I am, doll arms, big veins, dog beg"
Courtney Michelle Love (born Courtney Michelle Harrison; July 9, 1964 in San Francisco, California) is an American singer-songwriter, guitarist and actress best known as the frontwoman of early '90s grunge band Hole and the widow of Kurt Cobain.
Love moved around a lot in The '80s and was in various bands. At one point, she joined Faith No More as a temporary vocalist, but was kicked out for (surprise) clashing too much with the other musicians. Along with guitarist Eric Erlandson, she started Hole in 1989, which has/had an alarming inability to hang onto drummers and bass players. With Hole, she made the following albums:
- Pretty on the Inside (1991), a harsh Noise Rock album produced by Kim Gordon and Don Fleming. The lineup was Love, Erlandson, Jill Emery on bass and Caroline Rue on drums.
- Live Through This (1994), a more obviously Grunge album produced by Sean Slade and Paul Kolderie (previously producers for Radiohead's Pablo Honey). It became their most successful album, but Cobain's contributions were uncredited, which brought about rumors that he had ghostwritten it. (Cobain contributed nearly-inaudible backing vocals to "Asking for It" and "Softer, Softest".) For this album, Emery and Rue were replaced by Kristen Pfaff (who died of an accidental overdose two months after the album's release) and Patty Schemel.
- My Body, The Hand Grenade (1997), a compilation of early (and recent) material released while the band's attempt to record a third album collapsed. Included a Nirvana song called "Old Age" which was rewritten and credited entirely to Love without any mention of its origin.
- Celebrity Skin (1998), a more-accessible Power Pop album. Produced by Michael Beinhorn and with some contributions by Billy Corgan and Jordon Zadorozny of Blinker the Star. To prevent a repeat of what happened with Live Through This, the album contained extensive liner notes and writer's credits just so people would know exactly who did what. Melissa Auf Der Maur played bass on the album (and quit in 1999 to join the Smashing Pumpkins after D'arcy Wretzky left the band), while Schemel controversially left during the sessions for unclear reasons and was replaced by a session drummer in the studio and Samantha Maloney for the tour.
Love disbanded Hole circa 2002 after a period of inactivity, and became more known for erratic behavior and insulting other alt-rock musicians than for her music. In one notorious example, she provoked a legal pissing match with Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, delaying the release of Nirvana's With the Lights Out box set for three years, which did not endear her to the band's fans.
In 2004, Love recorded a solo album, America's Sweetheart (2004). This was not as well-received as her Hole material, with the songwriting being criticized as weak and the production as overly commercial; even she admitted that she was mostly out of it during recording. This album featured Emilie Autumn, and launched her non-classical career. In 2009, Love revived Hole with an entirely new lineup, annoying Erlandson and Auf Der Maur, since they only learned about it from Love's announcement. (The latter was baffled by the announcement saying she would be the bassist.) This lineup (Love, Micko Larkin, Shawn Dailey and Stu Fisher) put out a new album, Nobody's Daughter (2010), which received very, very mixed reviews. Fisher left a year after the release, being replaced with Scott Lipps. Hole disbanded a second time in 2012, and Love has since remained a solo act to this day, touring with people like Lana Del Rey.
After some bit parts in the late 1980s, she had a relatively successful period of acting in the mid-1990s to early 2000s, most notably in The People vs. Larry Flynt, where she won quite a few awards and even managed to impress Roger Ebert. Yes, she's perpetually name-droppy, but in reality, she's always seemed to be privy to a lot of insider information. When asked by Natasha Leggero in 2005 if she had advice for young girls moving to Hollywood, she responded, "If Harvey Weinstein invites you to a party at the Four Seasons, don't go." While the truth about Weinstein would eventually come out over a decade later, everyone laughed this off at the time — "no big deal, Courtney’s crazy!" — and she was reportedly blacklisted by her talent agency. There also exists an interview with Howard Stern where she hinted — but fell far short of revealing too much — about David Bowie's illness, which ultimately led to his death, before it was publicly known.
More strange stuff about Love:
- She auditioned for The Mickey Mouse Club at age 12...using a poem by Sylvia Plath.
- She was in the music video for "I Wanna Be Sedated" by The Ramones.
- She is not just connected to Kurt Cobain, but four other members of the "27 Club": The Grateful Dead's Pigpen McKernan, Echo & the Bunnymen's Pete de Freitas, The Gits' Mia Zapata, and Kristen Pfaff.
- Hole's "Violet" was written about Billy Corgan. Two control freaks in a relationship, shocker that it never worked out. Love says it's "a song about a jerk, I hexed him and now he's losing his hair."
- She created a Self Insert Manga called Princess Ai under Tokyopop in 2004.
- Drew Barrymore is the godmother of her and Cobain's daughter, Frances Bean Cobain. She's almost been called into active duty more than any 10 Army reservists combined.
- Albums with Hole:
- Compilations with Hole:
- My Body, The Hand Grenade (1997)
- Icon (2011)
- As a solo artist:
- America's Sweetheart (2004)
Courtney Love provides examples of the following tropes:
- All Love Is Unrequited: "Doll Parts", which Courtney wrote in 1991 when she feared this was going to be her fate with Kurt.
