Born on July 9, 1964; daughter of Hank Harrison (a writer) and Linda Carroll (a therapist); married Kurt Cobain, 1992 (died, 1994); children: one daughter, Frances Bean. Addresses: Record company--Virgin Records, 150 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010, website: http://www.virginrecords.com. Publicist---PMK/HBH, 8500 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700, Beverly Hills, CA 90211. Website--Courtney Love Official Website: http://www.courtneylove.com.
Courtney Love's hybrid mix of raw talent, mythic catastrophe and rock and roll spirit has enabled her to transcend the expected tag of "rock star." She has achieved full-fledged celebrity status due to a career that owes as much to her resolve and persistence as it does to Love's natural abilities. Controversial in every sense of the word, Love outgrew a tumultuous childhood and unstable teenage years to become one of the most notable female musicians of the 1990s, as well as a lauded Hollywood actress and the wife of one of the late tragic figures of the early 1990s rock world, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain.
Courtney Love was born Love Michelle Harrison on July 9, 1964, in San Francisco, California, and got off to a flamboyant start. Her mother, Linda Carroll, was a prominent therapist, and her father, Hank Harrison, was a follower of the infamous rock icons The Grateful Dead, as well as the author of The Dead: A Social History of the Haight Ashbury Experience. Love's early childhood was full of turmoil, and her parents divorced when she was a toddler. Following a court battle in which her father lost custody of the child, Love's name was changed to Courtney Michelle Harrison, and her father was denied further rights to visitation.
Love's childhood continued to be unstable. She shuffled between Oregon, where she was initially raised, and New Zealand, where her mother moved with her third husband to start a sheep farm. Courtney reacted to all the upheaval with rebellion, floating between boarding and reform school, committing petty crimes and causing a general amount of trouble. Although she eventually dropped out of school, it was at Skipworth, a reform school in Oregon, that Love came to an important realization. As she later explained to Spin magazine, "An intern who was working for school credit came back from England and said, 'You should really be into this stuff, it's really you.' And he gave me three records: Pretenders, Squeeze, and Never Mind the Bollocks. I decided then that I was going to be a rock star."
Love's teenage years were even more tumultuous. After inheriting a trust fund through her mother's side of the family, Love embarked on travels that took her around the globe. She spent time in Japan working as a stripper, attended school in Ireland, and eventually tagged along with singer Julian Cope in Liverpool, England. After Love finally returned to the United States, she became more focused on achieving her goal of stardom. Bouncing from Oregon to San Francisco to Minneapolis and back, Love was able to get her bearings, performing both on stage and screen. During the 1980s she joined a band with Kat Bjelland in San Francisco and later in Minneapolis. Bjelland, whom Love met in Oregon, later went on to become an iconic purveyor of the female Alternative music scene with her well-lauded group Babes in Toyland. Love also was the first singer for the influential progressive metal outfit Faith No More in San Francisco, long before they became famous. During this period Love also got her first taste of acting, taking on the role of Nancy Spungen's best friend in the cult film Sid and Nancy (1986), directed by Alex Cox. In his next picture, Straight to Hell (1987), another small independent punk flick, Cox cast Love in the lead. Neither film was a hit, and despite all her efforts, Love had yet to achieve any real degree of success. Undeterred, she moved to Los Angeles in the late 1980s to try again.
In 1989 Love assembled the first lineup of her band Hole in Los Angeles. The group was formed when Love placed an advertisement in the Los Angeles paper The Recycler and guitarist Eric Erlandson responded. As Erlandson recalled in Spin, "After I called her, she didn't call me for two weeks." He added, "Then she called me back at three in the morning and talked my ear off." Bassist Jill Emery and drummer Caroline Rue completed the group's lineup, and in 1991 the band released their independent debut, Pretty on the Inside, to wide acclaim. The group, which released a catalytic mesh of rock, noise, and emotion, gained a following and a lot of fans in the press, due in part to the group's unpredictable live shows and Love's outrageous personality.
In 1991 Love also started a relationship with singer Kurt Cobain of the then-little-known outfit Nirvana. At the time, Pretty on the Inside was outselling Bleach, Nirvana's independent debut. Nirvana went on to record its major label debut, Nevermind, and subsequently became one of the most important and famous bands of the 1990s. In 1992 Cobain married Love, and later in the year Love gave birth to a daughter, Frances Bean Cobain. By that time, Nirvana had become superstars, ushering in a new angry alternative movement of music called grunge. Cobain and Love became the subjects of much tabloid interest, due to the couple's drug use and general notoriety.
After Love's success with Pretty on the Inside, Hole signed a lucrative deal with DGC Records in 1993. At around this time, drummer Caroline Rue was fired from Hole, and bassist Jill Emery left as well. Hole eventually replaced Rue with drummer Patty Schemel, and Kristen Pfaff from Minneapolis joined as the band's new bassist. The group thereafter embarked on recording their major label debut, Live Through This.
