On Monday, CBS News ran a report headlined “Kurt Cobain death-scene note mocks vows to Courtney Love.” The story has since appeared or been aggregated on hundreds of other media websites.
However, in an email Friday to The Seattle Times, Love said that she, not Cobain, wrote the note and that it dates from 1991, not 1994, when Cobain died by suicide.
Found in Cobain’s wallet by police, the note reads in part, “Do you Kurt Cobain take Courtney Michelle Love to be your lawful shredded wife, even when she’s a bitch with zits and siphoning all [your] money for doping and whoring … ”
The CBS News story said the note raised “further questions about what role [Cobain’s] famously troubled personal life and marriage played in his demise.”
However, Cobain and Love typically traded such notes, laced with sarcasm and course references to sexuality and drug use.
The note was written on stationery from the Phoenix Hotel in San Francisco. Love said she penned it on New Year’s Eve 1991, the night Nirvana appeared in San Francisco with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam.
While the full note was not initially published, the last line is a pledge for the couple to have sex “at least once a week, O.K.”
Love’s authorship is supported by two sources who examined the handwriting, including Love’s sister, Nicole Jon Carroll, and a former employee of the Kurt Cobain estate who has closely examined Cobain’s and Love’s journals.
The CBS reporter compared the writing on the note to a version of Kurt’s suicide note on the web and concluded “the handwriting on both appears to a lay person remarkably similar.” The report said an unsuccessful attempt was made to contact Love’s lawyer before the story ran.
The so-called “death-scene note” is one of many documents the Seattle Police Department gathered as part of its initial investigation into Cobain’s death, but which had not been made public until late March of this year.
Then, the Seattle Police Department released 35 photographs from the investigation, and hundreds of pages of documents. It also announced that one of its detectives had reviewed its files and “reexamined” them.
KIRO-TV’s Casey McNerthney then incorrectly reported police had “reopened” the case, a story that was also widely disseminated on the web.
The Seattle Police Department later issued a statement to correct that impression. “Despite an erroneous news report, we have not ‘reopened’ the investigation into the suicide of Kurt Cobain,” it read.
Cobain died before the Internet was widespread. In the last three years of his life — when he was the most famous rock star in the world — almost everything he did made headlines.
Two decades after his suicide, even things he didn’t do are still making news.
Charles R. Cross is the author of “Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain,” and “Here We Are Now: The Lasting Impact of Kurt Cobain.” In researching Cobain’s life, he examined thousands of Cobain’s diary pages. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @charlesrcross.