Courtney Love

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This article is about the person. For the band of the same name, see Courtney Love (band).
Courtney Love
Courtney Love Public Assembly Crop.png
Love performing in Brooklyn, New York, 2012
Background information
Birth name Courtney Michelle Harrison
Born (1964-07-09) July 9, 1964 (age 50)[1][2][3]
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Origin Portland, Oregon, U.S.[4]
Genres Alternative rock, noise rock, no wave, power pop
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter, musician, actress
Instruments Vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards
Years active 1982–present
Labels Sympathy for the Record Industry, Sub Pop, Caroline, DGC, Virgin, Mercury, Kobalt
Associated acts Hole, Faith No More, Sugar Babydoll, Pagan Babies, Italian Whorenuns, Bastard, Emilie Autumn, Lana Del Rey
Notable instruments
Rickenbacker 425[5]
Fender Jazzmaster[7]
Fender Squier Venus[8]
Rickenbacker 360[9]

Courtney Michelle Love (born Courtney Michelle Harrison, July 9, 1964) is an American singer, songwriter, musician, actress, and visual artist. Prolific in the punk and grunge scenes of the 1990s as the frontwoman of Hole, Love became a fixture in alternative music, drawing public attention for her uninhibited stage presence and confrontational lyrics, as well as her highly publicized personal life following her marriage to Kurt Cobain.

The daughter of psychotherapist Linda Carroll and publisher Hank Harrison, Love mainly grew up in Portland, Oregon, where she was in a series of short-lived bands before landing roles in films by British cult director Alex Cox. After forming Hole in 1989, Love received substantial attention from underground rock press for the group's debut album, produced by Kim Gordon, while their second release, Live Through This (1994), lent her a more high-profile renown, receiving critical accolades and going multi-platinum. In 1995, she returned to acting, earning a Golden Globe Nomination for her performance in Miloš Forman's The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996). Shortly after, Hole's third release, Celebrity Skin (1998), earned Love recognition as a mainstream musician, and was nominated for multiple Grammy Awards.

Love continued to work as an actress, appearing in big-budget pictures such as Man on the Moon (1999) and Trapped (2002), and released her first solo album, America's Sweetheart, in 2004. In 2010, she released Nobody's Daughter under the Hole moniker with a reformed band. Love debuted a new solo single in early 2014, and also saw a return to acting after being cast in the FX series Sons of Anarchy, and on Fox's Empire. On December 1, 2014, it was announced that Love would be touring with Lana Del Rey as an opening act for Del Rey's Endless Summer Tour in 2015.

In addition to music and film, Love has had ventures in modeling and visual art, and has advocated for victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, AIDS research, and LGBT rights. She has one daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, from her marriage to Kurt Cobain.

Early life

Love was born Courtney Michelle Harrison in San Francisco, California, to psychotherapist Linda Carroll (née Risi) and Hank Harrison, a publisher who briefly managed the Grateful Dead.[10][11][12] Love's mother is the daughter of novelist Paula Fox and an unidentified father, who is rumoured to be Marlon Brando.[13][14] Love is of Cuban, Welsh, Irish, German, and English descent.[15] Her parents divorced in 1969 and her father's custody was withdrawn after her mother alleged that he had fed LSD to Love as a toddler.[10][16] In 1970, her mother moved the family to the rural community of Marcola, Oregon, where they lived on a commune.[17] Love was legally adopted by her stepfather, Frank Rodriguez, with whom her mother had Love's two half-sisters and adopted a brother; another male half-sibling died in infancy of a heart defect when Love was ten.[18][19] Love attended elementary school in Eugene, where she struggled academically and had trouble making friends,[17] though was described as a "creative" child.[18] At age nine, she was diagnosed with mild autism.[10][17][20][21]

In 1972, Love's mother divorced Rodriguez and moved the family to New Zealand, where she enrolled Love at Nelson College for Girls,[17][22] but Love was ultimately sent back to live in Portland, Oregon, with her former stepfather and numerous family friends. She auditioned for the Mickey Mouse Club at age twelve, only to be rejected after reading a Sylvia Plath poem for her audition,[10] and also took a film class in Portland with then-unknown director Gus Van Sant.[23] At age fourteen, Love was arrested for shoplifting a T-shirt and was sent to Hillcrest Correctional Facility.[18][24] She spent the following several years in foster care before becoming legally emancipated at age sixteen. Love supported herself by working as a stripper at Mary's Club in Portland,[10][17][18][25][26] a DJ, and various odd jobs,[27] and intermittently took classes at Portland State University studying English and philosophy.[17][28][29][30][31] Love has said that she "didn't have a lot of social skills,"[32] and that she learned them while frequenting gay clubs in Portland.[17][21]