In April of 1994, Kurt Cobain tragically took his own life, prompting grief among his many fans and harsh criticism towards his widow. Cobain's death personally affected Love, and had a great effect on her professional life as well. Already scheduled, Hole's second album Live Through This was released within a week of her husband's death. Although the personal criticism of Love was harsh, the album was a smash success. It ultimately went platinum and was the number one pick on many critics' polls of the year, including those of such prestigious publications as Rolling Stone and the Village Voice. Love was again overwhelmed with loss when Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff died of a drug overdose two months after the death of Cobain.
Pfaff was later replaced with bassist Melissa Auf De Maur, and Hole performed a successful stint on the 1995 Lollapalooza tour, prior to going on a long hiatus. Love then resumed acting, taking a role in 1995's Feeling Minnesota. In the same year she procured a leading role in director Milos Forman's feature film The People vs. Larry Flynt. Love's portrayal of Althea Flynt, the troubled wife of Porn publisher Larry Flynt, transformed the controversial rocker into a mainstream actress, earning her a glut of critics' awards and a Golden Globe nomination. Love also completed a drastic change of image, disposing of her baby doll dresses and donning Versace and designer labels. Love later appeared in other major films, including Man in the Moon, a feature starring noted comedian Jim Carrey.
In 1998 Hole released the album Celebrity Skin. Although it eventually went gold and was nominated for a Grammy award, Celebrity Skin was not nearly as successful or well-received as its predecessor. Several members of Hole left the group, and following its touring and promotional efforts, Hole unofficially disbanded in 2002. Love, however, did not stay entirely out of the limelight. She instead went head to head in court with the surviving members of Nirvana over their intention to release specific Nirvana material. Also unhappy with the way Celebrity Skin was promoted, Love legally fought to free herself from her record label. She also spent time fighting for artists' rights, speaking at such prestigious events as the music industry conference South by Southwest.
In 2003 Love faced a variety of problems, including an arrest for being under the influence of controlled substances, which then prompted a serious custody battle for her daughter. In the midst of the chaos, Love released her first solo album, America's Sweetheart, in 2004. Although receiving good reviews from the press, America's Sweetheart did not make a big impact on its intended audience and instead was overshadowed by Love's personal troubles, which included several arrests and public outbursts.
Love appeared for a short while to be getting herself under control. And in January of 2005 the court decided to return Love's daughter to her. In August of 2005 Love declared that she had been sober for over year. Unfortunately, on September 16, 2005, Love was sentenced to 180 days in jail for a probation violation; she was to serve the time in a drug treatment center. And her daughter had returned to other members of her family to be taken care of while her mother was away. It is hoped that after this incident Love can get her addictions under control. Interview magazine has said, and many others believe, "The power of Love is a curious thing: She can write lyrics like Rimbaud, sing like Lennon, and scream like a banshee-sometimes all at once." And fans everywhere would like to see the star return to singing.
by Nicole Elyse
Courtney Love's Career
Formed Hole in Los Angeles, CA, 1989; released Pretty on the Inside, Caroline Records, 1991; released Live Through This, DGC, 1994; starred in film The People vs. Larry Flynt, 1996; released Celebrity Skin on Geffen, 1998; Hole disbanded, 2002; released solo album America's Sweetheart on Virgin, 2004.
Courtney Love's Awards
New York Film Critics' Circle award, Best Supporting Actress; Boston Society of Film Critics' award, Best Supporting Actress; Chicago Film Critics' Association award, Most Promising Actress, all for The People vs. Larry Flynt,1996.
- Selected discography
- (With Hole) Pretty on the Inside Caroline, 1991.
- (With Hole) Live Through This DGC, 1994.
- (With Hole) My Body,The Hand Grenade City Slang, 1997.
- (With Hole) Celebrity Skin Geffen, 1998.
- America's Sweetheart Virgin, 2004.
- Chicago Sun Times, February 15, 2004.
- Interview, March, 2004, p. 96; April, 2004, p. 126.
- People Weekly, November 3, 2003, p. 83; July 26, 2004, p. 20; January 31, 2005, p. 22; August 22, 2005, p. 24; September 5, 2005, p. 26.
- New Musical Express, November 28, 2001.
- Playboy Magazine, January,1996.
- RAW Magazine, August 16, 1995.
- Spin, Fall 1994.
- Vanity Fair, September 1992.
- "Courtney Love," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusicguide.com (June 20, 2004).
- "Courtney Love," Salon, http://archive.salon.com/ent/music/feature/1998/09/11featureb.html (June 19, 2004).
- E! Online, www.eonline.com, March 18, 2004; May 27, 2004.
- USA Today, www.usatoday.com/life/digest.htm, September 19, 2005.
- Additional information was obtained from a transcript of Barbara Walter's March 24, 1997, interview with Courtney Love.