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Courtney Love

Courtney Michelle Love (born Courtney Michelle Harrison on July 9, 1964) is an American rock musician and Golden Globe-nominated actress. Love is best known as lead singer, songwriter and lyricist for the alternative rock band Hole and for her two-year marriage to late Nirvana lead singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain. Rolling Stone has called Love “the most controversial woman in the history of rock”.

Life and career

Early life

Courtney Michelle Harrison was born in San Francisco, California to a family of Irish and Jewish descent. She regards herself as "a nice Jewish girl". Love’s biological family broke up soon after her birth. During a child custody case following Love’s parents’ divorce, both her mother and one of her friends presented letters to the court implying her father had given the child, then three years old, LSD. Harrison denies this allegation and has passed polygraph tests; however, these allegations led to full custody being awarded to Love’s mother.

Love then spent a troubled childhood with her mother Linda Carroll, as she married and divorced three times, and temporarily settled in many hippie communes in Oregon, and various schools including Nelson College for Girls in New Zealand where she boarded. Before arriving in New Zealand, Love had been left in the United States with Shirley, a friend of her mother's, who was a therapist, while her mother, the new husband and her half-sisters settled in New Zealand without her. Shortly after reuniting with her family in New Zealand, Love was sent to the boarding school in Nelson. While in boarding school, Love wrote poetry, joined a Bay City Rollers fan club, and, at the age of 12 (once back in the U.S., ostensibly), applied to join the Mickey Mouse Club; she was rejected after reading a poem by Sylvia Plath at the audition.

At 16, Love emancipated herself from her family and traveled around the U.S., England and the Republic of Ireland, living on a trust fund established for her by her mother’s adoptive parents. During her time in England, Love met, befriended, and moved into the Toxteth, Liverpool, home of musician Julian Cope of The Teardrop Explodes, and became a regular face at rock shows. In his autobiography Head-On, Cope doesn’t use her name, but refers to her as “the adolescent”.

Eventually, she headed back to the United States, ending up in Portland, Oregon, still avidly pursuing music. Love supported herself by working as a stripper. Love’s first rock-musician boyfriend was Rozz Rezabek of the Portland band Theatre of Sheep, who had an affair with her while she was still underage. Though the two wrote each other copious love letters, Love has said in many interviews that he did not take her virginity; she claims her first sexual encounter was a one-night stand with Michael Mooney, a guitarist for Echo & the Bunnymen and later with Julian Cope and Spiritualized.

Early musical career

Love began her professional music career with a brief stint as the lead singer of Faith No More. Keyboardist Roddy Bottum described the band at the time as “democratic”, saying that Love’s dominating personality did not fit in. The two artists have remained friends, working together in 2005 on a track for the film Adam & Steve.

At age 22, Love moved back to Portland, then on to Los Angeles in 1987 with fellow musician Kat Bjelland, beginning a period in which Love would form bands with Bjelland only to be ousted by her from each. The pair first formed a band in L. A. with Jennifer Finch called Sugar Baby Doll (alternately Sugar Babylon). During this time Love and Bjelland began to dress alike, wearing dirty Babydoll dresses, plastic girl’s hair clips, ripped stockings and overdone, often smeared makeup. An argument between the two raged over who had come up with their signature style, later dubbed Kinderwhore. Love claimed that she took the style from Christina Amphlett of 1980s Australian rock group, Divinyls, in an interview in the Los Angeles fanzine Ben Is Dead.

Love and Bjelland later formed a band called The Pagan Babies in San Francisco, with Deidre Schletter on drums and Janis Tanaka on bass. The band recorded a demo of four tracks, then ejected Love and renamed themselves Italian Whorenuns. Lastly, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Bjelland started what ultimately would become her longest-running band, Babes in Toyland. Love briefly played bass, but was kicked out of this group as well. Love had more early success as an actress, appearing as Gretchen, a friend of Nancy Spungen in Alex Cox’s Sid Vicious biopic Sid and Nancy in 1986, and in Cox’s spaghetti-western, Straight to Hell in 1987, as well as some small roles on television episodes.

In 1989, Love taught herself to play guitar and set out to form her own band. To do so, she placed an ad in an issue of Flipside, to which Eric Erlandson replied. Love and Erlandson co-founded Hole and are the only two members to remain constant throughout the band’s history. The group made their first gig in November 1989, after three months of rehearsal, and quickly started releasing singles on the Long Beach, California, independent label Sympathy for the Record Industry. The band’s debut album Pretty on the Inside was released in early 1991 on Caroline Records and was produced by Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Don Fleming of the band Gumball. It sold well for an independent release and received favorable reviews in the British alternative music press. During this period, she befriended many influential figures in the alternative rock scene, including Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins (whom she briefly dated).


