Courtney Love
Courtney Love

Love performing with Hole at SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas, March 2010
Background information
Birth name Courtney Michelle Harrison[1]
Also known as Courtney Love
Born July 9, 1964 (1964-07-09) (age 47)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Genres Alternative rock[2]
Occupations Singer-songwriter, musician, actress
Instruments Vocals, guitar, bass, keyboard
Years active 1982–present
Labels Sympathy for the Record Industry, Sub Pop, Caroline, DGC / Geffen, City Slang, Universal, Virgin, Mercury
Associated acts Hole, Babes in Toyland, Sugar Babydoll, Pagan Babies, Faith No More, Emilie Autumn
Notable instruments
Fender Jazzmaster[3]
Fender Vista Venus[4]
Rickenbacker 360[5]
Rickenbacker 425[6]

Courtney Michelle Love (born Courtney Michelle Harrison; July 9, 1964)[1] is an American rock musician. Love is the lead vocalist, lyricist, and rhythm guitarist for alternative rock band Hole, which she formed in 1989, and is an actress who has moved from bit parts in Alex Cox films to significant and acclaimed roles in The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996) and Man on the Moon (1999). She was married to Kurt Cobain, frontman of the grunge band Nirvana, with whom she has a daughter, Frances Bean Cobain.[7] In the early 1990s, she also became known for popularising the fashion style "kinderwhore", characterized by torn babydoll dresses and smeared red lipstick.[8] Throughout her career, Love's wild stage antics and subversive feminist attitude have polarized audiences and critics,[9][10] with Rolling Stone once calling her "the most controversial woman in the history of rock."[11][12]

Love was born in San Francisco, California, to Linda Carroll, a psychotherapist, and Hank Harrison, briefly road manager for The Grateful Dead. She had a disturbed upbringing, and as a boisterous teenager was sent to a youth correctional facility after being caught stealing. When she was 16 she wrote for punk-zine Maximumrocknroll, and became a part-time exotic dancer, which enabled her to travel to Japan and Taiwan. A trust fund gave her some independence, and allowed her to briefly study at Trinity College, Dublin, and to live in Liverpool.

Her first musical project was in the early 1980s with an on-and-off band called Sugar Babydoll, and then she had a brief stint as lead singer of Faith No More. She started her career as an actress with minor roles in Alex Cox films, most notably Sid and Nancy (1986), but turned her focus to music and moved to Los Angeles in 1989 where she formed Hole with guitarist Eric Erlandson. Originally influenced by noise rock and no wave music, the band went on to release several successful albums in the 1990s, most notably Live Through This (1994) and Celebrity Skin (1998). Love received intense media attention over her 1992 marriage to Kurt Cobain, before and after his 1994 suicide. She would later gain recognition as an actress for her award-nominated performance in The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), and she continued to occasionally star in films. Love had a brief solo career, releasing America's Sweetheart (2004), and was the subject of much media attention for various drug and legal issues in the following year. In 2006, Love was sentenced to six months of lock-down rehab and achieved sobriety thereafter. In 2009, Love re-emerged and reformed Hole with new members, releasing a fourth album, Nobody's Daughter (2010).

Contents

Early life: 1964–1988

Courtney Michelle Harrison was born in 1964 in San Francisco, California, to Linda Carroll, a psychotherapist, and Hank Harrison, a publisher who had some association with the Grateful Dead - Love would later tell people that at five years old she was included in a group picture on the back of the band's third album, Aoxomoxoa (1969).[13] Her parents divorced in 1969, with custody being awarded to Carroll after a child custody hearing during which she alleged that Harrison had fed LSD to Love when she was four years old, which he denied.[14] Carroll then remarried, eventually giving birth to two more daughters and adopting a son.[15] Love moved with her family to Marcola, Oregon in 1970. In 1972, Carroll relocated to New Zealand with her family, but sent Love back to the United States after she was kicked out of her boarding school. Carroll eventually returned to Oregon as well and divorced her second husband, later marrying a third.[15]

At age 14, Love was arrested for shoplifting a t-shirt and was sent to Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility,[15] where it was noted her academic ability was above average for the institution, yet she caused problems because of her "negative, boisterous" behavior.[16] Oregon's Children's Services Division noted that "Courtney has been in search of the family life she has always been deprived of for so many years", and has "rejected substitutes as unworthy".[16] She was moved to over 20 different facilities and foster homes between 1978 and 1980.[16] At age 16, Love moved to Portland, where she worked as an exotic dancer,[17] and briefly as a DJ at Portland's community radio station, KBOO.[18] Love has said that she "didn't have a lot of social skills" as a teenager,[19] and was raised by her friends and drag queens at gay clubs in Portland.[20][21] Love also took job opportunities working at dance halls in Japan and Taiwan.[15][15][22] She wrote an article under the name "Courtney Michelle" in punk-zine Maximumrocknroll:[23] "I wrote three or four of these missives from Portland, all about Poison Idea and Rancid Vat. But of course being me, I wrote something controversial and got a cross burned on my lawn. I wrote that Tom 'Pig' was a neo-fascist or something."[24]

