From the editors of Billboard: Like the rest of the country and the world, Billboard editors were horrified by the mass killing at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub on June 12, and by the murder of singer Christina Grimmie the night before. Both tragedies occurred where musicians and music fans gathered. And so faced with another gun-related tragedy, the staff organized this special “Open Letter to Congress” cover of Billboard.
With the help of leading gun-violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety, editors reached out to those we cover in the music industry, and asked for their support and their signatures to help seek a sane and safe end to gun violence. Within minutes, Joan Jett was the first to sign on. Lady Gaga shortly followed. Within hours, and then in a matter of just a few days, nearly 200 top artists and executives—pop stars (including Grimmie’s friend Selena Gomez), rappers, rock gods, legends, Broadway heroes, even two Beatles and Yoko Ono—lent their voices to the chorus of Americans looking to our political leaders for change. Billboard, artists and music-industry executives join so many members of the House and Senate this week proudly advocating for common-sense gun safety.
AN OPEN LETTER TO CONGRESS:
STOP GUN VIOLENCE NOW
As leading artists and executives in the music industry, we are adding our voices to the chorus of Americans demanding change.
Music always has been celebrated communally, on dancefloors and at concert halls. But this life-affirming ritual, like so many other daily experiences—going to school or church or work—now is threatened, because of gun violence in this country.
The one thing that connects the recent tragedies in Orlando is that it is far too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on guns.
We call on Congress to do more to prevent the gun violence that kills more than 90 Americans every day and injures hundreds more, including:
Require a background check for every gun sale
Block suspected terrorists from buying guns
Billboard and the undersigned implore you—the people who are elected to represent us—to close the deadly loopholes that put the lives of so many music fans, and all of us, at risk.
Adam LeberPartner, Maverick
Adam LevinX Ambassadors
Alan GilbertNY Philharmonic
Alex PallThe Chainsmokers
Bill KreutzmannDead & Company
Bo KosterMy Morning Jacket
Bob WeirDead & Company
Brad DelsonLinkin Park
Bradford CobbPartner, Direct Management Group
Brandon CreedManager/The Creed Company
Brendon UriePanic at the Disco
Cameron StrangChairman/ CEO, Warner Bros. Records
Carl BroemelMy Morning Jacket
Casey HarrisX Ambassadors
Chester BenningtonLinkin Park
Craig KallmanChairman/CEO, Atlantic Records Group
Dan McCarrollPresident, Warner Bros. Records
Daniel EkCo-Founder/CEO, Spotify
Daniel GlassFounder/President, Glassnote Entertainment Group/Insieme Music Publishing
Dina LaPoltFounder, LaPolt Law
Drew TaggartThe Chainsmokers
Eddie VedderPearl Jam
Emily RobisonDixie Chicks
Irving AzoffChairman/CEO, Azoff Madison Square Entertainment
James H. GosnellPresident and CEO, APA
Jason KuppermanAgent, Paradigm Talent Agency
Jay MarcianoCOO, AEG; Chairman & CEO, AEG Live
Jeff AmentPearl Jam
Jeff ChimentiDead & Company
Jeremy ZimmerCEO/Co-Founder, United Talent Agency
Jim JamesMy Morning Jacket
Joe HahnLinkin Park
John EspositoPresIdent/CEO, Warner Music Nashville
Jorge HernandezLos Tigres del Norte
Julie GreenwaldChairman/COO, Atlantic Records Group
Kevin LilesCo-Founder, 300 Entertainment
Lee DanielsDirector; CEO, Lee Daniels Entertainment
Sir Lucian Grainge
Lyor CohenCEO/Founder, 300 Entertainment
Marc GeigerPartner/Head of Music, William Morris Endeavor
Mark PinkusPresident, Rhino Entertainment
Martie MaguireDixie Chicks
Martin ErlichmanManager, Barbra Streisand
Martin KirkupPartner, Direct Management Group
Matt CameronPearl Jam
Michael RapinoPresident/CEO, Live Nation
Mickey HartDead & Company
Mike CarenCEO, Artist Partners Group; Creative Officer, Warner Music Group
Mike McCreadyPearl Jam
Mike ShinodaLinkin Park
Natalie MainesDixie Chicks
Pasquale RotellaCEO/Founder, Insomniac Events
Patrick HallahanMy Morning Jacket
Phil McIntyreCEO/Founder, Philymack
Rob BourdonLinkin Park
Rob LightPartner/Managing Director/Head of Music, Creative Artists Agency
Roger GoldCo-Founder, 300 Entertainment
Russell SimmonsHip Hop Mogul & Activist
Sam GoresChairman/CEO, Paradigm Talent Agency
Sam HarrisX Ambassadors
Scooter BraunFounder, SB Projects
Scott BorchettaPresident/CEO, Big Machine Label Group
Stephen CooperCEO, Warner Music Group
Steve JensenPartner, Direct Management Group
Steve LevinePartner/Co-Head of Worldwide Concerts, ICM Partners
Stone GossardPearl Jam
Stu BergenCEO, International and Global Commercial Services, Warner Music Group
“I’ve dragged it out for six years. I didn’t wanna do it. I took a piece of the advance six years ago and then I was like ‘bad girl’, and Harpers is not mad at me but it’s time to turn it in so it’s gotta be done by Christmas this year. We’ll have three chapters turned in in about three weeks, childhood chapters but it’s about getting it all right.
