Kurt Cobain, creative commons liscense via Flickr, credit Sally

In early May of 2021, the Department of Justice released 10 pages of their FBI file on former Nirvana singer-songwriter Kurt Cobain. Since the rock icon’s death in 1994, mainstream media has mostly repeated police statements that Cobain killed himself with a shotgun. FBI statements and a mass of accumulated evidence suggest that they purposely avoided looking into the radical activist musician’s death due to U.S. intelligence involvement.

Cobain’s Radical Left Politics

One of the reasons the FBI may have had for participating in and/or covering up Kurt Cobain’s murder is their history of targeting political leftists. In 1971, activists broke into an FBI office and revealed its Counter-Intelligence Program (Cointelpro), which started in the 1950s and targeted anti-war and Civil Rights activists.

Many of Cobain’s statements and actions reflect his radical left political ideology. In his biography, Come As You Are, author Michael Azerrad reports that Cobain originally wanted to put “anarchistic, revolutionary essays and diagrams about how to make your own bomb” on the inside of Nirvana’s hugely popular album Nevermind, adding that he “just thought we better hold off on that… we’d be more effective if we gained popularity first.”

Nirvana’s popular song “Lithium” was an update on Communist Manifesto author Karl Marx’s view of religion as the opiate of the masses, and Cobain refused to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine unless he was allowed to wear a t-shirt that said “Corporate Magazines Still Suck.” He also placed images of the 1992 Los Angeles race rebellions (a.k.a. “riots”) inside Nirvana’s chart-topping album In Utero. The images show the burnt-out Republican headquarters that Black activists targeted in response to the acquittal of police caught on film brutalizing motorist Rodney King.

Police-Detective-Turned-P.I. First Exposed Murder Evidence

The FBI file consisted of three letters replying to correspondence asking that they investigate evidence of Cobain’s murder. The file also includes a transcript of an Unsolved Mysteries episode from 1997, which features private investigator Tom Grant, a former detective for the LA County Sheriff’s Department.

Cobain’s wife, Courtney Love, hired Grant to “find” her husband on April 3, 1994, five days before he was found dead in a room above the garage in their Seattle home. After months of investigation, Grant concluded that Love may have been involved in the murder and knew her husband’s whereabouts when she hired him.

Grant has accumulated a huge trove of evidence, most of which he has shared on his website. A summary of this evidence includes the fact that the purported suicide note only appeared to be a Nirvana breakup note, except where the handwriting changes. Both of Nirvana’s other musicians confirmed that Cobain was breaking up the band, as did Buzz Osbourne of The Melvins.

Grant also has recorded conversations with Cobain and Love’s lawyer, Rosemary Carrol, stating that she found handwriting practice notes Love had left in her home near the time of Cobain’s death. Researchers found that Love’s handwriting practice sheets nearly duplicate the last lines of the purported suicide note, where the handwriting changes. Someone also tried to use Cobain’s credit card after his death, and Grant has Carrol recorded on tape stating that Cobain was divorcing Love.

Further, a leaked coroner’s report noted that Cobain had three times the amount of heroin that would have killed even a hardcore addict, as well as Diazepam, in his system. While some had claimed Cobain was using heroin regularly at the time, this was countered by blood tests from his hospitalization in Rome a month before his death. Before visiting Cobain on tour, Love had obtained Rohypnol (“roofies”) in England (where the drug was legal for sleep). She was an obvious suspect in Cobain’s near-fatal overdose on that same Rohypnol, which temporarily put him in a coma and conveniently erased his memory of what happened. The Roman hospital’s Dr. Galetta stated that it was not a suicide attempt.

Witness Hoke Claims Love Asked Him, and then Allan Wrench, to Kill Cobain

P.I. Tom Grant wasn’t the only person claiming someone murdered Kurt Cobain. Eldon “El Duce” Hoke, lead singer of The Mentors, stated on film that Courtney Love offered him $50,000 to shoot Cobain in the head with a shotgun. She made the offer at Hoke’s job site, The Rock Shop, a record store in Hollywood, California, at the end of 1993. Grant heard about Hoke and asked him to report this assertion to the LAPD, but nothing came of it.