In 1981, Love was granted a small trust fund through her adoptive grandparents, which she used to travel to Ireland; there, she was accepted into Trinity College, and studied theology for two semesters.[33] In the United Kingdom, she became acquainted with musician Julian Cope in Liverpool and moved into his house briefly before returning to the United States.[34][35][36] She later took stint jobs doing erotic dancing in Japan.[18][37]


1982–88: Early projects

Love initially began several music projects in the 1980s, first forming Sugar Babydoll in Portland with friends Ursula Wehr and Robin Barbur.[21] In 1982, Love attended a Faith No More concert in San Francisco, and "convinced" the members to let her join as a singer.[10][38][39] The group recorded material with Love as a vocalist, but, according to Roddy Bottum, wanted a "male energy," and Love was subsequently kicked out of the band; she and Bottum, however, maintained a friendship in the years after.[10] Love later formed the Pagan Babies with friend Kat Bjelland, whom she met at the Satyricon club in Portland in 1984: "The best thing that ever happened to me in a way, was Kat," Love said.[10] Love asked Bjelland to start a band with her as a guitarist, and the two moved to San Francisco in June 1985, where they recruited Love's friend, bassist Jennifer Finch, and drummer Janis Tanaka.[40] According to Bjelland, "[Courtney] didn't play an instrument at the time" aside from keyboards, so Bjelland would transpose Love's musical ideas on guitar for her.[18] The group played several house shows and recorded one 4-track demo before disbanding in late 1985.[41][42] Following Pagan Babies, Love moved to Minneapolis where Bjelland had formed the group Babes in Toyland, and briefly worked as a concert promoter before returning to California.[18]

Love then enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute,[43] where she studied film with George Kuchar and was featured in one of his short films, titled Club Vatican.[28][44][45][46][47] In 1985, she submitted an audition tape for the role of Nancy Spungen in the Sid Vicious biopic Sid and Nancy (1986), and was given a minor supporting role by director Alex Cox.[45][48][49][50] Love then moved to New York City, where she worked at a peep show in Times Square and squatted at the ABC No Rio social center.[23] Cox then cast her in a leading role in his following film, Straight to Hell (1987),[51] which caught the attention of artist Andy Warhol. That year, Love appeared in an episode of Andy Warhol's Fifteen Minutes with Robbie Nevil in a segment titled "C'est la Vie".[52][53] She also had a part in the 1988 Ramones music video for "I Wanna Be Sedated," appearing as a bride among dozens of party guests.[10][54][55][56] In 1989, Love aborted her acting career and left New York to move to Alaska: "I decided to move to Alaska because I needed to get my shit together and learn how to work," Love said in retrospect. "So I went on this sort of vision quest. I got rid of all my earthly possessions. I had my bad little strip clothes and some big sweaters, and I moved into a trailer with a bunch of other strippers."[17]

1989–93: Hole, Pretty on the Inside

Main article: Hole (band)
Love performing with Hole at Big Day Out, Melbourne, 1995

In 1989, Love taught herself to play guitar and relocated to West Hollywood, where she placed an ad in a local music zine, reading: "I want to start a band. My influences are Big Black, Sonic Youth, and Fleetwood Mac."[57] Love recruited lead guitarist Eric Erlandson; Lisa Roberts, her neighbor, as bassist; and drummer Caroline Rue. Love named the band Hole after a line from Euripedes' Medea.[58] Hole played their first show in November 1989 at Raji's after three months of rehearsal.[17] The band's debut single, "Retard Girl", was issued in April 1990 through the Long Beach indie label Sympathy for the Record Industry, and was given air-time by Rodney Bingenheimer's local station, KROQ.[18] The following year, the band released their second single, "Dicknail" through Sub Pop Records.

With no wave, noise rock and grindcore bands being major influences on Love,[59] Hole's first studio album, Pretty on the Inside, captured a particularly abrasive sound and contained disturbing lyrics, described by Q magazine as "confrontational [and] genuinely uninhibited."[60] The record was released in September 1991 on Caroline Records, produced by Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, with assistant production from Gumball's Don Fleming. Though Love would later say it was "unlistenable" and "[un]melodic,"[61] the album received generally positive critical reception from indie and punk rock critics[17] and was labeled one of the twenty best albums of the year by Spin Magazine.[62] It also gained a following in the United Kingdom, charting at 59 on the UK Albums Chart,[63] as well as its lead single, "Teenage Whore" entering the country's indie chart at number one.[64] The underlying pro-feminist slant of the album's songs led many to mistakenly tag the band as being part of the riot grrl movement,[65] a movement that Love did not associate with.[66][67] In support of the record, the band toured in Europe headlining with Mudhoney, and extensively in the United States opening for The Smashing Pumpkins, including shows at the Whisky A Go Go opening for Sonic Youth, and performances at CBGB. Love designed and distributed flyers promoting the shows, which included cutouts of women and young girls, as well as scattered lyrics and quotes from poems.[59]

