Courtney Love

9 Feb 2024

Courtney Love

Courtney Michelle Love, born on July 9, 1964, is renowned as an American singer, guitarist, songwriter, and actress, prominently associated with the alternative and grunge scenes of the 1990s. Her career, spanning four decades, began to soar as the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist of the alternative rock band Hole, which she co-founded in 1989. Love's onstage presence, characterized by uninhibited performances and provocative lyrics, captured public attention along with her highly publicized personal life, notably her marriage to Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. In 2020, NME recognized her as one of the most influential singers in alternative culture over the last 30 years.

Growing up, Love experienced a nomadic childhood but predominantly settled in Portland, Oregon. Immersed in the local punk scene, she played in several short-lived bands. After a brief stint in juvenile hall, Love spent time in Dublin and Liverpool before returning to the United States to pursue acting. She appeared in supporting roles in Alex Cox's films Sid and Nancy (1986) and Straight to Hell (1987) before forming Hole in Los Angeles alongside guitarist Eric Erlandson. The band garnered critical acclaim for their 1991 debut album, produced by Kim Gordon, and achieved commercial success with their second release, Live Through This (1994). Love's acting career also flourished, earning her a Golden Globe nomination for her role in Miloš Forman's The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996).

Subsequently, Love continued her acting endeavors, featuring in notable films like Man on the Moon (1999) and Trapped (2002). In 2004, she ventured into a solo music career with her debut album, America's Sweetheart. However, Love faced legal issues and struggled with drug addiction, leading to a mandatory rehabilitation stint in 2005. During this period, she worked on her second solo album, released in 2010 under the name Nobody's Daughter but credited to Hole, albeit without the original lineup.

In the years following, Love released solo singles and returned to acting with roles in television series like Sons of Anarchy and Empire. In 2020, she confirmed her return to music production. Additionally, Love is recognized as a writer, having co-created and co-written the manga series Princess Ai (2004-2006) and authored her memoir, Dirty Blonde (2006). Throughout her multifaceted career, Love has left an indelible mark on alternative culture and continues to captivate audiences with her artistry and charisma.

Courtney Michelle Harrison, born on July 9, 1964, at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco, California, is the daughter of psychotherapist Linda Carroll and Hank Harrison, who worked as a publisher and road manager for the Grateful Dead. Her parents met at a party and married in 1963. Carroll, who was adopted, is the biological daughter of novelist Paula Fox. Love's maternal great-grandparents include Elsie Fox and Paul Hervey Fox, who wrote "The Last Train from Madrid." Phil Lesh, the Grateful Dead's bassist, is Love's godfather. Love was named after the protagonist of Pamela Moore's novel "Chocolates for Breakfast."
Love's upbringing was unconventional. She spent her early years in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, until her parents divorced in 1970. Following the divorce, she moved to Marcola, Oregon, with her mother and was later adopted by her stepfather, Frank Rodríguez. Raised in a gender-neutral household, Love attended a Montessori school in Eugene, Oregon, where she faced academic and social challenges. At age nine, she exhibited signs of autism but later overcame her introversion.

In 1972, Love's mother remarried and relocated the family to Nelson, New Zealand. Love's disruptive behavior led to her expulsion from school, and she was sent back to Portland, Oregon, where she faced legal trouble, including a stint in juvenile hall for shoplifting. After becoming legally emancipated at 16, Love worked odd jobs and adopted the surname "Love" to conceal her identity. She frequented gay clubs and drag queen circles, developing social skills while studying English and philosophy at Portland State University.
Love's tumultuous upbringing and early experiences shaped her rebellious persona and influenced her later music and career choices.

In 1981, Love received a small trust fund from her maternal grandparents and traveled to Dublin, Ireland, where her biological father resided. She audited theology courses at Trinity College for two semesters and was later honored by Trinity's University Philosophical Society in 2010. During her time in Dublin, Love met Julian Cope of the Teardrop Explodes and stayed at his Liverpool home in his absence. She later moved to London with her friend Robin Barbur and lived with Cope and other artists, including Pete de Freitas of Echo & the Bunnymen.