Love met Kurt Cobain on January 12, 1990, in Portland, Oregon’s Satyricon club before fame hit, when the two singers still led underground rock bands. Love made advances afterwards, but Cobain was evasive. Early in their courtship Cobain broke off dates and ignored Love’s advances because he wasn’t sure he wanted to consummate their relationship. Cobain noted, "I was determined to be a bachelor for a few months [...] But I knew that I liked Courtney so much right away that it was a really hard struggle to stay away from her for so many months.

Love lived a block away from the Los Angeles apartment complex where the band resided during the recording of their second album, Nevermind. Love would stop by often, later saying, "We bonded over pharmaceuticals. They would meet up again in May 1991 at a Butthole Surfers concert. In November 1991, when Love and Nirvana both happened to be touring Europe at the same time, they became a couple.

Love and Cobain were married on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii, on February 24, 1992. Love wore a satin and lace dress once owned by the actress Frances Farmer, and Cobain wore green pajamas, because he’d been "too lazy to put on a tux". Six months later, on August 18 of that year, the couple’s daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, was born.

On April 8, 1994, four days before the release of Hole’s album Live Through This, Cobain’s body was found in his Seattle, Washington home, killed by a self-inflicted shotgun wound to his head. Two days later, mourning fans assembled at a memorial service in Seattle. During the memorial, a recording was played of Love reading from Cobain’s suicide note, as she felt portions were addressed to his fans. In the message, Love interrupted the note frequently to express her anger and extreme sorrow, telling Cobain that, if he hated it so much, he should just “quit being a rock star”. At one point, Love asked everyone at the memorial to call Cobain an “asshole”; on the recording from that day, one can hear the crowd obey. Finally, Love implored Nirvana fans not to listen to Cobain’s final words, “it’s better to burn out than fade away,” a lyric taken from Neil Young’s “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)”. Conspiracy theories notwithstanding, the Seattle police would close Cobain’s case as a suicide.

Live Through This tour (1994)

Hole was struck by disaster again when bassist Kristen Pfaff died of an apparent heroin overdose on June 16, 1994, just two months after Cobain's death and the new album's release. A few months later, Love told MTV’s Kurt Loder, "You know ... people go back to work. This is what I do. I gotta make a living." Love recruited 22-year-old bassist Melissa Auf der Maur (on Corgan’s recommendation) to fill in for Pfaff, and took Hole on the road, appearing at the Reading Festival in England. The band’s performance was written up by broadcaster John Peel in The Guardian:

Meanwhile, Live Through This was a commercial and critical success. Rolling Stone, Spin and the Village Voice all declared it “Album of the Year”, and by November the record was certified gold. By April 1995, it went platinum. Hole next embarked on a tour opening for Nine Inch Nails.

Celebrity Skin era (1998–2000)

Love received considerable acclaim for her role as Larry Flynt’s wife, Althea, in Miloš Forman’s 1996 film The People vs. Larry Flynt, opposite Woody Harrelson as Flynt. She received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Drama and a New York Film Critics Circle Award for best supporting actress. During this time she met and began dating Edward Norton, a relationship which after four years would become her longest yet. The two were engaged, but ultimately broke up.

In 1998, Hole released Celebrity Skin. Rolling Stone gave the album four out of a possible 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.” 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.

Around this time, Love created with Fender’s low-price sub-brand Squier her personal line of guitars, Vista Venus (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”. 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 hit the U.S. on an ultimately failed co-headlining tour with Marilyn Manson. The two bands often mocked each other on stage. Hole eventually dropped off the tour, citing their obligation to pay 50% of Manson’s staging costs as a major reason. The singers of both bands told MTV there was no personal animosity, and they were happy to end the tour. Hole finished off the year’s dates with Imperial Teen opening.

In May 2000, Love spoke in New York at the Digital Hollywood online entertainment conference, giving a speech criticizing the major American record labels. The speech was then reproduced on the news site, and was, at the time, their most popular article to date. In the speech, Love accused the major labels of devising a corrupt system of recording contracts to make the labels millions, while the band itself “may as well be working at a 7-Eleven.”

With Hole fallen into disarray, Love attempted to begin a “punk rock femme supergroup” called Bastard during summer/autumn of 2001, enlisting Schemel, Veruca Salt frontwoman Louise Post, and bassist Gina Crosley, whom Post recommended. Though a demo was completed, the project never reached fruition: conflicts between Love and Crosley, then between Love and replacement bassist Corey Parks from Nashville Pussy, reportedly led to the group’s demise. On May 24, 2002, Hole announced their breakup amid continuing litigation with Universal Music Group.

