Kurt Cobain – lead vocals, guitar
Krist Novoselic – bass guitar
Dave Grohl – drums, backing vocals (1990–1994)
Aaron Burckhard – drums (1987–1988)
Dale Crover – drums (1988, 1990)
Dave Foster – drums (1988)
Chad Channing – drums (1988–1990)
Jason Everman – guitar (1989)
Dan Peters – drums (1990)
Pat Smear – guitar, backing vocals (1993–1994)
Lori Goldston – cello (1993–1994)
Melora Creager – cello (1994)
Nirvana was an American rock band that was formed by singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, Washington in 1987. Nirvana went through a succession of drummers, the longest-lasting being Dave Grohl, who joined the band in 1990.
In the late 1980s Nirvana established itself as part of the Seattle grunge scene, releasing its first album Bleach for the independent record label Sub Pop in 1989. The band eventually came to develop a sound that relied on dynamic contrasts, often between quiet verses and loud, heavy choruses. After signing to major label DGC Records, Nirvana found unexpected success with “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, the first single from the band’s second album Nevermind (1991). Nirvana’s sudden success widely popularized alternative rock as a whole, and as the band’s frontman Cobain found himself referred to in the media as the “spokesman of a generation”, with Nirvana being considered the “flagship band” of Generation X. Nirvana’s third studio album In Utero (1993), challenged the group’s audience, featuring an abrasive, less-mainstream sound.
Nirvana’s brief run ended following the death of Kurt Cobain in 1994, but various posthumous releases have been issued since, overseen by Novoselic, Grohl, and Cobain’s widow Courtney Love. Since its debut, the band has sold over 25 million albums in the United States alone, and 50 million albums worldwide.
In August 1994, DGC announced that a double album titled Verse Chorus Verse featuring live material from throughout the group’s career on one CD and its MTV Unplugged performance on another was due for release that November. However, Novoselic and Grohl found assembling the live material so soon after Cobain’s death to be too emotionally overwhelming. With the career-spanning live portion postponed, MTV Unplugged in New York debuted at number one on the Billboard charts upon release in November 1994. A few weeks later the group’s first full-length video, Live! Tonight! Sold Out!!, was released. The following year, MTV Unplugged in New York earned Nirvana a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album. In 1996 DGC finally issued a Nirvana live album, From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah, which became the third Nirvana release in a row to debut at the top of the Billboard album chart.
In 1997, Novoselic, Grohl, and Courtney Love formed the limited liability corporation Nirvana LLC to oversee all Nirvana-related projects. A 45-track box set of Nirvana rarities was scheduled for release in October 2001. However, shortly before the release date, Love filed a suit to dissolve Nirvana LLC, and an injunction was issued preventing the release of any new Nirvana material until the case was resolved. Love contended that Cobain was the band, that Grohl and Novoselic were sidemen, and that she signed the partnership agreement originally under bad advice. Grohl and Novoselic countersued, asking the court to remove Love from the partnership and to replace her with another representative of Cobain’s estate.
The day before the case was set to go to trial in October 2001, Love, Novoselic, and Grohl announced that they had reached a settlement. The settlement paved the way for the release of the compilation album Nirvana, which featured the previously unreleased track “You Know You’re Right”, the last song Nirvana recorded before Cobain’s death. Nirvana was released later that month, debuting at number three on the Billboard album chart. The box set, With the Lights Out, was finally released in November 2004. The release contained a vast array of early Cobain demos, rough rehearsal recordings, and live tracks recorded throughout the band’s history. Sliver: The Best of the Box, which culled 19 tracks from the box set in addition to featuring three previously unreleased tracks, was released in late 2005.
In April 2006, Love announced that she had arranged to sell 25 percent of her stake in the Nirvana song catalog in a deal estimated at $50 million. The share of Nirvana’s publishing was purchased by Primary Wave Music, which was founded by Larry Mestel, a former CEO of Virgin Records. In an accompanying statement, Love sought to assure Nirvana’s fanbase that the music would not simply be licensed to the highest bidder, noting, “We are going to remain very tasteful and true to the spirit of Nirvana while taking the music to places it has never been before.” Further releases have since been made. This includes the DVD releases of Live! Tonight! Sold Out!! in 2006, and the full, uncut version of MTV Unplugged in New York in 2007. The band’s performance at the 1992 Reading Festival was released on both CD and DVD as Live at Reading in November 2009. That same month, Sub Pop released a 20th anniversary deluxe edition of Bleach, which included a previously unreleased live concert from 1990. A 20th anniversary deluxe edition of Nevermind was released in September 2011.