In 1981, a social worker discovered a trust fund established for Love by her mother's adoptive parents, and she gained independence,[15], traveling to England and Ireland,[25], where she took two semesters at Trinity College, Dublin and took photos for Hot Press.[26] She briefly moved into the Liverpool home of musician Julian Cope [27][28] and also developed a friendship with Ian McCulloch of Echo and the Bunnymen.[29] Love started her first musical project in the early 1980s, an on-and-off band called Sugar Babydoll that never reached fruition. The beginning of her musical career was a brief stint as lead singer of Faith No More. According to Love, she showed up to a concert in San Francisco wearing a wedding gown, and "demanded" to be in the band.[30] She was only part of the group for a short amount of time, but later maintained a friendship with Roddy Bottum.

At age 20, in 1984, Love met Kat Bjelland in Portland at the Satyricon nightclub, and the two became friends, often experimenting musically with friend Jennifer Finch, a bassist.[31] Love and Bjelland moved to San Francisco the following year and formed a band called The Pagan Babies, with Deidre Schletter and Janis Tanaka, but the band dissolved in the summer of 1985 after recording one demo, largely due to fighting and troubles involving drug abuse.[30][32] Love briefly played bass in Kat Bjelland's band Babes In Toyland in Minneapolis for a short time but was kicked out of this group as well.[33] Love stayed in Minneapolis and got a gig as a promoter for rock shows, promoting concerts by bands such as The Butthole Surfers, but left for Los Angeles soon after.[15]

In-between relocations, Love took classes at Portland State University,[34] as well as San Francisco State University and the San Francisco Art Institute, where Love took a film class taught by George Kuchar and starred in one of his short films.[35][36] Love later starred in two Alex Cox films in the late 1980s, but was ultimately dissatisfied with acting so returned to stripping, where she was recognized and photographed by customers at a bar in McMinnville, Oregon.[30][37] Love then retreated to Alaska for several months where she continued to strip to support herself.[30][15]

Music career

Hole's formation

Flyer made by Courtney Love promoting a Hole show in 1991, Los Angeles

In 1989, Love taught herself to play guitar and moved to Los Angeles. She placed an ad in Flipside, reading: "I want to start a band. My influences are Big Black, Sonic Youth, and Fleetwood Mac"[38] to which guitarist Eric Erlandson replied. After a cycle of several bass players and drummers, Love and Erlandson recruited bassist Jill Emery and drummer Caroline Rue into the band, which they named Hole. Hole played their first gig in November 1989 at Raji's after three months of rehearsal, and began making singles on the Long Beach, California, independent label Sympathy for the Record Industry. Their first single, titled "Retard Girl," was issued in spring 1990. Disc jockey Rodney Bingenheimer jokingly said that Love would often "stalk him" at a restaurant chain, Denny's, showing him the band's single and insisting that he should give it air time on his station, KROQ-FM.[15] One year later, the band debuted their second single, "Dicknail" through Sub Pop Records, and began to gain a following in Los Angeles, and eventually a national club tour.

Influenced by the sounds and style of no wave rock bands, Love got Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon to produce the band's first studio album. Hole's debut album Pretty on the Inside (1991) was released in September 1991 on Caroline Records, produced by Gordon and Gumball's Don Fleming. It charted at 59 on the UK Albums Chart in October 1991.[39] The New Yorker referred to it as "the most compelling album to have been released in 1991",[40] and Spin also labelled it one of the 20 best albums of the year.[41]

Love went on tour with Hole to promote the record in Europe and the United States.[42] Several years after the album's release, Love made comments that though the album was "the truth", it was also an act of proving herself to her "indie peers" who had "made fun of her" for liking R.E.M. and The Smiths.[43] She also referred to the creation of the album as a sort of self-exorcism.[44] Shortly after the release of Pretty on the Inside, Love began dating Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, and they were married in 1992, giving birth to a daughter, Frances.

