Early yearsThough formed in Aberdeen, Washington, Seattle was the band's home base during their heyday. Primary members included Cobain, (guitar and vocals), Krist Novoselic (bass and backing vocals), and Dave Grohl (drums and backing vocals). These were the band members who stayed in the band from 1990 till 1994). Aaron Burkhart (drums)- was the first drummer Nirvana ever had. Dale Crover (drums) was the drummer on the band's first demo. Some of the songs this demo contained finally came out on Bleach, Nirvana's first album, which featured Chad Channing on drums, taking the place of Dale and Aaron. Jason Everman, though he never played with the band, was credited as a second guitar player on Bleach, as he had put up the money for the recording sessions. He would later form Mindfunk. Bleach was highly influenced by Cobain's favourite band, The Melvins, as well as the heavy dirge rock of Mudhoney, and was the first album ever released by Seattle independent record label Sub Pop.
Following a tour of Europe with Tad, another Sub Pop band, and rave reviews from the British music press, they started looking for a new drummer. They eventually came across Dave Grohl who, at the time, was drummer for D.C. Hardcore punks Scream. Following repeated recommendation by Kim Gordon, David Geffen signed Nirvana in 1990 and the band began recording their first major label album. The result, Nevermind, is now regarded a classic and was produced by Sonic Youth and Smashing Pumpkins associate Butch Vig. The highly infectious single Smells Like Teen Spirit received heavy airplay on MTV, inspiring a slew of imitators, bringing the grunge sound, as well as alternative culture, into the mainstream and subsequently killing off hair metal.
Later yearsDuring 1992 the band began having troubles with Kurt Cobain's heroin addiction. Nevertheless, they put out a compilation of B-sides, rarities and radio sessions called Incesticide and stole the show at the Reading Festival. The follow up, 1993's In Utero, was recorded in two weeks and was produced by Steve Albini. It proved less accessible to the mass market due to its more raw, unpolished sound. Scott Litt, R.E.M. producer, was called in to remix two tracks to be released as singles, though the rest of the album is comprised of the band's own mixes.
Singer Kurt Cobain was known to be troubled, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He wrote a song, Lithium, about the medication lithium carbonate, which is used to treat bipolar disorder. Kurt always said it was about religion, but nobody knows the real story behind the song. Taking his explanation, the lyrics somewhat fall into place. "Sunday morning is every day, but I'm not scared. Light my candles in a daze, because I've found god". Lithium seems to talk of a man who answered his doubts in religion with faith, and later went insane because of it. This highlights another use of actual Lithium; that of a mood stabilizer and anti-depressant.
During their last tour they added Pat Smear as touring guitarist. In February of 1992 Cobain married musician and actress Courtney Love, of the band Hole. Plagued by an unexplained stomach illness and increasingly dissatisfied with the crass commercialism of the music industry, Cobain became depressed, reclusive, and a heroin addict. Cobain ostensibly (see below) committed suicide on April 3, 1994 at his Seattle home, but the remaining band members did state that the group was already in the process of splitting up at the time.
After Cobain's deathSeveral albums have been released since Cobain's death, including From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah, a compilation of concert recordings, and a subdued and eerily morbid performance for MTV Unplugged, Unplugged in New York. (This album includes guest appearances by members of the Meat Puppets and cover versions of Meat Puppets and David Bowie material.) In the years following his death, there has been much controversy over the ownership of Nirvana's music. The two surviving band members, Grohl (now a member of the band Foo Fighters) and Novoselic (who went on to form the ephemeral Eyes Adrift), fought with Cobain's wife Courtney Love over the issue of releasing a new album containing rare or unreleased tracks. One day a man named Carlos had word that his friend had an advance copy of Dave Grohl's side project Probot. This copy had a bonus track which was "You Know You're Right". He soon put up clips and arranged 50 trades for other Nirvana material. Before he could put up a full mp3 of the entire track he was sent an e-mail which threatened to sue. Weeks later the entire track surfaced in mp3 form and copies spread on the internet. Soon afterwards a greatest hits album was compiled. On October 29, 2002, following a grueling legal battle, the album Nirvana was released containing several hit singles and one previously unreleased track, "You Know You're Right". A live version of this song can be found on various bootleg albums including Outcesticide V(5) Disintegration, which was released prior to the album Nirvana. The live version comes from 10-23-93 when Nirvana played at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago.
It was revealed in the liner notes of the Nirvana album that Cobain was concerned as he had not been able to write during their last tour and had no material to go into the studio with. He had always made a point of working on new material during the tour and playing it differently everynight so that by the time the tour ended they would have the songs worked out, ready to be recorded. This also proved popular with fans, as they got to hear material they had never heard. In fact, the first time they played Teen Spirit, Nevermind had not been released and they received a standing ovation.
According to some, notably public access host Richard Lee of Seattle, Kurt Cobain was murdered. His ongoing documentary has been running since the week after Cobain's demise. There is also a documentary film called "Kurt & Courtney" was made by filmmaker Nick Broomfield which suggests that Courtney Love had Cobain killed. In addition, Tom Grant, a private investigator once employed by Love, adamantly believes that Cobain's death was homicide; he has since started somewhat of a crusade to prove it (see website link below). However, the official verdict of death by self-inflicted gunshot wound is generally accepted by the public, while murder theories remain popular among hardcore fans of Nirvana.
Cobain wrote in a journal often, leaving 22 notebooks filled with his writing when he died. In November 2002, a sampling of these writings was published as Journals. The book is 280 pages with a simple black cover; the pages are arranged somewhat chronologically (although Cobain generally did not date them). The journal pages are reproduced in color, and there is a section added at the back that has explanations and transcripts of some of the less intelligible pages. The writings begin in the late 1980s, around the time the band started, and end in 1994.