Health, Drug Abuse and Legal Issues

In 1992, while unknowingly carrying Kurt Cobain’s child, Love admitted to taking heroin, and other drugs. This led to media questioning her on whether Frances was born addicted to drugs. Several specialists deemed the pair unsuitable parents, and a legal battle was initiated, in which Cobain and Love both fought for custody of their daughter. After several months on the legal warpath, both were granted full custody of Frances. Since 1996, Love has faced numerous legal disputes, trials and jail terms.

In his 2008 memoir, Life with My Sister Madonna, Christopher Ciccone recounts that Love claimed to be using cocaine for the first time with him in 1997 at a reception at Donatella Versace's home in New York after the memorial service for Gianni Versace.

On October 2, 2003, Love was arrested in Los Angeles while breaking several windows to enter her then-boyfriend, manager and producer Jim Barber’s home. Barber did not press charges (Love says she had paid for the home), but the police charged her with being under the influence of a controlled substance. Released on bail, just four hours later Love was rushed to a hospital to be treated for an accidental overdose of Oxycontin. Eight days later, on October 10, Frances Bean was taken by the L. A. County Department of Children and Family Services and placed with Cobain’s mother, Wendy O’Connor. Authorities then ordered a 72-hour hospital evaluation of Love’s health, but she walked from the facility, claiming she was ready to head directly to rehab. When Love didn’t attend, her lawyer issued a statement that they may move to have the police department’s toxicology reports re-examined. In public appearances, Love protested her arrest, denying all charges and describing the drugs found on her as “one expired Percocet and one Ambien”. The police report, however, alleged possession of Oxycontin and Hydrocodone without prescription.

In 2003, Love pleaded not guilty to felony drug charges related to possession of painkillers. In February 2004, an arrest warrant was issued for Love after she failed to appear at a preliminary hearing. The warrant was subsequently rescinded when she appeared in court on February 18. She released her first solo album, America’s Sweetheart, just eight days earlier. The album was a commercial flop and received a mixed reaction from critics. Spin called it a “jawdropping act of artistic will”, while Rolling Stone proclaimed that, “for people who enjoy watching celebrities fall apart, America’s Sweetheart should be more fun than an Osbournes marathon.” The record was re-recorded and finished while Love was either fresh from or still undergoing drug rehab, and in its first three months the album sold about 86,000 copies, according to Nielsen Soundscan. During this same period, an estimated $20 million of money belonging to Love and her daughter was apparently siphoned off in a case that is still being investigated by the FBI. “It was my hell time. I was doing cocaine and had incredible financial trouble. $20 million was stolen from us and at the time I couldn’t do the math very well. So I took this drug to help me. It turned out the crazy math was real. The FBI looked at the paperwork and saw $1.2 million to the UK, $180,000 to Nice. It was the former boyfriend and the two assistants. They had power of attorney and they purchased property. They started in about 2000 without me knowing and I got more out of it. I think they thought she will die. In fact I should not be alive after what I went through in the [Letterman] Period.”

After completing a state-enforced rehabilitation program and enduring a probational period, Love regained the custody of her daughter in January 2005. Child welfare authorities alluded to drug addiction when responding to the press on the matter, although they didn’t comment directly.

On August 19, 2005, Love admitted using drugs in violation of her probation. She was ordered into a 28-day drug treatment program by a judge who initially said “my belief was that you need to go to the county jail.” This program was also violated, and on September 21 she was sentenced to six months in lock down rehab.

Love was released from house arrest on February 3, 2006, and issued the following statement: “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.” On July 2, 2007 she traveled to Europe with her band.

Pictures of an emaciated Love emerged in August 2007, raising public concern for her diet and health. Love claimed she "had to take care of my eating disorder. When more photos of Love appearing to be in ill health emerged in June 2008, a U.S. website wrote an "Open Letter to Courtney Love," pleading with the mother of Frances Bean to "wake up. Love admitted being suicidal following the theft of Kurt Cobain's ashes in her possession. On October 2, 2008, Love's publicist told that Cobain's ashes “were never taken” and that the story had been “erroneously reported ”.

America’s Sweetheart (2001–2004)

In early 2004, just as she had completed her first batch of songs, Love contacted ex-Hole drummer Samantha Maloney asking her to fly to France (after drummer Patty Schemel departed for the second time) and add drums to Love’s otherwise complete solo debut, America’s Sweetheart. Returning to the States, Maloney was put in charge of assembling Love’s live band. After a world wide search and countless auditions Maloney reconnected with guitarist Radio Sloan, found guitarist Lisa Leveridge, bassist Dvin Kirakosian, and the four women formed the core of Love’s backing band. Violinist Emilie Autumn later joined the band. After playing with the band for only a few weeks Love decided to call her new band “The Chelsea” after Maloney’s previous endeavour.


