September 10th, 2009
08:06 PM ET

Cobain not such a "Guitar Hero"

Any gamers jamming to "Guitar Hero 5" for the last week or so may boast the finger-tappin' skills to have unlocked the Kurt Cobain character in the game. Once unlocked, a likeness of the late Nirvana frontman can be used during a song of the player's choosing.

guitar hero

Cobain's new video game likeness has his former bandmates Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic a little peeved at Activision (the developers of "Guitar Hero 5"), as the joint statement below suggests:

"We want people to know that we are dismayed and very disappointed in the way a facsimile of Kurt is used in the Guitar Hero game. The name and likeness of Kurt Cobain are the sole property of his estate – we have no control whatsoever in that area.

While we were aware of Kurt's image being used with two Nirvana songs, we didn't know players have the ability to unlock the character.

This feature allows the character to be used with any kind of song the player wants. We urge Activision to do the right thing in 're-locking' Kurt's character so that this won't continue in the future.

It's hard to watch an image of Kurt pantomiming other artists' music alongside cartoon characters. Kurt Cobain wrote songs that hold a lot of meaning to people all over the world. We feel he deserves better."

Despite their disappointment, "Guitar Hero 5" developers got an O-K from the one individual who matters when it comes to Kurt Cobain's estate: Courtney Love.

“Guitar Hero secured the necessary licensing rights from the Cobain estate in a written agreement signed by Courtney Love to use Kurt Cobain’s likeness as a fully playable character in Guitar Hero® 5,” reads a statement released to CNN by Activision.

Apparently Courtney isn't feeling the "love" with the final product. CNN received this statement from her attorney Keith A. Fink:

“Ms. Cobain is extremely upset about Activision's use of Mr. Cobain's likeness to sing the songs of others in its Guitar Hero game. Activision was granted permission by Kurt's trust solely to use his name and likeness. Activision was not given an unbridled right to use Mr. Cobain's name and likeness. Kurt's songs have a special and unique meaning to his fans and his image and legacy are very important to Ms. Cobain. The agreement Activision has with the trust doesn't allow them to use his likeness in ways that denigrate his image. We would hope Activision would do the right thing on its own and prohibit game users from using Kurt's image to sing others songs and if they don't we expect the trust to take appropriate action to protect Mr. Cobain's image."

Do Grohl and Novoselic have a legitimate beef? And what about Courtney? Should she have signed off on the deal? And what would Kurt think?


soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. RedVexx

    His likeness was already in another Guitar Hero anyway. The difference now is they can use his name.

    September 26, 2009 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Charlie

    Kurt is in noway a guitar "Hero" any twelve yr old with half a brain and a Sears guitar could figure out his music. As far as musical impact? In my opinion he does not deserve to be in the same company as Hendrix or Van Halen, or even Lennon like some would say.
    I am sorry, his music was "hip" in it's era. But has no lasting impact.

    September 13, 2009 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. p

    you guys sound like a bunch of teenage guitar players

    September 13, 2009 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  4. Carlos

    Anyone (i.e. Jeremy) who understates the importance of Nirvana is delusional. Kurt Cobain's impact on music can't be as great as Eric Clapton's, mainly because his music isn't nearly as old. To say that Clapton is more important is just dead wrong, though. Nirvana wasn't a part of the early 90's movement – it lead and shaped it. Bands like Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden were seminal, but did not and don't have the relevance that Nirvana continues to have. How many individuals can name more than three Alice in Chains songs? I'm not saying they weren't important, just not as prolific as Cobain. His musicianship may not have been the best, but neither was Jimi Hendrix's. Both relied on the strength of their songwriting, and both have undoubtedly influenced thousands of former, current and future musicians. Why shouldn't we compare Nirvana to the Beatles? Because the Beatles jumped to stardom on the the backs of terrible covers and half-witted teenagers? Sure, their later stuff was awesome, but one can find just as much to gripe about as you can with Nirvana. It's not about the music necessarily, it's about what the music has meant to its time and the generations that followed. Read up on your 90s rock, especially Nirvana, because there's a lot you've obviously skipped.

    September 12, 2009 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bubba

    C'mon guys. Heroin costs money. Courtney needs her income. It's not like she's done anything constructive musically in the last two decades. And I don't think the movie studios are calling. She's just mad that she didn't read the fine print before pulling the needle out and signing the contract. I have the game, and wouldn't use him as a playable character anyway. I love Nirvana's music, but perspective is the key here. If he were alive, he'd hate the merchandising icon he might have become. And, I say might, because he died in what could be considered the height of his popularity. Better to burn out than to fade away, I guess...