After the release of Pretty on the Inside, Love began dating Kurt Cobain and became pregnant, which temporarily put her music career on hold. During Love's pregnancy, Hole recorded a cover of "Over the Edge" for a Wipers tribute album,[68] and recorded their fourth single, "Beautiful Son", which was released in April 1993. On September 8, 1993, Love and husband Kurt Cobain made their only public performance together at the Rock Against Rape benefit in Hollywood, California, performing two duets, both acoustic versions, of "Pennyroyal Tea" and "Where Did You Sleep Last Night."[69] Love also performed electric versions of two of Hole's new songs, "Doll Parts" and "Miss World," both of which were written for the band's upcoming second release.[69]

1994–97: Live Through This, acting career

In October 1993, Hole recorded their second album, titled Live Through This, in Atlanta, Georgia. The album featured a new lineup, with bassist Kristen Pfaff and drummer Patty Schemel. Live Through This was released on Geffen's subsidiary DGC label in April 1994, four days after Love's husband, Cobain, was found dead of a self-inflicted shotgun wound in their home. Two months later, in June 1994, bassist Kristen Pfaff died of a heroin overdose,[10] and Love recruited Melissa Auf der Maur for the band's impending tour. Throughout the months preceding the tour, Love was rarely seen in public, spending time at her Seattle home, or visiting the Namgyal Buddhist Monastery in New York.[28]

Live Through This was a commercial and critical success,[70][71][72] hitting platinum sales in April 1995 and receiving unanimous critical accolades.[72] The success of the record combined with Cobain's suicide resulted in a high level of publicity for Love, and she was featured on Barbara Walters' 10 Most Fascinating People in 1995. At Hole's August 26, 1994 performance at the Reading Festival— Love's first public performance following her husband's death— she appeared onstage, tear-drenched, with outstretched arms, mimicking crucifixion.[73][74] John Peel wrote in The Guardian that Love's disheveled appearance "would have drawn whistles of astonishment in Bedlam," and that her performance "verged on the heroic ... Love steered her band through a set which dared you to pity either her recent history or that of the band ... the band teetered on the edge of chaos, generating a tension which I cannot remember having felt before from any stage."[75] The band performed a series of riotous concerts during the tour, with Love frequently appearing hysterical onstage, flashing crowds, and getting into fights with audience members.[73][76]

In February 1995, Hole performed a well-reviewed acoustic set on MTV Unplugged at the Brooklyn Academy of Music,[77] and continued to tour late into the year, concluding their world tour with an appearance at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards, in which they performed "Violet," and were nominated for Best Music Video for "Doll Parts."

After Hole's world tour concluded in 1996, Love made a return to acting; first in small roles in Basquiat and Feeling Minnesota (1996), before landing the co-starring role of Larry Flynt's wife, Althea, in Miloš Forman's critically acclaimed 1996 film The People vs. Larry Flynt. Despite Columbia Pictures' reluctance toward hiring her due to her low profile and "troubled" past,[78] Love received critical acclaim for her performance in the film after its release in December 1996, earning a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress, and a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress.[79] Roger Ebert called her work in the film "quite a performance; Love proves she is not a rock star pretending to act, but a true actress."[80] She won several other awards from various film critic associations for the film,[81] and consequently adopted a more polished public image; during this time, she also became involved in fashion and modeled for Versace advertisements.[82][83][84]

1998–2002: Mainstream success

In late 1997, Hole released a compilation album, My Body, the Hand Grenade as well as an EP titled The First Session which consisted of the band's earliest recordings. In September 1998, Hole released their third studio album, Celebrity Skin, which marked something of a transformation for Love, featuring a stark power pop sound as opposed to the group's earlier punk rock influences. Love divulged her ambition of making an album where "art meets commerce ... there are no compromises made, it has commercial appeal, and it sticks to the [our] original vision."[85] She claimed to have been influenced by Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, and My Bloody Valentine when writing the album.[85][86] Celebrity Skin was well received by critics; Rolling Stone called the album "accessible, fiery and intimate—often at the same time ... a basic guitar record that's anything but basic."[87] Celebrity Skin went on to go multi-platinum, and topped "Best of Year" lists at Spin, the Village Voice, and other periodicals.[88] The album garnered the band their only No. 1 hit single on the Modern Rock Tracks chart with the title track "Celebrity Skin". The band made various appearances promoting the album, including MTV performances and at the 1998 Billboard Music Awards. Hole toured with Marilyn Manson on the Beautiful Monsters Tour in 1999, but dropped out of the tour nine dates in after a dispute over production costs between Love and Manson; Hole resumed touring with Imperial Teen.[89][90]