In June 2005, three months after being released from court-ordered drug rehabilitation, Love started recording her second solo LP, Nobody's Daughter. An anti-cocaine song entitled “Loser Dust”, as well as several other new songs (“My Bedroom Walls”, “Pacific Coast Highway”, “Sunset Marquis”) were written during rehab. Former 4 Non Blondes singer Linda Perry is producing the record, which also features the writing contributions and recording collaboration of Billy Corgan.

Some of this as-yet unpublished album (officially slated for release sometime in 2008) was leaked on the Internet in 2006. The Return of Courtney Love, a documentary about the making of Nobody's Daughter, was filmed, written and produced by Will Yapp and aired on the British television network More4 on September 27, resulted in the distribution of sound clips of some of its songs. The first entire song to become available for downloading was a rough acoustic version of “Never Go Hungry Again”, recorded during an interview for The Times in November. Incomplete audio clips of the song “Samantha” originating from an interview with were also distributed on the Internet in May 2007.

In October 2006, Love released a memoir/diary collection book, Dirty Blonde. Also in 2006, she reportedly sold 25% of Nirvana’s catalog for fifty million dollars. Love claims that twenty million dollars was embezzled from her by members of her entourage, leaving her "on the verge of applying for food stamps.

Love’s new band consists of:

  • Patricia “Pato” Vidal (Bass)
  • Liam Angelick (Guitar, and can also be seen in the A/W 07 Burberry Campaign shot by Mario Testino)
  • Schoo Fisher (Drums, formerly of Ozric Tentacles) (Also identified as "Stu" in a video interview on MySpace)
  • Micko Larkin (Guitar, formerly of Larrikin Love)
  • Bethia Beadman (Keyboards and Background Vocals)

She also collaborated with DJ Milky and Ai Yazawa to make the manga Princess Ai.

On June 1, 2007, Love made her stage comeback in a not-so-secret gig, by the end of a Linda Perry show at House of Blues in Los Angeles. With Perry and the producer’s backup band, she performed the songs “Nobody’s Daughter”, “Sunset Marquis”, “Pacific Coast Highway” and “Letter to God”. On July 23, 2007, Love added the first song, "Dirty Girls", to her MySpace page, followed by a piano- and vocal-only demo of “Sunset Marquis”, and in July 2008 with "Letter to God".

Love announced in April 2007 that “I’m going to have a Christie’s auction,” to hock the bulk of late husband Kurt Cobain’s belongings with a portion going to charity.

In recent interviews, Christopher Scott, a noted art and fashion photographer, referred to Love as one of his muses. Also, she has worked with photographer David LaChapelle, appearing on the cover of his book 'Heaven to Hell' depicting the pieta.

On July 19, 2008, Love posted a letter on her Myspace page alleging that musician Ryan Adams had stolen $850,000 from her accounts to finance his 'Rock N Roll' album. She claims to have discovered this only recently due to problems keeping track of a large number of credit cards and accounts.

London & Co. filed a lawsuit against Love on July 22, 2008, claiming she sold Nirvana's publishing catalog without paying them a share of the profits. The catalog was sold for $19.5 million and according to an oral contract the company made with Love, she was to share 5 percent of her or her company The End of Music's, earnings. London & Co. is seeking $975,000, which would have been its share of the sale.

Family history

Love’s mother Linda Carroll was adopted by an Italian-American couple at birth, retaining no contact with her birth father or her birth mother, whom she later discovered was the well-known children’s writer Paula Fox (herself also adopted). Carroll penned an autobiography titled Her Mother’s Daughter, released in 2006, about her relationship with both adoptive mother and elder daughter.

Conflicting news stories began to appear in August 2003 regarding Love’s family tree, some of them remarking that Love’s mother had taken DNA tests, and that the results proved that Carroll’s father was actor Marlon Brando. The news reports implied this disclosure would appear in Carroll’s then-forthcoming memoir. Later that month, however, a spokeswoman for Carroll’s publisher, Doubleday, told the New York Daily News, “There was nothing in Linda Carroll’s book proposal about Marlon Brando, nor will there be anything in the book about him. I’ve spoken to her and she has told me that there is no truth to the suggestion that she is related to Marlon Brando.”

Rumours surfaced in August 2005 that Love was pregnant with a child of British comedian Steve Coogan, although both parties publicly denied this. This rumor followed an earlier rumor that the pair had been engaged in an affair.


Year Award Category Film
1996 New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Supporting Actress The People vs. Larry Flynt
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards Best Supporting Actress
1997 Golden Satellite Awards Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Most Promising Actress
Florida Film Critics Circle Awards Best Supporting Actress
2001 L. A. Outfest: Grand Jury Award Outstanding Actress in a Feature Film Julie Johnson

1997 Best Personal Style(female) Fashion awards


Studio albums



External links

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