How Courtney Love inspired one of Nirvana's biggest songs

30 August 2022, 17:57

Nirvana - Heart-Shaped Box

Celebrate Nirvana's In Utero album by looking back into one of its most iconic singles.

Nirvana's In Utero album is a whopping 27 years old.

The third and final album - which was released in September 1993 - went on to be the grunge band's swan song, after their frontman Kurt Cobain tragically lost his life to suicide on 5 April 1994.

Intentionally made to sound less polished than its predecessor, Nevermind (1991), In Utero saw Nirvana recapture the heavy and abrasive sound of their early days.

One of the stand-out tracks from the album is Heart-Shaped Box, which is known for its iconic video as well as its striking lyrics.

Cobain is thought to have begun writing the song in early 1992 around the time he wed Courtney Love, but just how much was it inspired by the Hole frontwoman?

READ MORE: Are these the best third albums ever?

Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and Hole's Courtney Love
Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and Hole's Courtney Love. Picture: KMazur/WireImage/Getty Images

READ MORE: What did Nirvana play at their final gig before Kurt Cobain died?

Heart-Shaped Box was released on 30 August 1993 but was a glint in Kurt Cobain's eye at least a year before when he wrote the track in early 1992.

Many believe that the song was about Cobain's feelings for Love - who he married in February 1992 - but as noted in Michael Azerrad's book, Come As You Are, the idea came directly from a heart-shaped box full of possessions she gave to him.

A quick look at the artwork for the single is testament to this:

Nirvana's Heart-Shaped Box album artwork
Nirvana's Heart-Shaped Box album artwork. Picture: Press

READ MORE: When Dave Grohl reunited with the girl from Nirvana's Heart-Shaped Box

But as recently as 2012 Love hinted that the inspiration didn't end there. As reported by Rolling Stone in 2012, Lana Del Rey gave a rendition of the track in Australia and Love reached out to her on Twitter to give her a little more context.

She wrote: "You do know the song is about my vagina right? 'Throw down your umbilical noose so i can climb right back,' umm".

She added: "on top of which some of the lyrics about my vagina i contributed".

Despite the song's title being inspired by a box given to him by Courtney Love, it was almost called something else entirely.

Early mentions of the track, including its demo refer to the song as Heart-Shaped Coffin... which is pretty apt for Nirvana, but we reckon doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

nirvana heart shaped box (band demo)

Still, had it been called Heart-Shaped Coffin, the song's original title would have only made it all the more haunting and prophetic when Cobain sadly took his own life.

READ MORE: When and where did Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love get married?