In 1996, NBC’s Hard Copy hired one of the country’s top polygraph examiners, Dr. Edward Gelb, who conducted a “lie detector” test, which Hoke passed. In 1997, Hoke re-stated his allegations, first to a journalist who taped their conversation, and then to Nick Broomfield in the film Kurt and Courtney. Hoke added that he wasn’t available to follow through with the offer, but he knew who did, “Allan…” and then he cut himself off, saying ironically, “I’ll let the FBI catch him.”

Hoke was found dead several days later.

A Violation of Federal Law Within Our Investigative Jurisdiction” Needed

Several of the letters in Cobain’s FBI file are dated in 2000, 2006, and 2007, and all contain the exact same response: “In order for the FBI to initiate an investigation of any complaint we receive, specific facts must be present to indicate that a violation of federal law within our investigative jurisdiction has occurred.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Bulletin states: “The intent element of § 1958 relates to murder; it does not relate to interstate activity. The interstate travel merely triggers federal jurisdiction. A defendant need not intend to travel across state lines to commit murder-for-hire; instead, a defendant need only intend to commit a murder-for-hire and, in doing so, travel across state lines” Bertoldo v. United States, 145 F. Supp. 2d 111, 115 (D. Mass. 2001).

One of the letters from 2003 mentions the documentary Kurt and Courtney, in which Eldon Hoke stated on film that Courtney Love traveled from Seattle, Washington to Los Angeles, California conspiring to have Cobain murdered.

In Love and Death (2005), the authors report that Love came looking for Hoke at The Rock Shop several weeks after offering him the money and got mad when told that Hoke was away on tour. Hoke heard that his friend Allen Wrench took Love’s offer to kill Cobain. The last person seen with Eldon Hoke the night of his death was Allan Wrench.

Police Cover-up and U.S. Intelligence Links to Courtney Love

Tom Grant further found evidence of a Seattle police cover-up, which suggests that police intelligence got word from higher up the U.S. intelligence hierarchy. Police didn’t check for fingerprints on the shotgun found with Cobain until a month after his body was found and then claimed there were no legible prints. Seattle PD also refused to develop the photos from the scene of death for twenty years.

As a featured witness in the film Soaked in Bleach, Cyril Wecht, MD, former President of the American Academy of Forensic Science, told CBS Channel 2 News in Pittsburgh that he thought Cobain’s death was “a ‘staged suicide.’” There was enough heroin in Cobain’s system to kill five people, yet police claimed he had time to put his syringe and other paraphernalia away neatly in a box before picking up the shotgun. Wecht said that was “highly unlikely,” since such a large dose would incapacitate a person in seconds.

Detective Antonio Terry, who reportedly went against his superior's orders and investigated the source of the heroin in Cobain’s body, was also murdered, becoming the first active duty Seattle police officer to die in nine years.

CIA Motives and Evidence of Involvement in Cobain’s Death

In 1953, the CIA started Project MK-Ultra, which used many drugs, including heroin and LSD, for "unconventional warfare." In 1971, The Washington Post revealed how the CIA infiltrated 17 Washington-area activist groups and gave out LSD, apparently to disrupt their minds and their work. MK-Ultra often partnered with Cointelpro, which worked with opiates for a similar purpose.

Courtney Love’s father, Hank Harrison, introduced her to Steve O’Leary when she was 17. O’Leary took her to England, where she brought a thousand hits of LSD to punk and new wave music scenes, slept with many musicians, and disrupted bands. She repeated this behavior in many American music scenes, handing out drugs like candy. O'Leary later confessed to Harrison that he had been working for the CIA at the time.

By many accounts, Love influenced Cobain into daily heroin use, and Cobain incidentally helped popularize the drug for at least several years. Cobain had a horribly painful stomach problem that heroin helped quell, but once he found a medical cure in 1993, he stopped using, as verified by the Roman hospital’s blood tests a month before his death. A newly sober Cobain threatened to promote sobriety and leftist activism.

Evidence that U.S. intelligence played a part in what appears as Kurt Cobain’s murder deserves more scrutiny and attention.


John Potash is the author of the book and film, Drugs as Weapons Against Us: The CIA War on Musicians and Activists.