So she (the interviewer) asked me the other day, ‘why did you break up Hole?’ And I can’t remember, I really can’t (laughs). So I had Eric from Hole to talk to her because he’ll remember. We were doing really good and we were getting Grammy nominated, doing studio stadiums, and why did I break it? I don’t know why! It really wasn’t drugs? (Dylan Jones: so you’re going to find out why you broke up Hole?) yeah, I’ll find out.
(The book) will be my entire life but with a cutoff… like I’m very sensitive about my love life and my personal life, so I don’t want much of that in it. I mean, the salacious stuff I don’t want in there because I’ve definitely had phases, I’m done with that, so I don’t really want that stuff in there. I have a certain anger that’s reserved for particular lawyers and accountants which I don’t think anyone cares, no one is going to care about that!
I don’t want to a do a poor little rich girl. People cannot relate to certain things and I want to make a really cool book, but that is also transparent and honest. People can relate to ambition, people can relate to stalking Andy Warhol and Lee Daniels, people can relate to certain things but then there are other things that people just can’t relate to. So, we will see. I’m writing it all down, you got me at a really tender moment, I just saw the outline literally yesterday… and my daughter is very private so her life after a certain age is off-limits and stuff like that.”
If you’re an artist, one way to handle criticsm or shade, as the kids like to call it, is to simly ingore them, and don’t feel the trolls. Or, if you’re Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain in 1992, you can make a video mocking the letter-writer in response to their Sassy Magazine cover story. Yes, that’s Kurt standing in a dress, lipstick, and fake mustache, mouthing along and acting out the words.
Here’s the couple in response to someone not liking their iconic Sassy cover.
While working for Cobain’s wife Courtney Love, Tom Grant, best known for his unproven theory that Kurt Cobain was murdered, was given access to Cobain’s suicide note and used her fax machine to make a photocopy, which has since been widely distributed.
After studying the note, Grant believed that it was actually a letter written by Cobain announcing his intent to leave Courtney Love, Seattle, and the music business. Grant asserts that the lines at the very bottom of the note, separate from the rest, are the only parts implying suicide. While the official report on Cobain’s death concluded that Cobain wrote the note, Grant claims that the official report does not distinguish the questionable lines from the rest of the note and simply draws the conclusion across its entirety. One of the biggest ‘what if?’ questions in music, Grant believes there are far more questions than answers.
And so it goes.
The note: “To Boddah
Speakings from the tongue of an experienced simpleton who obviously would rather be an emasculated, infantile complainee. This note should be pretty easy to understand. All the warnings from the Punk Rock 101 Courses over the years, it’s my first introduction to the, shall we say ethics involved with independence and the embracement of your community has been proven to be very true. I haven’t felt the excitement of listening to, as well as creating music, along with really writing something for too many years now. I feel guilty beyond words about these things, for example when we’re backstage and the lights go out and the manic roar of the crowd begins. It doesn’t affect me in the way which it did for Freddie Mercury, who seemed to love and relish the love and admiration from the crowd, which is something I totally admire and envy. The fact is, I can’t fool you, any of you. It simply isn’t fair to you, or to me. The worst crime can think of would be to pull people off by faking it, pretending as if I’m having one 100% fun. Sometimes I feel as though I should have a punch-in time clock before I walk out on-stage. I’ve tried everything within my power to appreciate it, and I do, God believe me, I do, but it’s not enough. I appreciate the fact that I, and we, have affected, and entertained a lot of people. I must be one of the narcisists who only appreciate things when they’re alone. I’m too sensitive, I need to be slightly numb in order to regain the enthusiasm. But, what’s sad is our child. On our last three tours, I’ve had a much better appreciation of all the people I’ve known personally, and as fans of our music. But I still can’t get out the frustration, the guilt, and the sympathy I have for everybody. There is good in all of us, and I simply love people too much. So much that it makes me feel too fucking sad. The sad little sensitive unappreciative pisces Jesus man! why don’t you just enjoy it? I dont know! I have a goddess of a wife who sweats ambition and empathy, and a daughter who reminds me to much of what I use to be. full of love and joy, every person she meets because everyone is good and will do her no harm. And that terrifies me to the point to where I can barely function. I can’t stand the thought of Frances becoming the miserable self destructive, deathrocker she become. I have it good, very good, and I’m grateful, but since the age of seven, I’ve become hateful towards all humans in general. Only because it seems so easy for people to get along and have empathy. Empathy only because I love and feel for people too much I guess. Thank you from the pit of my burning nauseas stomach for your letters and concern during the last years. I’m too much of a neurotic moody person and I don’t have the passion anymore, so remember, it’s better to burn out, than to fade away. Peace, love, empathy, Kurt Cobain.