    September 12, 2009 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. c

    dillion is right on, i too grew up w/ nirvana...and like other stuff besides smells like teen spirit.(heart shaped box was my favorite) he did influence alot of people, and a huge factor in the "grunge" music genre, but i too have to say i think he would have hated being a part of guitar hero too.

    September 11, 2009 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Kitten

    I totally agree with Dave & Krist, Courtney....she is an oxygen stealer! You can't give permission, hit paydirt – then say "oops!"

    September 11, 2009 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  8. Danny

    Here we are now in containers

    September 11, 2009 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jeremy

    The first poster is correct. Kurt Cobain was not a great musician, he even stated so himself. As an added note, no one should compare Nirvana to the Beatles. One could argue that Nirvana was more part of a movement than leading one. There were multitude of bands that came out of Seattle at the same time as Nirvana. Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains all gained exposure at the same time. MTV just pushed Nirvana. And Eric Clapton IS more important to music than Nirvana will ever be. Clapton influenced the Beatles. You should learn more about Music before making blanket statements.

    September 11, 2009 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  10. JOe

    Well as it was said in the past and will be said in the future, people are always making money even when they have departed. I wish they would put the guitar hero of the band in rather then the Mic check but it is what it is. this will not stop me from buying the game as it is fun, and even though there is a likeness I know, its not really him so its not that big a deal.

    September 11, 2009 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  11. Matt

    This is kind of silly. First, any serious "guitarist" would tell you that Kurt was far from a guitar hero. He was a very mediocre player, he wrote some heart felt tunes and was around during a time of change and upheaval in the music industry. The lack of material and early tragic end all add to his myth and mystic. I still love "Nevermind". However, to sit and debate how Kurt would have felt about having his image used in a video game, playing other people's songs, etc – is ludicrous. This is a man who had it all, had a bright future, a wife, a child, a very popular band – and his biggest thought/concern was "How can I pull the trigger and still have the shotgun blow my head off?" To imagine that this person would have wasted an iota of time on whether or not his image was being used "properly" on a "game" – is pathetic. What's even sadder is the back pedaling and double talk coming out of Courtney Love – the one who (obviously) agreed to license this. To her it will always be about the $ signs (her entire music career was built off of Kurt's work). Honestly, how can Kurt's "image" be tarnished by this video game? It is simply that – a game. Serious musicians are pleased that this game brings the idea of "making music" to the masses – but Kurt (in my humble opinion) would have cared more about teaching people to really play and write music – rather than if his image was being used improperly on a game that tests one's musical prowess by how well they can tap buttons on a controller. Put the game down and pick up a Stratocaster, people.

    September 11, 2009 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
  12. mikeyjam

    I can't wait to play his unlocked character as I jam out to some Nickelback! Oh yeah!

    September 11, 2009 at 1:53 am | Report abuse |
  13. Dillon

    True, Kurt was not the greatest guitar player but his music has affected and influenced me more than any other musician ever has. I think that he would have hated being a part of guitar hero.

    September 10, 2009 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Veronica

    Nirvana's music is not any less important that Hendrix, Clapton, or Van Halen. I t'd be wrong to deny them of their rightful place in music history because they weren't about guitar solos. Bottom line is they changed the face of music in the early 90s. I will never forget the first time I heard their album; that's how my father must have felt the first time he heard the Beatles. With that said, I understand Dave's and Krist's frustration, but unfortunately, Courtney was his wife and that's something that they need to get over already. As far as Courtney goes, she needs to stop banking on his music and belongings only to turn around and lash out at people when she's the one screwing up in the first place. Review documents carefully before you sell his image! As a fan, personally, I think that they should be honored that Kurt was so impressionable that they would make him a special character in the most popular console game of this day.

    September 10, 2009 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ian

    Kurt Cobain was a crappy guitar player, I can't imagine why anyone would want to use his likeness to play songs by other artsts in the game anyway. How about a Jimi Hendrix, an Eric Clapton, or an Eddie Van Halen? Those are REAL guitar heros. Cobain may have (arguably) been a great song writer, but his skills as a musician were very minimal.

    September 10, 2009 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |

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