Breakthrough and commercial success

Hole recorded their second album, Live Through This, in the fall of 1993 in Atlanta and released it in 1994, just four days after Love's husband, Cobain, was found dead of a self-inflicted shotgun wound in their home. The album had a new lineup, with Kristen Pfaff on bass and Patty Schemel on drums; Jill Emery and Caroline Rue had both left the band in 1992. Less than two months after the release of Live Through This, on June 16, Kristen Pfaff died of an apparent heroin overdose.[30] Love soon after recruited 22-year-old bassist Melissa Auf der Maur for the band's upcoming tour. Throughout the months preceding the tour, Love was rarely seen in public, spending her time in her homes, or visiting the Namgyal Buddhist Monastery in New York.[36]

The live performances for Hole's 1994 and 1995 tours became notorious because of Love's emotional state, described as "part therapy and part eulogy",[30] with Love often altering hurtful song lyrics toward herself, dedicating songs to Cobain and Pfaff, provoking fans, throwing guitars into the audience,[45] and breaking into screaming fits onstage. Disgruntled Nirvana fans—many of whom had been adherents to conspiracy theories alleging that Love had murdered Cobain— threw shotgun shells at her onstage on several occasions.[46]

Live Through This was an immense commercial and critical success. Spin and the Village Voice declared it "Album of the Year" and by November the record was certified gold. By April 1995, it went platinum. Entertainment Weekly noted the album for dealing with "life in the media spotlight, motherhood, being called Nirvana's Yoko Ono, the idea that love and sex strip women of their dignity-these and other thoughts are on her mind, and her frazzled, occasionally venomous observations make for what amounts to a shrink session with a beat."[47] Columnist Geoffrey Himes noted the album's reactiveness toward "the impossible situation that confronts women when they are asked to be both wild sources of pleasure and unblemished mother figures."[48]

The album's subject matter ranged from themes of pregnancy, rape, and relationships to conformity, child abuse, and suicide.[49] Live Through This went on to be declared one of the best albums of all time by Rolling Stone magazine in their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time issue in 2003.[50]

Following the success of Live Through This, Hole went on a hiatus beginning in 1996 while Love acted in several films. In 1997, the band released a compilation album, My Body, The Hand Grenade through City Slang records, which featured material from the band's earliest recordings in 1989 up until 1995— the album featured several singles and live tracks, and was described as an anthology of the band's progression from punk rock to more mainstream alternative rock tastes.

While My Body, The Hand Grenade was being released, Hole was in the studio recording Celebrity Skin, which featured a more pop rock style than the band's previous albums. Released in September 1998, Celebrity Skin was noted for its pop rock-influenced style, and received positive critical reaction. Rolling Stone gave the album four out of five stars, saying, "the album teems with sonic knockouts that make you see all sorts of stars. It's accessible, fiery and intimate—often at the same time. Here is a basic guitar record that's anything but basic."[51] Celebrity Skin went on to go multi-platinum, and topped "Best of Year" lists at Spin, the Village Voice, and other periodicals. Erlandson was still the lead guitarist, and now there were Melissa Auf der Maur's backup vocals and bass, but drummer Patty Schemel was replaced by a session drummer during the recording.[52] The album is noted for being the only Hole album to garner a No. 1 hit single on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, with its title track, "Celebrity Skin".

During the release and promotion of Celebrity Skin, Love and Fender designed a low-price Squier brand guitar, called Vista Venus[53] (as Cobain did in 1994, doing the design of his Fender Jag-Stang). The instrument featured a shape inspired by Mercury, Stratocaster, and Rickenbacker's solidbodies and had a single-coil and a humbucker pickup. In an early 1999 interview, Love said about the Venus: "I wanted a guitar that sounded really warm and pop, but which required just one box to go dirty (...) And something that could also be your first band guitar. I didn't want it all teched out. I wanted it real simple, with just one pickup switch. Because I think that cultural revolutions are in the hands of guitar players". She also declared, "my Venus is better than the Jag-Stang".[54] The Squier Vista Venus model is currently discontinued, as is the Jag-Stang as of 2006.

Hole toured Australia in 1999 to support the album, then the U.S. on a tour with Marilyn Manson. The two bands mocked each other on stage.[55] Hole dropped off the tour, citing the obligation to pay 50% of Manson's staging costs as a reason. The singers of both bands told MTV there was no animosity and they were happy to end the tour. Hole finished the year's dates with Imperial Teen opening.[56]

Solo career

Love performing in London, England on her 43rd birthday (2007).

With Hole in disarray, Love began a "punk rock femme supergroup" called Bastard during autumn 2001, enlisting Schemel, Veruca Salt co-frontwoman Louise Post, and bassist Gina Crosley, whom Post recommended. Though a demo was completed, the project never reached fruition.[57][58] On May 24, 2002, Hole officially announced their breakup amid continuing litigation with Universal Music Group over their record contract.

