with Nirvana. We were looking forward to releasing unheard Nirvana material for our personal sense of closure. As the cycle of life moves forward, we are each living our own lives and moving on to new things. We only wanted to go on with the assurance of knowing that all of Nirvana’s music is where it really belongs; in the hearts and minds of millions of people in the world.

We hope that the music of Nirvana will be immortal and, with fans like you, we are confident our hopes will be realized.

Krist Novoselic & Dave Grohl
December 12, 2001

Much of the dispute centered on You Know You’re Right, a song recorded in January 1994 during the band’s final studio session. Grohl and Novoselic had wanted it for the box set, but Love blocked the song’s release, and sued them for control of Nirvana’s legacy. Love’s lawsuit asserted that “the parties have fundamentally different concepts of how to manage the musical and artistic legacy of Kurt Cobain”, which resulted “in a stalemate of decision making.” She believed that You Know You’re Right would be “wasted” on a box set, and instead belonged on a single-disc compilation similar to the [lastfm]Beatles[/lastfm]’ 1.

In 2002, the legal battle was settled, and You Know You’re Right appeared on the “best-of” compilation known as Nirvana. This paved the way for what became With the Lights Out, which arrived in November 2004 (and reissued in March 2009), over three years after its original release date but with more music than had originally been promised.

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