Prior to the release and promotion of Celebrity Skin, Love and Fender designed a low-priced Squier brand guitar, called Vista Venus.[91] The instrument featured a shape inspired by Mercury, Stratocaster, and Rickenbacker's solidbodies and had a single-coil and a humbucker pickup, and was available in 6-string and 12-string versions.[92] 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."[93] During this time, she also landed a role opposite Jim Carrey in the Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon (1999), which was followed with a role as Joan Vollmer in Beat (2000) alongside Kiefer Sutherland.

After touring for Celebrity Skin finished, Auf der Maur left the band to tour with the Smashing Pumpkins; Hole's touring drummer Samantha Maloney left soon after. Love and Erlandson released the single "Be A Man"— an outtake from the Celebrity Skin sessions— for the soundtrack of the Oliver Stone film Any Given Sunday (1999). The group became dormant in the following two years,[94][95] and Love starred in several more films, including 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, and another leading part in the thriller Trapped (2002), alongside Kevin Bacon and Charlize Theron.[96] In May 2002, Hole officially announced their breakup amid continuing litigation with Universal Music Group over their record contract.[97][98]

2003–07: Solo career, America's Sweetheart

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. Though a demo was completed, the project never reached fruition.[99]

Love performing in London, 2007

In 2002, Love began composing an album with Linda Perry, titled America's Sweetheart, also reuniting with drummer Patty Schemel. Love signed with Virgin Records to release it, and initially recorded it in France, but was forced by the label to re-record the entire album in the summer of 2003.[100] America's Sweetheart was released in February 2004, and 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,[101] 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" and reasoning that her drug issues at the time were to blame.[102] Shortly after the record was released, Love told Kurt Loder on TRL: "I cannot exist as a solo artist. It's a joke."[103] Love also collaborated on a manga comic titled Princess Ai, illustrated by Misaho Kujiradou and Ai Yazawa, which was released in July 2004.[104][105]

In 2006, Love released a memoir, titled Dirty Blonde,[106] and started recording what was going to be her second solo album, How Dirty Girls Get Clean,[32] collaborating again with Perry and Billy Corgan in the writing and recording. Love had written several songs, including an anti-cocaine song titled "Loser Dust", during her time in rehab in 2005.[107] Love told Billboard: "My hand-eye coordination was so bad [after the drug use], I didn't even know chords anymore. It was like my fingers were frozen. And I wasn't allowed to make noise [in rehab] ... I never thought I would work again."[108] 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.[109]

2008–2011: Hole reformation

On June 17, 2009, NME reported that Hole would be reuniting. Former Hole guitarist 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 "he's out of his mind, Hole is my band, my name, and my Trademark".[110] Nobody's Daughter was released worldwide as a Hole album on April 27, 2010. For the new line-up, Love recruited guitarist Micko Larkin, Shawn Dailey (bass guitar), and Stu Fisher (drums, percussion). Nobody's Daughter 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 became a hit on alternative rock radio in early March 2010.[111]

The album received mixed reviews. 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."[112] 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."[113] 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.[114] Love and the band toured internationally from 2010 into late 2012 promoting the record, after which she dropped the Hole name and returned to a solo career.[115][116]

Love performing at Dream Downtown in Chelsea, Manhattan, New York City, September 2013

2012–present: Solo work, acting

In May 2012, Love debuted an art collection at Fred Torres Collaborations in New York titled "And She's Not Even Pretty", which contained over forty drawings and paintings by Love composed in ink, colored pencil, pastels, and watercolors.[117][118] She then collaborated with Michael Stipe on the track "Rio Grande" for Johnny Depp's sea shanty album Son of Rogues Gallery[119] and also contributed guest vocals and co-wrote a track on Fall Out Boy's album, Save Rock and Roll (2013).[120] A music video, starring Love and the band, was released for the song in March 2014.