A whirlwind of legal troubles surrounded Love beginning in 2003, when public attention fell on her for various arrests and drug charges, most notably after the release of her solo album, America's Sweetheart.[59][60][61] Love had begun composing the album with Linda Perry in 2002. America's Sweetheart, released on Virgin Records in February 2004, was embraced by critics with mixed reviews. Spin called it a "jaw-dropping act of artistic will and a fiery, proper follow-up to 1994’s Live Through This" and awarded it eight out of ten stars,[62] while Rolling Stone suggested that, "for people who enjoy watching celebrities fall apart, America's Sweetheart should be more fun than an Osbournes marathon."

The album sold 86,000 copies in its first three months, with the singles Mono and "Hold on to Me", both of which earned competent spots on album charts. Love has publicly expressed her regret over the record several times, calling it "a crap record", reasoning that her drug issues at the time were to blame.[63]

In 2006, Love started recording what was going to be her second solo album, How Dirty Girls Get Clean,[19][64] collaborating with Linda Perry and Billy Corgan in the writing and recording. Love had written several songs, including an anti-cocaine song entitled "Loser Dust", during her time in rehab.[65]

Some tracks and demos from the album (initially planned for release in 2008) were leaked on the internet in 2006, and a documentary entitled The Return of Courtney Love, detailing the making of the album, aired on the British television network in the fall of that year. A rough acoustic version of "Never Go Hungry Again", recorded during an interview for The Times in November, was also released. Incomplete audio clips of the song "Samantha", originating from an interview with NPR, were also distributed on the internet in 2007.[66]

Hole reformation

Love performing in Philadelphia, 2010

On June 17, 2009, NME reported that Hole would be reuniting. Former Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson stated in Spin magazine that contractually no reunion can take place without his involvement; therefore Nobody's Daughter would remain Love's solo record, as opposed to a "Hole" record. Love responded to Erlandson's comments in a Twitter post, claiming that "he's out of his mind, Hole is my band, my name, and my Trademark".[67]

Nobody's Daughter was released worldwide as a Hole album in April 2010. For the new line-up, Love recruited guitarist Micko Larkin, Shawn Dailey (bass guitar), and Stu Fisher (drums, percussion). Nobody's Daugher featured a great deal of material written and recorded for Love's aborted solo album, How Dirty Girls Get Clean, including "Pacific Coast Highway", "Letter to God", "Samantha", and "Never Go Hungry", although they were re-produced with Larkin.

The first single from Nobody's Daughter was "Skinny Little Bitch", which was the most added song on alternative rock radio in early March 2010.[68] Hole performed on The Late Show with David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel Live!.

The album received mixed reviews, though the majority of them leant toward positive.[citation needed] Rolling Stone gave the album three out of five stars, saying that Love "worked hard on these songs, instead of just babbling a bunch of druggy bullshit and assuming people would buy it, the way she did on her 2004 flop, America's Sweetheart."[69] Slant Magazine also gave the album three out of five stars, saying "It's Marianne Faithfull's substance-ravaged voice that comes to mind most often while listening to songs like "Honey" and "For Once in Your Life." The latter track is, in fact, one of Love's most raw and vulnerable vocal performances to date. Co-penned by Linda Perry, the song offers a rare glimpse into the mind of a woman who, for the last 15 years, has been as famous for being a rock star as she's been for being a victim."[70]

The album's subject matter was largely centered on Love's tumultuous life between 2003 and 2007, and featured a polished folk-rock sound with much more acoustic work than previous Hole albums. Love toured Europe, Japan, and the United States promoting the album in the spring and summer of 2010, ending the tour at Seattle's Bumbershoot festival in September.[71] In the summer of 2011, the band played at several festivals in Russia, and are continuing to tour in Australia and Brazil through 2012.

Acting career

Love worked with director Alex Cox on her first two films; she gained a small part in the Sid Vicious biopic Sid and Nancy (1986), and was then given the leading role in his following film, Straight to Hell (1987).[72] In 1987, Love appeared in a television show Andy Warhol's Fifteen Minutes with Robbie Nevil in a segment titled "C'est la Vie", in which she is dressed in vintage clothes discussing "bag ladies".[73][74] Nearly a decade later, in 1996, she had small parts in Basquiat and Feeling Minnesota, before landing the co-star role of Larry Flynt's wife, Althea, in Miloš Forman's 1996 film The People vs. Larry Flynt, against Columbia Pictures' reluctance due to her low profile and "troubled" past.[75] Love received critical acclaim, a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress, and a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress,[76] for what film critic Roger Ebert called "quite a performance; Love proves she is not a rock star pretending to act, but a true actress".[77] Other roles include starring opposite Jim Carrey in Man on the Moon (1999), and a leading role in Julie Johnson (2001) as Lili Taylor's lesbian lover, for which she won an Outstanding Actress award at L.A.'s Outfest.[78] She followed with another leading part in the thriller film Trapped (2002), alongside Kevin Bacon and Charlize Theron.

