Even if you are new to the Goth scene, you may already be familiar with the name Ian Curtis, as his music has inspired hundreds, if not thousands, of other musicians worldwide, both alternative and mainstream, from other post-punk bands to even (apparently) Lady GaGa.
Ian Curtis was the singer of Joy Division, one of the first four post-punk bands to be given the moniker 'Gothic'. Ian and his fellow band members (Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook) contained ‘extremes of darkness and light’ within their music – anguished lyrics combined with the bounce of punky dance music. His deep, cavernous vocals have been imitated by Goth bands all over the globe.
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Curtis also suffered from depression, and on April 7th, 1980, he attempted suicide by overdose. Joy Division were playing a gig the next evening, and whilst he managed to make it on stage for part of the set, he eventually had to retire. Simon Topping (from the band A Certain Ratio) headed onto the stage to finish the show. The audience, who believed that Curtis's seizures and erratic behaviour were part of a stage persona, booed, and began to throw bottles. Chaos and riots ensued.
Curtis's marriage was also under a lot of strain. He and his wife, Deborah, had married in 1975, when they were both in their teens, but he had begun a relationship with a woman in Belgium whilst on tour. Deborah had filed for divorce. The night before the band was due to leave for a tour of the States, Curtis returned to his family home to ask Deborah to reconsider.
Curtis reportedly saw himself as a poete maudit, and dreamed of the perennial youth achieved by legends who died young. Which, in a sense, was what he found when in the early hours of May 18th, the morning after he had asked Deborah to take him back into her life, he hung himself in the kitchen of their family home.
Joy Division, his brainchild, died with him. Without their vocalist, it was impossible for them to go on. But, in time, they remade themselves, recruiting a new vocalist to their cause and creating the new wave band New Order, a band still popular amongst Goths today.
In 2008, a film called Control, telling Ian Curtis’s tragic story, was nominated for an Oscar, and his music is still played, loved, imitated and admired by millions of musicians and music fans. He must rest peacefully in the knowledge that the legacy he so longed for in life lives on twenty years and more after his death.