Nirvana Baby - Sold Out and in Love
By Maria Grella
Hey, wait! Fans of Nirvana may soon have a new complaint. Nirvana, an anti-corporate grunge band, had emerged into mainstream consciousness in the early 90's but dispersed upon the suicide of lead singer Kurt Cobain. After Kurt's death in 1994, his wife, Courtney Love, became the primary benefactor of his estate, which included the rights to over 98% of Nirvana's songbook. Love has now announced plans to sell 25% of her share of Nirvana's song catalog for $50 million. This shared ownership will be with Larry Mestel, former C.O.O. of Virgin Records and current head of Primary Wave Music Publishing.
Courtney Love assured that it is a good thing to happen for Nirvana fans. Maintaining that the spirit of Nirvana will be held, she has stated, "we're going to remain very tasteful". Larry Mestel agreed. "Kurt was an incredible songwriter, and Courtney is an exceptionally talented person herself. So I felt the combination of Courtney's creativity and the things that I can add can really help in creating more value for these copyrights."
The remaining 2% of the copyrights are co-owned by two other former members of the band, drummer Dave Grohl and bassist Krist Novoselic. Though the two have yet to comment, one thing is for sure. There is no love lost between Courtney and former Nirvana members. In a 2001 lawsuit, Love attempted unsuccessfully to gain sole custody of the songbook; downgrading their involvement in generation X's adopted spokes-band. She called Grohl and Novoselic "sidemen" in Nirvana, where Kurt was the star and main attraction. They fought back, alleging that Love was a "greedy primadonna" with a "waning recording and acting career", and claimed she was using Cobain's music to "further her own career goals". In July, Courtney told Spin magazine that Grohl had been "taking money from my child for years".
Courtney Love was once on the road to being known as a talented actor and musician in her own right, before the legal troubles began. She made her mark on the music scene with her now defunct band, Hole. She received acclaim for her roles in 1996's The People vs. Larry Flint, a film about porn magazine pioneer, Larry Flint, and 1999's Man on the Moon, a biopic about comedian Andy Kaufman. Liens, lawsuits, drug charges, and erratic behavior have tarnished her reputation. Financial troubles last August led to a foreclosure of her NY condominium for failure to make payments, and in January, a Seattle home owned by her and Cobain's sister was repossessed. She lost temporary custody of her daughter Frances Bean when quoted in 1992 by Vanity Fair to using heroin during her pregnancy.
Paparazzi lash outs and strange interviews aside, Courtney's reputation has also been marred by law breaking. In 2003, she was charged with felony drug possession, arrested in 2004 for throwing a mic stand and hitting a man on the head, and held in contempt for missed court appearances regarding charges of an attempted break in. She was sentenced to 18 months probation and drug rehabilitation, admitted to violating probation and sentenced to 6 months in lock down rehab in 2005.
Courtney seems to be cleaning up her act, though. Currently, Courtney is working on Exile in Blonde, a follow up to her first solo album, 2004's America's Sweetheart. Collaborators will include Linda Perry, Moby, and Billy Corgan. Love claimed to a judge in February that she has finally kicked her drug problem. She is also slated to star in Lovelace, about famed porn star, Linda Lovelace.
Song catalogs are a lucrative business. Every time a song is played on the radio or heard in a film, a certain percentage goes to the owner of those copyrights. An infamous case regarding song catalogs was when Michael Jackson bought the rights to a few Elvis tunes and the Beatles songbook, infuriating Paul McCartney and legions of Beatle fans. With cd sales and rising digital download sales, movie studios, as well as advertisers, are willing to pay royalties to use hit songs in film scores and commercials.
A possible backlash from devoted Nirvana fans may occur, as some could view this as 'selling out', and many have regarded Love as the 'Yoko' of the band, referring to John Lennon's widow who 'ruined' the Beatles. In a statement, Love defended her decision. "I took on a strategic partner, Larry Mestel, to help me co-manage the estate because it was overwhelming...I needed a partner to take Kurt Cobain's songs and bring them into the future and into the next generation."
Larry Mestel said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine that he was thrilled to have acquired the songbook and to be part of music history. "My goal is to keep the music very true to who the songwriter was and what his passions and tastes would be and to work through Courtney to figure out exactly the best way to go about exposing his music to a new youth culture to a new generation."
Listen to an interview with Beverly Cobain, Kurt Cobain's cousin:
Source: The Student Operated Press
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