Other projects

Courtney Love with Terry Richardson during New York Fashion Week 2011

In 2004, Love collaborated with illustrators Misaho Kujiradou and Ai Yazawa to create a manga comic, Princess Ai.[79] The story is based in part on Love's life, and involves the main character's search for her place in the world; it was written by Stu Levy under the name D.J. Milky, and released by his publishing company Tokyopop.[80]

Although Love said she would "never write a book",[81] she did publish a memoir in 2006 titled Dirty Blonde: The Diaries of Courtney Love. The memoir was diary entries, poems, letters, drawings, personal photos, and lyric compositions spanning from Love's childhood up until the year 2006, shortly after her release from a six-month rehab sentence. The book was generally well-reviewed by critics,[82] and Love did book readings in promotion for it.

In more recent years, Love has expressed a great deal of interest in fashion, coining her flamboyant outfits and accessories with the term "kook".[83] Love attended various fashion shows in 2009 and 2010, and performed with Hole at several of the shows, including the Givenchy fashion party in Paris. She also started a fashion blog titled What Courtney Wore Today [1]. In October 2010, Love and Michael Mouris created an animated short film detailing Love's "kooky" fashion sense, titled The Dark Night of the Soul.

In late September 2011, it was announced that Love was writing a "tell-all" memoir about her life with Kurt Cobain, her Hollywood career, and her substance abuse issues.[84][85] Love signed a book deal with William Morrow and Company, and is expected to release it in the fall of 2012.[84]

Personal life

Relationships

Love's most prolific relationship was with fellow rock musician Kurt Cobain. The two first encountered one another at the Satyricon nightclub in January 1989, where Nirvana was playing a show. Cobain passed by a booth where Love was seated with a friend, and she blurted to him, "You look like Dave Pirner" (lead singer of Soul Asylum). The two purportedly playfully wrestled on the floor in front of a jukebox that night.[86] They later became reacquainted through Jennifer Finch, one of Love's longtime friends and former bandmates, who was dating Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl at the time.[86] Love told Grohl she had a crush on Cobain, and later sent him a heart-shaped box with a letter and porcelain doll head inside of it.[86] Love and Cobain officially began dating in 1991, and were married on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii, on February 24, 1992. Love wore a satin and lace dress once owned by actress Frances Farmer, and Cobain wore green pajamas. Six months later, on August 18, the couple's only child, a daughter named Frances Bean Cobain, was born. In 1994, Cobain committed suicide. In speaking of her marriage with Kurt Cobain, she has been adamant about the fact that she loved him,[87] but in more recent years has been less inclined to discuss it. In a 2010 interview with NME, Love said she was "sick of talking about it". "I am not his spokesperson on Earth," she told the magazine. "I don't know what he'd be like now; he could be into society girls, he could be into fat girls, he could be homosexual. We don't know, he died at 27."[88]

During their relationship and after his death, it was widely insinuated by the media that Love was something of a "groupie" and had married Cobain in order to achieve fame.[89][90] Love mentioned in a 1994 interview that she felt "competitive" after having married Cobain, and discussed the media's perception of their relationship. "It's a complicated issue for me because so many people have called me a groupie since I married a rock star," said Love.[89] "I just wish that his band was smaller. You know, when we started dating, our bands were about the same. Actually, Hole's first record [Pretty on the Inside] sold more than Nirvana's first record [Bleach]. Of course, that was before they got huge [...] I married one of the best songwriters of my generation. If my goals were minor, the professional side of my relationship with Kurt wouldn't bother me that much."[89]

Prior to her relationship with Cobain, she married "Falling" James Moreland, vocalist of The Leaving Trains, in Las Vegas in 1989. Moreland was a transvestite[91] and Love later referred to their wedding as "a joke"; an annulment was filed within the first few months of the marriage.[92][93] In 1991, Love also dated The Smashing Pumpkins guitarist Billy Corgan.[94] Beginning in 1996, Love dated actor Edward Norton when the two met on the set of The People vs. Larry Flynt. Her relationship with Edward was described as her "most stable".[30] The two were together for several years and were at one point engaged,[95] but separated in 1999.[96] Love was also romantically linked to Trent Reznor in 1995 and British comedian Steve Coogan in the mid-2000s.[97][98]

Love's relationship with her daughter, Frances, has also been turbulent. In 2003, Love temporarily lost custody of the 13-year-old, who went to live with Kurt Cobain's mother, Wendy O'Connor.[99] Love regained custody of Frances in January 2005. In December 2009, it was reported that Love had "lost" custody of Frances again, though her spokesperson Keith Fink told the media: "Courtney's been clean for years and is perfectly fine. This is simply about Frances preferring to live with her grandmother at this time. Frances is 17 and a strong-willed child, and this is a decision she made on her own."[99] In October 2011, Love dejectedly told Vanity Fair that she had no real connection to her daughter.[100]