After solo performances in December 2012 and January 2013,[121][122] Love appeared in advertisements for Yves Saint Laurent alongside Kim Gordon and Ariel Pink.[123] Love completed a solo tour of North America in the summer of 2013,[124][125][126] which had initially been conceived to promote Love's new album; however, due to the impending release of new material, it was dubbed a "greatest hits" tour.[127] Love told Billboard at the time that she had recorded eight songs in the studio.[128] "[These songs] are not my usual (style)," Love said. "I don't have any Fleetwood Mac references on it. Usually I always have a Fleetwood Mac reference as well as having, like, Big Black references. These are very unique songs that sort of magically happened."[128]

On April 22, 2014, Love debuted the song "You Know My Name" on BBC Radio 6 to promote her tour of the United Kingdom.[129] It was released as a double A-side single with the song "Wedding Day" on May 4, 2014 on her own label Cherry Forever Records via Kobalt Label Services.[130] The tracks were produced by Michael Beinhorn, and feature Tommy Lee on drums.

In an April 2014 interview with BBC, Love revealed that she and former Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson had reconciled, and had been rehearsing new material together, along with former bassist Melissa Auf der Maur and drummer Patty Schemel, though did not confirm a reunion of the band.[131] On May 1, 2014, in an interview with Pitchfork, Love commented further on the possibility of Hole reuniting, saying: "I'm not going to commit to it happening, because we want an element of surprise. There's a lot of i's to be dotted and t's to be crossed."[132][133]

In July 2014, it was confirmed that Love would be joining the cast of the FX series Sons of Anarchy for the show's seventh and final season in a "pivotal" role.[134] On October 2, 2014, it was announced that Love had landed a leading role in "Kansas City Choir Boy", a "pop" opera set to debut at the Manhattan arts center Here, during their annual Prototype festival in January 2015.[135] She was subsequently cast in Lee Daniels' network series Empire in a recurring guest role.[136]

In December 2014, it was confirmed that Love would be joining Lana Del Rey on her Endless Summer Tour with eight show performances in the spring of 2015.[137]

Musical style

Songwriting and voice

It was remarked in an October 1991 review of Hole's first album that Love's layering of harsh and abrasive riffs buried more sophisticated musical arrangements.[138] In 1998, Love stated that Hole had "always been a pop band. We always had a subtext of pop. I always talked about it, if you go back ... what'll sound like some weird Sonic Youth tuning back then to you was sounding like the Raspberries to me, in my demented pop framework."[85]

from Live Through This illustrates Love's raw and expansive contralto range.

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Love writes from a female's point of view, and her lyrics have been described as "literate and mordant"[139] and noted by scholars for "articulating a third-wave feminist consciousness."[140] She has repeatedly stated that lyrics are the most important component of songwriting for her, saying: "I want it to look just as good on the page as it would if it was in a poetry book."[141] A great deal of her songwriting has been diaristic in nature.[10][142] Common themes present in Love's songs during her early career included body image, rape, suicide, conformity, elitism, pregnancy, prostitution, and death. In a 1991 interview with Everett True, Love said: "I try to place [beautiful imagery] next to fucked up imagery, because that's how I view things ... I sometimes feel that no one's taken the time to write about certain things in rock, that there's a certain female point of view that's never been given space."[143] Her later work was more lyrically introspective. Celebrity Skin and America's Sweetheart deal with celebrity life, Hollywood, and drug addiction, while continuing Love's interest in vanity and body image. 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 she was in rehab in 2006.[144] Poetry has often been a major influence on her writing; Love claimed she had "always wanted to be a poet, but there was no money in it."[145] She has named the work of T.S. Eliot and Charles Baudelaire as influential.[27][146]

Love possesses a contralto vocal range,[147] and her vocal style has been described as "raw and distinctive."[148] She has referred to herself as "a shit guitar player," further commenting: "I can write a song, but I have trouble with the execution of it." According to Love, she never wanted to be a singer, but rather aspired to be a skilled guitarist: "I'm such a lazy bastard though that I never did that," Love said. "I was always the only person with the nerve to sing, and so I got stuck with it."[27] She has been regularly noted by critics for her husky vocals as well as her "banshee[-like]" screaming abilities.[149][150] Her vocals have been compared to those of Johnny Rotten,[151][152] and Rolling Stone described them as "lung-busting" and "a corrosive, lunatic wail."[151] Upon the release of Hole's 2010 album, Nobody's Daughter, critics compared Love's raspy, unpolished vocals to those of Bob Dylan.[153]


Patti Smith, whom Love has repeatedly cited as a crucial influence[10][17]