Frances and Courtney, I’ll be at your altar.
Please keep going Courtney
for her life which will be so much happier without me.
I LOVE YOU. I LOVE YOU!”
Director Brett Morgen’s long-gestating documentary on Kurt Cobain has found a home at HBO.
It is the first documentary to be made with the cooperation of Cobain’s family and will include never-before-seen home movies, recordings, artwork and photography, plus material from his personal archives, family archives and songbooks. The film features dozens of Nirvana songs and performances as well as previously unheard Cobain originals. Cobain committed suicide 20 years ago at the age of 27.
Cobain’s daughter with Courtney Love, Frances Bean Cobain, is an executive producer with Larry Mestel and David Byrnes.
Pitchfork: Did it make sense to you that Lorde and St. Vincent were there singing in Nirvana?
CL: Not at first. Initially, I thought it was sexist, and a little bit ghettoizing. But then I was like, “No, Kurt would have loved this.” And there’s reality to it. Apparently, no high profile dudes wanted to do it. It’s interesting, isn’t it? I mean, I don’t know where Lorde is going. I like the St. Vincent girl a lot—I looked at some of her YouTubes and I like her look, her attitude, her whole thing. She was pretty cool, especially for being as nervous as she probably was. But I am telling you—the Kim Gordon moment was so punk. Kim gave the punkest performance, the one that Kurt would’ve approved of the most. It was the punkest thing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has ever seen. I was really proud of that.
She came out wearing a striped mini-dress and did this total panty-roll on the floor. She rocked it. It was totally flat. I swear to god, I was watching [Rolling Stone and Rock Hall founder] Jann Wenner’s table, and their jaws were on the floor, because everything had been so in-tune all night. [laughs] It was truly a celebration of the spirit of what was subversive about In Utero and [Steve] Albini, and what remains punk about Nirvana. Me and Kim, we’re not BFFs, but I was getting my hair done recently, and my hairdresser said, “Kim Gordon was asking how you were, she said to tell you hi.” I was like, “Really? We don’t really talk, but tell her hi.” So we’ve kind of made peace through our hairdresser.
I went to the afterparty and, at that point, I was emotionally drained. There were people in the room who have stolen vast amounts of money from me. I couldn’t have given a shit; I just let it go. Grohl said something good while skirting around the issue of us slamming each other for 20 years: It was just our way of dealing with the carnage we had to deal with. Someone suggested we go into the press room and hug it out, but I was like, “What? Nooo.” We hugged privately. We didn’t whore it out. It was genuine. I had this long speech, which I worked my ass off on, and then I saw it on the teleprompter, and was just like, “Don’t even bother, just get this over with and bury the hatchet.” It wasn’t going to make great television, in terms of oration. I’m not getting a TED Talk because of a Hall of Fame speech, trust me.
Nirvana were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last night at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, and along with Courtney Love and Dave Grohl sharing a stage, Michael Stipe did the induction speech.
Michael Stipe: Good evening. I’m Michael Stipe and I’m here to induct Nirvana into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
When an artists offers an idea, a perspective, it helps us all to see who we are. And it wakes up, and it pushes us forward towards our collective and individual potential. It makes us — each of us — able to see who we are more clearly. It’s progression and progressive movement. It’s the future staring us down in the present and saying, “C’mon, let’s get on with it. Here we are. Now.”