Substance abuse

Love speaking with Russell Brand in Los Angeles, 2008

Love has struggled with substance abuse problems for a great deal of her life. Love admitted to trying marijuana in her teenage years, but was first introduced to heavier drugs at age 16 while living in Taiwan, using heroin after mistaking it for cocaine.[22] She also revealed that she first tried cocaine with friend Jennifer Finch at age 19; Finch shot an entire roll of film of them as they did lines of the drug, but Love referred to it as "[not] a very pleasant experience."[22] According to Love, "Later that day Jennifer gulped down a bunch of Dilaudid and overdosed. I had never driven a car in my life, but I threw her in a car, and drove her to the hospital, and the doctors saved her life. After that, I was really scared of drugs."[22]

As Love transitioned into the public eye in the 1990s, her struggle with drug abuse was subject of many media outlets, first beginning in a Vanity Fair article by Lynn Hirschberg in 1992, which alluded that Love was addicted to heroin during her pregnancy.[101] Though Love has admitted she used heroin before she knew she was pregnant, she asserts that she stopped "damn fast":[30] "My daughter knows I did drugs in my first trimester of pregnancy. She weighed 7lb 6oz when she was born and she was healthy. [Kurt and I] were excellent parents and I say that despite pretty much always having an edge on."[102]

In 2004, Love's drug use came to public attention again while she promoted her solo album. On March 17, 2004, Love, clearly intoxicated, was interviewed on The Late Show with David Letterman, which ended chaotically with her standing on Letterman's desk and exposing her breasts.[103] That same evening, Love was arrested in Manhattan for possession of a controlled substance after performing at a concert.[103] Love protested her arrest, denying charges and describing the drugs found on her as "one expired Percocet and one Ambien".[104] The police, however, alleged possession of oxycodone and hydrocodone without prescription.[105] On August 14, 2005, Love participated in the Comedy Central Roast of Pamela Anderson, and her erratic behavior while onstage led many to believe that she was inebriated, despite her declaration during the show that she had been "clean and sober" for a year.[106][107]

After several probation violations in early 2006, Love was sentenced to six months of lock down rehab after struggles with prescription drugs and cocaine.[103][108] She made a public statement after her release, saying: "I would just like to thank the court for allowing me these 90 days... [It] helped me deal with a very gnarly drug problem, which is behind me... I've just been playing guitar and taking care of my daughter. I want to [take this opportunity] to let the community know I'm doing great... I've been really inspired and have remained inspired."[65]

In retrospect, Love has jokingly referred to 2004–2007 as "The Letterman Years", in reference to her public breakdown and drug-fueled behavior first surfacing during a chaotic interview with David Letterman in 2004.[109][110] Love has also admitted to abusing rohypnol and opiates.[30][111] In May 2011, Love made public statements that she was "tired" of her reputation as a drug addict: "I've been maligned as this drug freak for years, and I'm getting tired of it. That's not the way I live anymore. I try to work a good program. I don't do smack. I don't do crack anymore."[112] Love has credited Buddhism as having helped her through her addictions several times.[113]

Legal issues

Love has dealt with many legal issues throughout her career. She punched Kathleen Hanna in the face during Lollapalooza in 1995 after Hanna allegedly made a drug joke about daughter Frances Bean,[114] and was sentenced to anger management classes after Hanna pressed charges. The same year, an Australian court ordered Love to "be on good behavior" for a month after she pleaded guilty to verbally abusing a flight attendant who ordered her to keep her legs down while she was resting them against a wall.[115]

More recently, in 2003 and 2004, Love faced several court cases over alleged drug possession and unpaid bills.[116]

In 2006, Love stated that she was planning on selling the rights to Nirvana's catalogue,[117] eventually selling 25% of the catalogue later that year.[118] "I'm thinking about selling off all of Kurt's publishing. All of the rights, everything. It's not a financial decision; it's an emotional one", said Love. "He was the best friend I've ever had, but Kurt and I were only married for three years, and now I need to have my own life. I'm always 'the widow' and that drives me nuts. That money has been cursed since the day it started to come in. It's not really my money."[118]

During the same time period, Love made several public remarks insinuating that large sums of money from Cobain's estate had been siphoned off for several years, first beginning while she was battling serious drug addictions in 2003.[119] Public statements made in 2009 later confirmed these suspicions: "It was fraud after fraud," said Love, "But nobody believed me until now."[119] Nearly 200 credit cards were reportedly registered under Cobain's name, and investigators were able to track cars as well as real estate in New Jersey that had been purchased under his social security number.[119] "I know who they are," Love said. "It had been going on since when I went cuckoo-bananas in 2003... I did a check on my deceased husband's social security number and he has a house in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He bought it last year. I would like to know how. He should probably get his ass back home if that is the case."[119][120] Love hired private investigators as well as forensic accountants in order to find the identity thieves.