- The Atoner: In 2010s she mended fences with a lot of peers with which she had rocky relationships. First she made peace with Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic at Nirvana's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2014, then she later mended her relationships with Billy Corgan and Marilyn Manson. She's generally remained at peace with all of them since. Indeed, she has expressed some regret over her past actions.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Love is genuinely talented both as a musician and an actress. Live Through This and Celebrity Skin have held up and are now considered classics of their era and she has received award nominations for her acting roles. Thus why she has managed to maintain a 30 year long career in the entertainment industry despite her severe personal shortcomings and her neverending conflicts with her peers.
- Milos Forman specifically pursued her to play Althea in The People vs. Larry Flynt, negotiating at great personal risk a compromise with the studio in which they agreed to let him cast her in exchange for her taking multiple, random drug tests. It paid off and Love held up her end of the bargain; she stayed sober throughout the film's production, passed all of her drug tests, didn't cause any drama on the set and delivered an excellent performance for which she won multiple awards.
- Careful with That Axe: "Violet" and the entire album of Pretty on the Inside are the go-to examples of this.
- Cassandra Truth: She was warning people about Harvey Weinstein's serial abuse a full decade before credible accusations began to stick with him. And she was also early on speaking out against Britney Spears' conservatorship.
- Cover Version: Did a very twisted cover of "Gold Dust Woman" by Fleetwood Mac and covered "Credit in the Straight World" by Young Marble Giants. Hole also frequently covered songs during their live performances.
- Defeat Means Friendship: In the 2010s, after she relinquished her control of Kurt's legacy and share of Nirvana to daughter Frances Bean Cobain (something long planned in advance for when Cobain turned 18 in 2010) and gotten a handle on her drug addiction and personal issues, Love made up with Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, famously announcing their newfound truce and embracing them both on stage at Nirvana's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2014. They've remained at peace ever since.
- Determinator: Love has endured a level of hardship throughout her life that most people wouldn't wish on their worst enemies. Yet every time she was knocked down she always got back up in the name of realizing her dreams of working in the entertainment industry. Its a quality that even people who hate her can reluctantly respect, something we saw when she was featured on an episode of VH 1's Behind The Music. She could almost be an inspirational figure if she wasn't such a Jerkass.
- Early-Bird Cameo: Before becoming famous with Hole, she made a cameo appearance in the video for "I Wanna Be Sedated", and was a temporary vocalist for Faith No More.
- Generation Xerox: Younger Courtney + Kurt's laid back personality + Perky Goth = Frances Bean Cobain.
- Girl Group:
- Harsh Vocals: Apparently Courtney was gargling whiskey while recording "Pretty on the Inside" for this effect. Her vocals later evolved into this more naturally over the years (bordering on Vocal Decay), especially on Nobody's Daughter.
- Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Was famously one during her youth.
- I Am the Band:
- In the 80s, she served as the frontwoman for Faith No More for a short period (sacked when her domineering personality was apparent even then). Her replacement turned out to be so bad that a magazine commented on the band's "internal warfare".
- Former guitarist and only other constant member Eric Erlandson criticised the resurrection of the "Hole" name, saying he "had a contract" with Love that neither of them would reunite Hole without the other's involvement. Love responded by declaring that Hole is "MY band", and continued with the reunion. Erlandson did not pursue any further legal action (a decision Auf Der Maur attributed to his considerably mellower personality).
- Identical Stranger: Her younger, non-surgically-altered self is a dead ringer for Katee Sackhoff.
- Implausible Deniability: At the Roast of Pamela Anderson, she'd punctuate some of her drunken (or high, it's unclear which) antics with "I've been clean and sober for a year!" No one bought it for a second.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: When Courtney isn't screaming or genuinely singing, she gets to this. Though on Pretty on the Inside, it's mostly the fault of the production.
- Lighter and Softer:
- Celebrity Skin was very much this, almost borderline on being pop music, reflective of the calm and stable state of Courtney's life in the late 1990s.
- Courtney Love as a person in general starting in the 2010s, as she's sobered up and gotten her personal issues and behavior under control.
- Male Band, Female Singer: Averted with the classic line-ups of Hole where the band members were all female except for Eric Erlandson, but played straight with Courtney's solo career having some male-only backup groups.
- Rock Star Song: In her solo album America's Sweetheart, "Mono" feels like this.
- The Smurfette Principle:
- Inverted with the original incarnation of Hole, where Eric Erlandson was the only male member out of a grand total of 10.
- Played straight with the 2009-2012 incarnation where everyone but Courtney was a guy (though less blatant by the fact that apart from the drummer, the lineup was stable the whole time)
- The Tyson Zone: Trope Codifier. The writer who coined the term in the late 1990s listed her as one of the celebrities who could be considered in "The Tyson Zone".
- The Unfair Sex: Inverted. As noted above, Courtney Love got ravaged by critics and detractors for engaging in the same kind of Rock and Roll lifestyle and behaviors that is either excused or celebrated among male rock musicians i.e. being open about her drug use, flaunting her sexuality and being openly promiscuous, not being shy about exposing her body and performing either topless or otherwise scantily clad, crowd surfing in dresses, etc.)
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Kat Bjelland throughout the 80s and early 90s.
- "I told you from the start just how this would end..."