Kurt Cobain’s Unplugged guitar is being sold at auction by…someone

If alt-rock had a Stradivarius, it might be the 1959 Martin D-18E acoustic guitar Kurt Cobain played during Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance in November 1993. Not only is it an important rock’n’roll artifact, but it’s also a family heirloom. And the story and mythology around the guitar keeps getting weirder.

The guitar resided with Courtney Love and Frances Bean until 2014. That’s when Frances secretly married an obscure musician (and, let’s be honest, Kurt Cobain lookalike) Isaiah Silva. As a wedding gift, she gave him the Martin.

But when the marriage ended badly in 2016, Silva made it very clear that he was going to keep the guitar. “Hey, it’s my wedding gift. It’s mine.”

This set off a fight. Courtney hired Sam Lutfi, Britney Spears’ former manager to pressure Silva to give it back. The alleged story says that he threatened the mother of Silva’s son, saying that the child would end up in an orphanage.

The whole ended up in court in 2018 with a judge giving possession of the guitar to Silva. But then he filed a lawsuit against Courtney and Lutfi, alleging they threatened to kill him to get the guitar back. Courtney responded by demanding that Silva undergo a psych evaluation.

Now we hear that Julien’s Auctions will sell the guitar next month. And who’s the seller? We don’t know, but it’s probably Silva.

I quote from Julien’s website:

“Some of the most iconic memorabilia and important artifacts ever assembled, representing the legendary multi-genre music artists of our time will be offered: Kurt Cobain, Nirvana, Prince, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash, Jim Morrison, the Rolling Stones, Queen, David Bowie, The Police, Guns N’ Roses, Bob Marley, Elton John, Whitney Houston, Cher, and many more.

“At the center of this event is the 1959 Martin D-18E played by Kurt Cobain throughout Nirvana’s most legendary performance in their live taping for the popular MTV Unplugged series on November 18, 1993. Approximately five months before his death, Cobain chose this guitar to paint what Rolling Stone called ‘his last self-portrait.'”

How much? If you have to ask…

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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