In March 2011, Love settled a court case against her by fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir for allegedly posting defamatory statements about the designer on Twitter.[121]

Beliefs

Love has explored a number of different religions, saying: "I have tried it all— I've been a Christian, I've been a Catholic, I've been totally New Age, I've been Episcopalian, I've tried Scientology... and I find that Buddhism is the most amazing, transcendent path to enlightenment for me."[19] She has practised Nichiren Buddhism since 1990,[30][95][122] and chants Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō daily.[30][122]

Love has advocated for several causes, including stricter gun control laws, reform of the "corrupt" record industry,[123][124] and gay rights; during a 1997 award speech at VH1's Fashion Awards, Love said "I feel that keeping gay people in the closet with our actions and attitudes is cruel and tacky, and most of all, it's boring. I think we need to respect each other and ourselves, and who we are, and what we are, and not be afraid to be what we are, whether we're gay, or straight, or... insane."[125] Love voted against California's Proposition 8 during the 2008 elections.[126] In January 2011, while attending an Oxford Union debate, Love publicly endorsed her support of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, and called it "a step in the right direction for democracy".[127]

Love is also self-identified feminist,[128][129] a theme that has not only come across in her music, but in her own persona. Love was written about in the journal Bad Subjects for her subversive feminism and "slut/diva" image, and her "self-conscious parody of female sex roles", which is often misinterpreted because the public "only sees the 'slut' without the critique of the system that creates categories like 'slut.'"[9]

Music and influences

Love performing at Carnegie Hall, 2009

Love has often cited new wave and punk groups/musicians as being great influences on her. Such musical acts as Echo and the Bunnymen, The Smiths, and Joy Division have been mentioned by Love, including songs by several of them being covered by Hole in live performances and, in some cases, studio recordings.[130][131] In the early '90s, Hole as a group was greatly influenced by no wave music— in the initial advertisement placed by Love which resulted in Hole's formation, she cited Fleetwood Mac, Sonic Youth, and Big Black as her three major musical influences.[38]

In a 1995 interview with Kurt Loder, Love divulged that in the late 1980s, guitarist Joe Strummer of The Clash told her that she was "the worst guitar player he'd ever heard",[90] but she insisted she had improved by the early 1990s: "I'm fine... I have my style... and, you know what's funny, is most of the songs [from Pretty on the Inside] are complete Bauhaus rip-offs." During the same interview, Love said she was greatly influenced by guitarists Will Sergeant of Echo and the Bunnymen and Johnny Marr of The Smiths.[90]

In terms of musical equipment, Love has used several different guitars during her career. In 1989 and the early 1990s, Love was seen several times with a Rickenbacker onstage, and, more often, a Fender Jazzmaster, which she played in the music video for "Miss World"; Love's Jazzmaster is now on display at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City.[3] In the later '90s, Love played several Fender Stratocasters, as well as her own line of Squier Venus guitars. Most recently, in 2010, Love played a Rickenbacker 360 while touring.

Writing style

Love's song lyrics are often told from a female's point of view, and her earlier work, particularly on Hole's first two albums, was noted for being aggressive and highly critical toward cultural definitions of women and their roles in society.[132] Common themes and references present in Love's earlier lyrics (particularly those on Pretty on the Inside and Live Through This) include body image, rape, suicide, misogyny, conformity, elitism, pregnancy, prostitution, and death.

Her later work was more introspective in its lyrics as opposed to aggressive; Hole's Celebrity Skin and Love's solo album, America's Sweetheart, focused more on celebrity life, Hollywood, and drug addiction, while also carrying on past themes of vanity and body image, and Nobody's Daughter was lyrically reflective of Love's past relationships and her struggle to sobriety, with the majority of its lyrics having been written while Love was in rehab in 2006.[133]

Although Hole's sound changed over the course of the band's career, the pretty/ugly dynamic has often been noted as a consistent theme in Love's music, most prominently in Hole's first two studio albums.[134] In conjunction with the extremes between beauty and ugliness, Love's musical style has also been remarked for its layering of harsh and abrasive riffs which often bury more sophisticated musical arrangements.[134]