Love has been candid about her diverse musical influences, the earliest being Patti Smith and the Pretenders, whom she discovered while in juvenile hall.[10] As a teenager, she named Flipper, Kate Bush, Soft Cell, Lou Reed, and Dead Kennedys among her favorite artists,[17] as well as several new wave and post-punk bands, such as Echo and the Bunnymen, The Smiths,[154] The Teardrop Explodes, Bauhaus, and Joy Division.[155][156] While in Ireland at age fifteen, she saw the The Virgin Prunes perform live in Dublin, and said the experience "framed her [music career]."[157] Her varying genre interests were illustrated in a 1991 interview with Flipside, in which she stated: "There's a part of me that wants to have a grindcore band and another that wants to have a Raspberries-type pop band."[59] Love also embraced the influence of experimental artists and punk rock groups, including Sonic Youth, Swans,[158] Big Black, Diamanda Galás,[159] The Germs, and The Stooges.[160] While writing Celebrity Skin, Love was namely influenced by Neil Young and My Bloody Valentine.[85] She also cited her contemporary PJ Harvey as an influence, saying, "The one rock star that makes me know I'm shit is Polly Harvey. I'm nothing next to the purity that she experiences."[161]


Love has often played Fender guitars throughout her career, including a Jaguar and a vintage 1965 Jazzmaster, the latter of which was purchased by the Hard Rock Cafe and is on display in New York City.[7] Love is seen playing her Jazzmaster in the music video for "Miss World." Earlier in Hole's career, between 1989 and 1991, Love primarily played a Rickenbacker 425 because she "preferred the 3/4 neck,"[93] but she destroyed the guitar onstage at a 1991 concert opening for The Smashing Pumpkins.[162] She also often played a guitar made by Mercury, an obscure company that manufactured custom guitars, which she purchased in 1992.[92] Fender's Vista Venus, designed by Love in 1998, was partially inspired by Rickenbacker guitars as well as her Mercury.[92] Love's setup has included Fender tube gear, Matchless, Ampeg, Silvertone and a solid-state 1976 Randall Commander.[93] During her 2010 and more recent tours, Love has played a Rickenbacker 360 onstage.

Personal life

Love attending New York Fashion Week in 2011, photographed with Terry Richardson

Love has been a practitioner of several religions, including Catholicism, Episcopalianism, and New Age religions, but has said that Buddhism is the "most transcendent" path for her.[10][32][163][164][165] She has studied and practiced both Tibetan and Nichiren Buddhism since 1989,[32] and is a member of Sōka Gakkai, an international lay Buddhist organization.[166] Love is a Democrat.[167] In 2000, she gave a speech at the Million Mom March to advocate stricter gun control laws in the United States, calling the country's gun laws "nihilistic and barbaric,"[168][169] and urging stringent registration of guns, licensing of gun owners, and thorough evaluation of legal and mental health records. Love has also consistently advocated for LGBT rights.[170] Love identifies as a feminist.[171][172][173]

Love has a chain of flowers tattooed around her left ankle, and several cherry blossoms tattooed across her chest and arms, each representing a person she's "truly loved."[174][175] She has the phrase "Let It Bleed" tattooed across her right arm,[176] and has a letter "K" tattooed in the center of her abdomen which she had partially faded, representing husband Kurt Cobain. She also has the phrase "Don't dream it, be it" tattooed on her right wrist, referencing The Rocky Horror Picture Show.[175] She also had an angel tattooed on the back of her right shoulder in the late 1990s, which she had removed in recent years.[177]

Health issues

Love has struggled with substance abuse problems for a great deal of her life.[171][178][179] She took numerous opiates in her early adult years, and tried cocaine at age 19.[37] She became addicted to heroin in the early 1990s, and was infamously thrust into the media spotlight in 1992 when Vanity Fair published an article by journalist Lynn Hirschberg which stated that Love was addicted to heroin during her pregnancy; this resulted in the custody of Love and Cobain's newborn daughter, Frances, being temporarily withdrawn in a Los Angeles County court and placed with Love's sister.[10][180] Love claimed she was misquoted in the piece, and asserted that she had immediately quit using the drug during her first trimester after she discovered she was pregnant.[10][181][182][183] Love quit using heroin in 1996 at the insistence of director Miloš Forman when she landed a leading role in The People vs. Larry Flynt. Love was ordered to take multiple urine tests under the supervision of Columbia Pictures while filming the movie, and passed all of them.[78][184] On July 9, 2004, Love's 40th birthday, she attempted to commit suicide at her Manhattan apartment,[185] and was taken to Bellevue Hospital, allegedly incoherent, and put on a 72-hour watch.[186] According to police, she was believed to be a potential "danger to herself", but was deemed mentally sound and released to a rehab facility two days later.[187][188] In 2005 and 2006, after making several public appearances clearly intoxicated (namely on the Late Show with David Letterman and the Comedy Central Roast of Pamela Anderson)[189][190][191][192] and suffering drug-related arrests and probation violations,[193][194] Love was sentenced to six months in lock down rehab due to struggles with prescription drugs and cocaine.[191][195][196] She has stated she has been sober since 2007, and in May 2011, confirmed her sobriety.[197]