In July 1982, Love returned to the United States. She attended a Faith No More concert in San Francisco and convinced the band to let her join as a singer. Although the group recorded material with Love as a vocalist, they eventually fired her, seeking a "male energy" according to keyboardist Roddy Bottum. Love then worked briefly as an erotic dancer, first in Taiwan and then at a taxi dance hall in Hong Kong. It was during her time in Hong Kong that Love first experimented with heroin, mistaking it for cocaine. While under the influence of the drug, she was propositioned by a wealthy client to accompany him to the Philippines, but instead used the money he gave her to return to the United States.

At the age of 19, Love took a job at Paramount Studios cleaning out vintage pieces in the wardrobe department, thanks to her then-boyfriend's mother, film costume designer Bernadene Mann. During this period, Love developed an interest in vintage fashion. She later returned to Portland and formed short-lived musical projects with friends Ursula Wehr and Robin Barbur, initially known as Sugar Babylon and later as Sugar Babydoll.

Love briefly fronted Faith no More for their first TV appearance in 1984, singing with a Siouxsie Sioux-style vocal. After meeting Kat Bjelland at the Satyricon nightclub in 1984, Love and Bjelland formed the group the Pagan Babies. Love, who primarily played keyboards at the time, asked Bjelland to start the band with her as a guitarist. They moved to San Francisco in June 1985, recruited bassist Jennifer Finch and drummer Janis Tanaka, and played several house shows. The group recorded one 4-track demo before disbanding later that year.

Following the breakup of Pagan Babies, Love briefly relocated to Minneapolis, where Bjelland had formed Babes in Toyland. Love worked as a concert promoter before returning to California. Drummer Lori Barbero recalled Love's time in Minneapolis, mentioning an incident where Love had a confrontation at the airport after allegedly taking money. Love then left for Los Angeles, expressing her intention to become famous, which she eventually did.

Deciding to shift her focus to acting, Love enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute and studied film under experimental director George Kuchar. She featured in one of his short films, Club Vatican. Additionally, Love took experimental theater courses in Oakland taught by Whoopi Goldberg.

In 1985, Love 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. After filming Sid and Nancy in New York City, she worked at a peep show in Times Square and squatted at the ABC No Rio social center and Pyramid Club in the East Village. That year, Cox cast her in a leading role in his film Straight to Hell (1987), a Spaghetti Western shot in Spain in 1986. The film was poorly reviewed by critics, but it caught the attention of Andy Warhol, who featured Love in an episode of Andy Warhol's Fifteen Minutes. She also appeared in the 1988 Ramones music video for "I Wanna Be Sedated", portraying a bride among party guests.

Displeased by the "celebutante" fame she had attained, Love abandoned her acting career in 1988 and resumed work as a stripper in Oregon. Recognized by customers at a bar in McMinnville, Love decided to go into isolation and relocate to Anchorage, Alaska, where she lived for three months to "gather her thoughts", supporting herself by working at a strip club frequented by local fishermen. She described this period as a "vision quest", where she got rid of her possessions and lived in a trailer with other strippers, aiming to "get her shit together" and learn how to work.


  1.  Brite 1998, p. 24.
  2. ^ Carroll 2005, p. 144.
  3. ^ Armstrong, Lance (February 2, 2022). "Hank Harrison, 81, played early role in Grateful Dead history"The Galt Herald. Archived from the original on August 20, 2022. Retrieved June 11, 2022.
  4. ^ Behind the Music 2010, event occurs at 4:30.
  5. ^ Hunter & Segalstad 2009, p. 197.
  6. a b c Selvin, Joel (May 11, 1995). "Courtney and Dad – No Love Lost / He downplays estrangement, she won't see him"San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on August 18, 2015.
  7. ^ Carroll 2005, p. 131.
  8. ^ Carroll 2005, pp. 19–21.
  9. ^ Freeman, Nate (April 16, 2013). "Courtney Loveless: Family Tree Remains Mystery as Feud with Grandma Sizzles"The New York Observer. Archived from the original on July 16, 2015.
  10. ^ Garratt, Sheryl (April 1, 2010). "Courtney Love: damage limitation"The Telegraph. Archived from the original on November 18, 2015.

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