Kurt Cobain has been studied and dissected obsessively in the years since his death in April 1994. Could there be anything left to learn about one of the greatest musicians of our time? The answer is yes, and it’s in the new issue of Rolling Stone (on sale Friday), where Frances Bean Cobain speaks out for the first time about her father’s legacy, life after his death, her stormy relationship with Courtney Love and the HBO documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck that brought them all back together again. In an exclusive clip from the film — which airs May 4th on HBO and in select theaters on April 24th — the Nirvana leader strums and sings along to a beautiful, haunting melody that the film’s director Brett Morgen tells us is a previously unheard Cobain original song that he discovered in Kurt’s storage facility in 2013.
“What really surprised me was watching my parents’ love story,” Frances, now 22 years old, says of the film, which started to come together in 2007 at Love’s request. “Because they were so close to my age now. It was like friends falling in love — I did not expect that.”
Frances welcomed Rolling Stone’s David Fricke into her Los Angeles home, where she spoke for three hours about growing up in the shadow of a father she can’t even remember. People are often stunned when they meet her and see the striking resemblance, an effect she calls the “K.C. jeebies.” “They look at me,” she explains, “and you can see they’re looking at a fucking ghost.”
Throughout Fricke’s cover story, Frances speaks candidly about her father, who she refers to as “Kurt,” and Morgen explains how she ultimately shaped the entire Montage project. “She said, ‘For 20 years, my dad has been like Santa Claus, this mythical figure. People come up to me and say, “Your dad’s so cool.” And I don’t know him. I want to present Kurt the man.'” (Read David Fricke’s exclusive Q&A with Frances in full here.)
Frances and her mother, Courtney Love, have had a volatile relationship over the years, though recently they’ve become close again. In our story, Fricke describes how before the film’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, they watched Montage of Heck at a private screening room in Burbank, California. It was Love’s first time seeing the documentary, and Frances sat in her lap to help her through the film. In a particularly devastating scene in Montage, a clearly intoxicated Cobain struggles to sit upright as his infant daughter sits in his lap getting a haircut.
“My mother held me, cried on me and just said, ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” Frances tells us, recalling watching that scene with her mother. “Just kept saying it over and over. But then she said, ‘Do you realize how much your father loved you?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I do.'” Morgen remembers that Frances revealed more to him about that moment: “Frances said it was the first time her mom and apologized for anything relating to her youth.”
Watch Fricke and photographer Mark Seliger talk about defining moments with Kurt — photographing the famous “Corporate Magazines Still Suck” cover shot and Fricke’s first and last conversations with Cobain — in our full Frances Q&A, and find out more about Love’s reactions to the film and Frances’ own artwork in the issue. Plus, listen to our 102-song Nirvana playlist — all the band’s songs, ranked — here.
Also in this issue: Guy Lawson on a band of Florida teenagers that built on OxyContin smuggling ring, an in-depth Q&A with Pete Townshend about why this may or may not be the Who’s last major tour and interviews with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards about the Rolling Stones’ big summer plans.
Look for the issue on stands or download it on Friday, April 10th.