Love has publicly acknowledged her estrangement from her parents, Linda Carroll and Hank Harrison, as well as her maternal grandmother, Paula Fox, who gave up Love's mother Linda for adoption after having her out of wedlock. According to Love, she has not been in contact with her father since age fifteen,[32] and has "never forgiven" her mother over the way she was raised;[10] she has, however, maintained relationships with her half-siblings.[198][199]

She was briefly married to James Moreland (vocalist of The Leaving Trains) in 1989 for several months, but has said that Moreland was a transvestite and that their marriage was "a joke", ending in an annulment filed by Love.[200][201] After forming Hole in 1989, Love and bandmate Eric Erlandson had a romantic relationship for over a year,[202] and she also briefly dated Billy Corgan in 1991, with whom she has maintained a volatile friendship over the years.[203]

Her most documented romantic relationship was with Kurt Cobain.[204] It is uncertain when they first met; according to Love, she first met Cobain at a Dharma Bums show in Portland where she was doing a spoken word performance.[205][206] According to Michael Azerrad, the two met at the Satyricon nightclub in Portland in 1989, though Cobain biographer Charles Cross stated the date was actually February 12, 1990, and that Cobain playfully wrestled Love to the floor after she commented to him in passing that he looked like Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum.[17][207] Love's bandmate Eric Erlandson stated that both he and Love were formally introduced to Cobain in a parking lot after a Butthole Surfers concert at the Hollywood Palladium in 1991.[202] The two later became reacquainted through Jennifer Finch, one of Love's longtime friends and former bandmates.[206] Love and Cobain officially began dating in the fall of 1991 during Hole's Pretty on the Inside tours, 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, Frances Bean Cobain, was born. In April 1994, Cobain committed suicide in their Seattle home while Love was in rehab in Los Angeles.[10] During their marriage, and after Cobain's death, Love became something of a hate-figure among some of Cobain's fans.[208] After his cremation, Love divided portions of Cobain's ashes, some of which she kept in a teddy bear and in an urn.[209] Another portion of his ashes was taken by Love to the Namgyal Buddhist Monastery in Ithaca, New York in 1994, where they were ceremonially blessed by Buddhist monks and mixed into clay which was made into memorial sculptures.[209]

Between 1996 and 1999, Love dated her The People vs. Larry Flynt co-star Edward Norton,[163][210] and was also linked to comedian Steve Coogan in the early 2000s.[211][212]

Charitable work

Love attending the Life Ball, May 31, 2014

In 1993, Love and husband Kurt Cobain performed an acoustic set together at the Rock Against Rape benefit in Los Angeles, California, which raised awareness and provided resources for victims of sexual abuse.[69] Love has also contributed to amfAR's AIDS research benefits and held live musical performances at their events.[213] In 2009, Love performed a benefit concert for the RED Campaign at Carnegie Hall alongside Laurie Anderson, Rufus Wainwright, and Scarlett Johansson, with proceeds going to AIDS research.[214] In May 2011, she attended Mariska Hargitay's Joyful Heart Foundation event for victims of child abuse, rape, and domestic violence, donating six of husband Kurt Cobain's personal vinyl records for auction.[215]

Love has also worked with LGBT and LGBT youth charities; specifically with the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, where she has taken part in performances at the center's "An Evening with Women", where she headlined the event's debut in 2007.[216] The proceeds of the event help provide food and shelter for homeless youth; services for seniors; legal assistance; domestic violence services; health and mental health services, and cultural arts programs. Love participated with Linda Perry for the event again in 2012, relating her experiences as a nomadic teenager and having to live on the street:

This really resonates with me, [because] I was a kid from Oregon, and I came to Hollywood like a lot of people do, and you know, what happens is that we end up on the street ... and if you're gay, or lesbian, or transgendered— the more "outside" you are, the more screwed you are in a lot of ways ... Seven thousand kids in Los Angeles a year go out on the street, and forty percent of those kids are gay, lesbian, or transgendered. They come out to their parents, and become homeless. [The charity helps them] get sent to the right foster care, they can get medical help, food, clothing ... and for whatever reason, I don't really know why, but gay men have a lot of foundations, I've played many of them— but the lesbian side of it doesn't have as much money and/or donors, so we're excited that this has grown to cover women and women's affairs.[217]