I embrace the use of the word “artist” rather than “musician” because the band Nirvana were artists in every sense of the word. It is the highest calling for an artist, as well as the greatest possible privilege to capture a moment, to find the zeitgeist, to expose our struggles, our aspirations, our desires. To embrace and define a period of time. That is my definition of an artist.
Nirvana captured lightning in a bottle. And now, per the dictionary — off the Internet — in defining “lightning in a bottle” as, “Capturing something powerful and elusive, and then being able to hold it and show it to the world.”
Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl were Nirvana. The legacy and the power of their defining moment has become, for us, indelible. Like my band, R.E.M., Nirvana came from a most unlikely place. Not a cultural city-center like London, San Francisco, Los Angeles or even New York — or Brooklyn — but from Aberdeen, Washington in the Pacific Northwest, a largely blue-collar town just outside of Seattle.
Krist Novoselic said Nirvana came out of the American hardcore scene of the 1980s — this was a true underground. It was punk rock, where the many bands or musical styles were eclectic. We were a product of a community of youth looking for a connection away from the mainstream. The community built structures outside of the corporate, governmental sphere, independent and decentralized. Media connected through the copy machine, a decade before the Internet, as we know it, came to be. This was social networking in the face.
Dave Grohl said, “We were drop-outs, making minimum wage, listening to vinyl, emulating our heroes — Ian MacKaye, Little Richard — getting high, sleeping in vans, never expecting the world to notice.”
Solo artists almost have it easier than bands — bands are not easy. You find yourself in a group of people who rub each other the wrong way and exactly the right way. And you have chemistry, zeitgeist, lightning in a bottle and a collective voice to help pinpoint a moment, to help understand what it is that we’re going through. You see this is about community and pushing ourselves. Nirvana tapped into a voice that was yearning to be heard.
Keep in mind the times: This was the late Eighties, early Nineties. America, the idea of a hopeful, democratic country, had been practically dismantled by Iran-Contra, by AIDS, by the Reagan/Bush Sr. administrations.
But with their music, their attitude, their voice, by acknowledging the political machinations of petty but broad-reaching, political arguments, movements and positions that had held us culturally back, Nirvana blasted through all that with crystalline, nuclear rage and fury. Nirvana were kicking against the system, bringing complete disdain for the music industry and their definition of corporate, mainstream America, to show a sweet and beautiful — but fed-up — fury, coupled with howling vulnerability.
Lyrically exposing our frailty, our frustrations, our shortcomings. Singing of retreat and acceptance over triumphs of an outsider community with such immense possibility, stymied or ignored, but not held down or held back by the stupidity and political pettiness of the times. They spoke truth, and a lot of people listened.
They picked up the mantle in that particular battle, but they were singular, and loud, and melodic, and deeply original. And that voice. That voice. Kurt, we miss you. I miss you.
Nirvana defined a moment, a movement for outsiders: for the fags; for the fat girls; for the broken toys; the shy nerds; the Goth kids from Tennessee and Kentucky; for the rockers and the awkward; for the fed-up; the too-smart kids and the bullied. We were a community, a generation — in Nirvana’s case, several generations — in the echo chamber of that collective howl, and Allen Ginsberg would have been very proud, here.
That moment and that voice reverberated into music and film, politics, a worldview, poetry, fashion, art, spiritualism, the beginning of the Internet and so many fields in so many ways in our lives. This is not just pop music — this is something much greater than that.
These are a few artists who rub each other the wrong way, and exactly the right way, at the right time: Nirvana. It is my honor to call to the stage Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl.
Dave Grohl: Thank you very much.
I was the quiet one in Nirvana. I was the drummer. But most of you don’t know that I was the fifth drummer of Nirvana. For whatever reason, I got to be the luckiest person in the world and also be in Nirvana.
But I have to give credit to all of the other drummers that came before me: Aaron Burckhard, thank you very much. Dale Crover, from the Melvins, who is my absolute drumming hero. Chad Channing, who was the drummer for Nirvana. Chad, where are you? I know that you’re here somewhere. Isn’t Chad here somewhere? Chad’s around here, isn’t he? [points at camera] Are you over there? Hey, Chad! So, here’s the thing — guess what Chad’s responsible for? If you listen to a song like “In Bloom” [imitates opening of “In Bloom”], that’s Chad. When I joined the band, I had the honor of playing Chad’s parts, so Chad, thank you very much for allowing me to play your drum parts; I appreciate that very, very much. Dan Peters, from Mudhoney, who got to play one show with Nirvana — thank you, Danny.
But there’s a lot of people that made this possible, people that you might not know, people that I grew up with in Springfield, Virginia. Like Michael said … [reacts to people from Springfield] Really? You could afford the train?
