You Know You're Right

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"You Know You're Right"
Nirvana - You Know You're Right.jpg
Single by Nirvana
from the album Nirvana
ReleasedOctober 8, 2002
FormatDigital download
RecordedJanuary 30, 1994
Robert Lang Studios in Seattle, Washington
GenreGrunge, Alternative rock
Songwriter(s)Kurt Cobain
Producer(s)Adam Kasper
Nirvana singles chronology
"You Know You're Right"
Music video
"You Know You're Right" on YouTube

"You Know You're Right" is a song by the American rock band Nirvana, written by lead vocalist and guitarist, Kurt Cobain. It is the first song on the 2002 compilation album Nirvana, and one of the last songs the band recorded before Cobain's death in April 1994.[1] Released as a promo single, "You Know You're Right" reached number one on both Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks and Modern Rock Tracks charts.[2]

Origin and recording[edit]

"You Know You're Right" was written in 1993. For years, it was known only from a bootlegged live version, recorded on October 23, 1993 at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, Illinois, and from a performance of the song by the American grunge band Hole (fronted by Cobain's widow, Courtney Love) during the band's MTV Unplugged set in 1995.

A studio version was recorded by Adam Kasper at Nirvana's final session, on January 30, 1994 at Robert Lang Studios in Seattle, Washington. The band had booked the studio for three days, but Cobain had been absent for the first two days, leaving bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl to work on Grohl and Novoselic's songs. Upon Cobain's arrival on the third day, he suggested they work on "You Know You're Right," which was then untitled and featured unfinished lyrics. The band performed the song twice before recording the final take, and Cobain recorded four vocal takes.[3] It was the only Cobain composition recorded during the session that featured completed vocals.[4] Cobain's final contribution to the recording was a guitar overdub. The studio's owner, Robert Lang, recalls being "speechless" first hearing the band perform the song while in the control room with Kasper.[3]

The band planned to continue work on a fourth Nirvana album at Lang's studio after their upcoming European tour, but Cobain died in April 1994, before they could return.[3] The recording of "You Know You're Right" remained unreleased for years, eventually becoming the centre of a legal dispute between Love and Grohl and Novoselic. Grohl and Novoselic had wanted the song for a planned Nirvana box set, but Love blocked its release, saying that the song would have been "wasted" on a box set, and would be better-suited to a single-disc collection similar to The Beatles' 1.[5] Her lawsuit called the song a "potential 'hit' of extraordinary artistic and commercial value," and her manager asserted that a release with the song could sell 15 million copies.[6] Novoselic revealed that he did not necessarily disagree with Love: "I've always considered everything she said. We've considered it and agreed and said, 'Hey, that's a great idea, Courtney.' I tried to get along with Courtney as best I could, but there's only so much you can do."[5]

In September 2002, the lawsuit was settled, and it was announced that "You Know You're Right" would arrive on "a one-CD history of the band" called Nirvana later that year.[3] An unmastered MP3 of the song was leaked on the Internet almost two months prior to its official release, and the song was put in rotation by a number of alternative rock radio stations, even after being sent cease and desist letters from Nirvana's record label.

"You Know You're Right" was eventually released as a promo single, and a Chris Hafner-directed music video was made. The video used various footage of band performances pieced together to give the effect of the song actually being performed, including brief clips of Cobain singing. The song was re-released on the band's second greatest hits compilation, Icon, in 2010.


"You Know You're Right" did not have an official title at the time of Cobain's death in April 1994. According to a 2004 Seattle Times article by Gillian G. Gaar, it was listed simply as "Kurt's Song #1" on the tracking sheets from the Robert Lang Studios recording session. In 1995, it was performed as "You've Got No Right" by Hole at their MTV Unplugged appearance, and this title was most commonly used by fans prior to the release of the album Nirvana in 2002.

In the liner notes to Nirvana, Rolling Stone writer David Fricke erroneously states that the song had gone under the previous titles of "Autopilot" and "On a Mountain." The latter title was also cited by Charles Cross in his 2001 Cobain biography, Heavier Than Heaven.[7]:306 These names were actually invented by bootleggers who had misheard Dave Grohl's comment at the beginning of the live version. Grohl had announced, "This is our last song; it's called 'All Apologies'"[8] not realizing that Cobain had already started playing "You Know You're Right." Due to the poor fidelity of the live recording, bootleggers believed Grohl had introduced the new song, and tried to interpret what they thought was its title. Cross also seems to misrepresent the lyrics in Heavier Than Heaven, citing the lyric, "I am walking in the piss," which appears in Hole's 1995 version of the song, but in no known Nirvana recording.[7]:306, 381


"You Know You're Right" became the band's first song to top Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, and its fifth Modern Rock Tracks number-one.[9]

