"You Know You're Right" is a song by the American grunge band Nirvana. It is the first song on its compilation album, Nirvana (2002), and the last song recorded by the band, before frontman Kurt Cobain's death.
"You Know You're Right" was written in 1993, making it one of the last known Kurt Cobain compositions. For years, it was known from only 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 1994.
A studio version of the song was recorded at Nirvana's final session, on January 30, 1994 at Robert Lang Studios in Seattle, Washington, but remained locked away from fans for years following Cobain's death. This recording became the object of much legal wrangling between Love and surviving Nirvana bandmates Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic. Grohl and Novoselic had wanted the song for a planned Nirvana box set, but Love blocked its release, and a battle over Nirvana's legacy ensued.
Love maintained that "You Know You're Right" would have been "wasted" on a box set, and would be better-suited to a single-disc collection similar to The Beatles' 1. 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. 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."
In September 2002, the lawsuit between Love and the surviving Nirvana members 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. 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 the band's first to top Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and its fifth Modern Rock Tracks number-one. The song was re-released on the band's second greatest hits compilation, Icon, in 2010.
In 2004, an acoustic demo of the song was released on the box set, With the Lights Out. It was re-released in 2005 on the band's compilation album, Sliver: The Best of the Box. This boombox-recorded rendition is the third known version of the song, the other being a live version that was recorded on October 23, 1993 at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago.
"You Know You're Right" may not have had a proper 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.
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 "I'm a Mountain." These names were however 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,'" not realizing that Cobain had already started playing "You Know You're Right." Thanks 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. Fricke also mis-represents the lyrics in his liner notes.
|Finland (IFPI Finland)[note 1]||45|
|U.S Billboard Hot 100(Billboard)||45|
|U.S Mainstream Rock Tracks(Billboard)||1|
|U.S Modern Rock Tracks(Billboard)||1|
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."