Vocal ability

According to Love, she "never wanted to be a singer", but rather aspired to be a skilled guitarist.[18] "I'm such a lazy bastard though that I never did that," Love said. "You have to stay in your room and play every Zep[pelin] record, and I didn't.... [it ended up that] I was always the only person with the nerve to sing, and so I got stuck with it."[18] Thus, Love has had distinctive vocal styles that varied across her music career. Initially she was noted for her screaming abilities and powerful, harsh vocals, which were showcased in Hole's debut Pretty on the Inside.[135] Rolling Stone referred to her singing on the album as "full-moon bawling".[136]

On the band's second album, Live Through This, Love's vocals ranged from screaming to more mellow singing and harmonies. In David Browne's 1994 Entertainment Weekly review of Live Through This, he praised her voice, calling it a "thick, reedy instrument that makes her sound like the younger, brattier sister of Johnny Rotten [that] stands out like a suited IBM executive at Lollapalooza."[137] Love's vocals on Celebrity Skin were more polished and controlled than those on either of the previous albums, which accompanied the record's softer pop rock musical elements. In 2010 upon the release of Nobody's Daughter, her vocal range was described as "croaky" but "tentative"[138] during live performances, and Pitchfork likened her vocals on the album to those of Bob Dylan.[139]

Legacy

Once labelled by Rolling Stone as "the most controversial woman in the history of rock",[11][12] Love's sometimes outrageous behavior has given her a lasting place in pop culture, as well as a polarizing reputation in the media. She has also been influential in the music world, particularly in the area of alternative rock and female-driven musical acts.[140] In a 1996 New York Magazine piece on women in rock music, it was noted that Love "had the ambition most people would associate with a male rock star... one thing you have to admire her for is that she refuses— just refuses— to be overlooked in any way."[141] In a 1994 interview, Pamela Des Barres likened Love to "Iggy Pop in a shredded antique wedding dress," or "a female Lou Reed who screams like Exene."[89] Writer Charles Cross said of her, "[Her work] is not always great art, but it's always interesting art. She is certainly capable of taking her clothes off, crowdsurfing, grabbing some kid and pulling them onstage— and rarely does it seem like artifice."[15]

Love has been parodied and referred to in several popular television shows, most notably Family Guy[142] and South Park,[143] as well as a Simpsons episode, where a cartoonized version of her was featured on a Wheaties cereal box.[144] In January 2007, Molly Shannon performed a Saturday Night Live comedy sketch parodying Love's sobriety.[145]

She has also been referred to several times in the music world: musician Lois Maffeo had a short-lived band named Courtney Love, which she released several singles with. Love was also mentioned in the song "You Only Get What You Give" by the New Radicals,[146] and punk band Nerf Herder wrote a song titled "Courtney" as an ode to her.

Love has been cited as a gay icon by several LGBT publications, such as The Advocate, probably due to her perseverance and endurance through adverse situations in her life.[147] Love's devoted gay fanbase was later written about in a New York Press article when Hole released their fourth album in 2010.[148] In the article, John Russel writes:

Of course, it’s never been easy to be a Courtney Love fan. Even when she was at the top of her game there was always some kind of controversy, some reason to write her off as either a sell-out or a nut job, or both. And people don’t exactly take you seriously when you say that you love Courtney Love. Rock snobs—straight guys in particular—tend to turn their noses up at you... [gay men] adopted Courtney as their patron saint while others knelt at the altar of Madonna. And while riot grrrl culture may have long ago disowned her, Love’s queer fanbase doggedly sticks by her.[148]

In 2004, Spin magazine ranked Love No. 18 in their list of "The 50 Greatest Rock Frontmen Of All Time", calling her "a great band leader because onstage or off, she always makes sure we're paying attention".[149] In January 2002, Love ranked at No. 14 in Q Magazine's list of "100 Women Who Rock the World". The Biography Channel called Love "outspoken, brash, and sometimes out of control", and "one of alternative rock's most fascinating figures".[150]

Works

Discography

Hole
Courtney Love
  • America's Sweetheart (2004)

Filmography

Year Film Role Notes
1986 Sid and Nancy Gretchen
1987 Straight to Hell Velma  
1988 Tapeheads Norman's Spanker uncredited role
1995 Not Bad for a Girl Herself documentary
1996 Basquiat Big Pink  
Feeling Minnesota Rhonda
The People vs. Larry Flynt Althea Flynt Nominated: Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress
1999 200 Cigarettes Lucy
Man on the Moon Lynne Margulies  
Clara Bow: Discovering the "It" Girl Herself voice-over narration
2000 Beat Joan Vollmer Burroughs  
2001 Julie Johnson Claire L.A. Outfest's Outstanding Actress in a Feature Film
2002 Trapped Cheryl
2003 Mayor of the Sunset Strip Herself documentary
2011 Hit So Hard Herself documentary

Bibliography

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