Amy McAuliffe of the BBC called the song "a poignant reminder of what might have been" and described it as "listening to a dead man snarling out his last gasp of righteous sarcasm."[10] David Samuels of Slate wrote that "unlike most post-mortem rock releases, 'You Know You’re Right' is not B-side material or the result of recording studio wizardry—it’s a real Nirvana song" that showed that "Cobain was at the peak of his powers as a vocalist and songwriter—the most gifted and popular writer that rock music had seen since Lennon/McCartney."[11]

In 2011, "You Know You're Right" was ranked at number two on NME's list of the 10 best Nirvana songs.[12] In 2015, Rolling Stone listed it at number 21 on their ranking of 102 Nirvana songs.[13] The song's producer, Adam Kasper, called it "one of their best songs, probably in the Top Ten."[3]


Year Publication Country Accolade Rank
2004 Q United Kingdom High Spirits: 10 Greatest Nirvana Songs Ever[14] 9
2011 NME Nirvana: Their 10 Best Tracks[15] 2

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (2002) Peak
Brazil Hot 100 (ABPD)[16] 62
Finland Airplay (The Official Finnish Charts)[17] 45
Poland (LP3)[18][19] 13
US Billboard Hot 100[20] 45
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)[21] 1
US Alternative Songs (Billboard)[22] 1
US Radio Songs (Billboard)[23] 43

Recording and release history[edit]

Only three versions of "You Know You're Right" are known to exist: the studio version, the live version from the band's show at the Aragon Ballroom in October 1993, and an acoustic demo that was first released in November 2004 on the band's rarities box set, With the Lights Out.

Demo and studio versions[edit]

Date recorded Studio Producer/recorder Releases Personnel
1993 Cobain residence, Seattle, Washington Kurt Cobain With the Lights Out (2004)
Sliver: The Best of the Box (2005)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
January 30, 1994 Robert Lang Studios, Seattle, Washington Adam Kaspar
Nirvana (2002)
Icon (2010)
  • Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar)
  • Krist Novoselic (guitar)
  • Dave Grohl (drums)


The song was performed by Hole as "You've Got No Right" during their MTV Unplugged appearance on February 14, 1995. The band's lead singer and Cobain's widow, Courtney Love, introduced it as "a song that Kurt wrote; [the] last song, almost." Seether performed an acoustic version of the song in 2003 and in 2004 a full cover version at Rock in Rio.


  1. ^ Stout, Gene (30 September 2002). "Courtney Love, former members of Nirvana settle suit". Retrieved 10 November 2012.
  2. ^ Bronson, Fred. "Chart Beat. Billboard. November 2, 2002.
  3. ^ a b c d e Cross, Charles (October 8, 2002). ""New" Nirvana Due This Month". Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  4. ^ Luerssen, John D. (2014). Nirvana FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Most Important Band of the 1990s. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-1-61713-588-0.
  5. ^ a b A piece of Kurt Cobain
  6. ^ vanHorn, Teri (2001-06-29). "Courtney Love Sues Grohl And Novoselic, Blocks Nirvana Rarity - Music, Celebrity, Artist News". Retrieved 10 November 2012.
  7. ^ a b Cross, Charles R. (August 15, 2001). Heavier Than Heaven. United States: Hyperion. ISBN 0-7868-6505-9.
  8. ^ "10/23/93 - Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL, US | Live Nirvana Tour History". Live Nirvana. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
  9. ^ Bronson, Fred. "Chart Beat. Billboard. November 2, 2002.
  10. ^ McAuliffe, Amy (2002). "Nirvana Nirvana Review". BBC. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  11. ^ Samuels, David (15 November 2002). "Kurt Cobain's Last Stand". Slate. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  12. ^ Elan, Priya (September 7, 2011). "Nirvana – Their 10 Best Tracks". NME. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  13. ^ "No Apologies: All 102 Nirvana Songs Ranked". April 8, 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  14. ^ "123: High Spirits - 10 Greatest Nirvana Songs Ever". Q. 2004. Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Retrieved October 12, 2012.
  15. ^ Elan, Priya (September 7, 2011). "Nirvana – Their 10 Best Tracks". NME. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  16. ^ Brazil Hot 100 - 1999 - 2013 Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  17. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2003). Sisältää hitin: levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972. Otava Publishing Company Ltd. ISBN 951-1-21053-X.
  18. ^ "YOU KNOW YOU'RE RIGHT". Polskie Radio. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  19. ^ "Archiwum Listy Przebojow - Trojki - Nrivana". Polskie Radio. Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  20. ^ "Nirvana Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  21. ^ "Nirvana Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard.
  22. ^ "Nirvana Chart History (Alternative Songs)". Billboard.
  23. ^ "Nirvana Chart History (Radio Songs)". Billboard.

External links[edit]