We came from this underground punk rock scene where there really were no awards or ceremonies or trophies — it was all about doing it for real, and the reward was doing it right and doing it for real and sharing the community of music. Helping other musicians and inspiring people. And so I got really lucky to grow up in the Washington D.C. punk rock scene where I was inspired by all these amazing people; too many to list. But everyone from Chris Page to Ralph to Dave Smith to Reuben Radding to Peter Stahl and Franz Stahl and Skeeter Thompson; all the people that I ever played music with — Barrett Jones — I have to thank all of you because I wouldn’t be here.
I’m also lucky that when we first started out, we didn’t know anything about business — we were in a fucking van, buying corn dogs from t-shirts that we had sold. We were lucky that we found a manager named John Silva and we met an accountant named Lee Johnson. And I’m happy to say that I’ve never, ever strayed from those two people in my life. It’s been 25 years! I mean, it’s a long list of people and I’m going to forget most of them.
Most of all, I have to thank my family because I was lucky enough to grow up in a musical family and in an environment that encouraged music. Parents that never told me not to listen to fucking Slayer, you know what I mean? I listened to some really, really fucked-up shit! But my parents never told me not to, because I was finding myself. So Mom — thanks. Thanks for letting me drop out of high school [laughs, points at trophy]. Kids, stay in school, don’t do drugs — it’s a bad idea.
I have to thank my beautiful wife, Jordyn, and my two daughters, who I hope grow up to inspire people just like every musician I grew up inspired by. Because I think that’s the deal — you look up to your heroes and you shouldn’t be intimidated by them; you should be inspired by them. Don’t look up at the poster on your wall and think, “Fuck, I can never do that.” Look at the poster on your wall and think, “Fuck, I’m going to do that!”
Dave Grohl and Courtney Love hug at the 29th Annual Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Krist Novoselic: Thank you Michael, for that great introduction, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I want to thank all of the Nirvana fans: Nirvana fans walk up to me every day and say, “Thank you for the music.” And when I hear that, it reminds me of Kurt Cobain.
I want to say thank you to Kurt Cobain, and I wish Kurt was here tonight, OK? And that music means so much to so many people, and there’s new generations and new fans coming up, and it’s really powerful. Kurt was an intense artist and he really connected with a lot of people.
With Nirvana, we started in Aberdeen, Washington — in Washington state — and we had a infrastructure there to support us. It was a music community. I want to thank Sub Pop Records; the music community in Seattle, in Washington State. I want to thank Buzz Osborne — thank you, Buzz, for joining us in punk rock music. I want to thank Jack Endino, who recorded our first record. Steve Albini and Butch Vig. Thank you Susan Silver for introducing us to the music industry properly. And thank you all again.
Wendy Cobain: I’m probably going to cry. I’m already crying because he’d be so proud — he’d say he wasn’t — but he would be. I just miss him so much. He was such an angel. Thank you.
Courtney Love: You know, I have a big speech, but I’m not gonna say it. This is my family I’m looking at right now — all of you. Brother Michael, Brother Krist, Grandma Wendy, Mr. Grohl. David!
And that’s it. I just wish that Kurt was here to feel this and be this. Twenty years ago, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame maybe wasn’t — but tonight, he would have really appreciated it. He would’ve appreciated Krist and Dave and Michael and his mother and his sisters being here. And I just want to give this to Francis, our daughter, who’s not here because she’s ill. That’s it —that’s all I have to say. Thank you so very much.
Courtney Love has big plans for Kurt Cobain’s legacy – if she can make them happen. The Nirvana frontman’s widow recently said that she hopes to make a biopic, documentary and musical about him. The latter production, she told NME, is “very likely” to happen. Moreover, it’s something she and her daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, are hopeful could be done well.
“After being swarmed by tons of Nirvana fan mail and social-media posts pushing for a musical to become a reality, both Frances and I have thought long and hard and agreed that if we can reach up to the highest shelf and select a team of the greatest and most respected writers, producers and directors, then a Broadway musical is very likely to happen,” she said.
But for it to happen, she wants it to be done in a unique and deferential way. “There would have to be a story, and a great story, one that hasn’t been told before,” Love said. “I would devote countless hours with an A-team to create a project that reflects Kurt in the most respectful but honest way possible, so that his story, his music and his legacy can be resurrected on stage for not only the world to see, but more importantly for our daughter to see. I know her father’s spirit will be on that stage, and sitting in that theater with her will be the most emotional experience of our lives.”