Cultural impact

Love had a significant impact on female-fronted alternative acts and performers, particularly the Riot grrrl movement, with Hole's first album, Pretty on the Inside.[218] She has been cited as particularly influential to young female instrumentalists,[218] once infamously proclaiming: "I want every girl in the world to pick up a guitar and start screaming."[219] "I strap on that motherfucking guitar and you cannot fuck with me. That's my feeling," she said.[219] In The Electric Guitar: A History of an American Icon, it is noted that, "[Love] truly lived up to Paul Westerberg's (The Replacements) assessment of pretty girls 'playing makeup/wearing guitar' [...] She frequently stood on stage, microphone in hand and foot on monitor, and simply let her Fender guitar dangle around her neck. She truly embodied the empowerment that came with playing the electric guitar[...] Love depended heavily upon her male lead guitar foil Eric Erlandson, but the rest of her band remained exclusively female throughout several lineup changes."[219] Time deemed Hole's Live Through This to be supplemented by "primal guitar riffs and high-IQ lyrics."[220] Having sold over 3 million records in the United States alone,[221] Hole became one of the most successful rock bands of all time fronted by a woman.[218][222]

Among the alternative musicians who have cited Love as an influence are: Scout Niblett;[223] Brody Dalle of The Distillers;[224] Dee Dee Penny of Dum Dum Girls;[225] and Nine Black Alps.[226] Contemporary female pop artists Lana Del Rey[227][228] and Sky Ferreira have also cited Love as influential.[229] Love has frequently been recognized as the most high-profile contributor of feminist music during the 1990s,[230] and for "subverting [the] mainstream expectations of how a woman should look, act, and sound."[231] According to music journalist Maria Raha, "Whether you love Courtney [Love] or hate her, Hole was the highest-profile female-fronted band of the '90s to openly and directly sing about feminism."[232] She has also been noted as a gay icon since the mid-1990s,[233] and has jokingly referred to her fanbase as consisting of "females, gay guys, and a few advanced, evolved heterosexual men." [234]

Love's aesthetic image, particularly in the early 1990s, also became influential, and was dubbed "kinderwhore" by critics and media. The subversive fashion mainly consisted of thrift shop babydoll dresses accompanied by smeared makeup and red lipstick;[235] MTV reporter Kurt Loder described Love as looking like "a debauched rag doll" onstage.[236][237][238] Love later claimed to have been influenced by the fashion of Chrissy Amphlett of the Divinyls.[239]

The artist Barbara Kruger used one of Love's quotes on her NYC bus project.[240] Indie pop punk band The Muffs named their second album, Blonder and Blonder (1995) after a quote by Love,[241] and a recording of Love talking about a stolen dress appears as the track "Love" on the band's 2000 compilation album Hamburger.[242] There is also a band named after her.


Courtney Love


Film and television
Year Title Role Notes
1984 Club Vatican Girl Short film
1986 Sid and Nancy Gretchen
1987 Straight to Hell Velma
1988 Tapeheads Norman's Spanker
1996 Basquiat Big Pink
Feeling Minnesota Rhonda
The People vs. Larry Flynt Althea Leasure Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Most Promising Actress
Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress (2nd place)
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress
Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
Nominated – Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama[243]
Nominated – MTV Movie Award for Best Breakthrough Performance
1999 200 Cigarettes Lucy
Man on the Moon Lynne Margulies
2000 Beat Joan Vollmer Burroughs
2001 Julie Johnson Claire Won: L.A. Outfest Grand Jury Award, Outstanding Actress in a Feature Film
2002 Trapped Cheryl
2005 Trailer for a Remake of Gore Vidal's Caligula Caligula Short film
2011 Courtney in Wonderland Herself
2014 Sons of Anarchy Ms. Harrison Television debut; recurring role
2015 Empire Elle Dallas Recurring role


  • Nominated: Grammy Award, Best Rock Song, "Celebrity Skin" (Hole), 1999
  • Nominated: Grammy Award, Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group, "Celebrity Skin" (Hole), 1999
  • Nominated: Grammy Award, Best Rock Album, Celebrity Skin (Hole), 1999
  • Won: Orville H. Gibson Guitar Awards, Best Rock Guitarist (Female), 1999[244]
  • Nominated: Grammy Award, Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group, "Malibu" (Hole), 2000


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External links

Courtney Love at DMOZ