Sunday, June 27, 2010

Behind the Music’s Comeback Featuring Courtney Love

My favorite show is back and I had no idea it was happening! Behind the Music is a television series on VH1 that originally ran from 1997 to 2006, before it was stopped and only aired new episodes sporadically. The show was resurrected on September 10, 2009 and aired profiles on Lil Wayne, T.I. and Pink. Each show focuses on a musician or musical group, documenting both the successes of the musicians and the problems they faced during their careers.

What I always liked about Behind the Music was getting the real story about musicians. The show humanized them regardless of whether or not being on the show was a P.R. move. Mostly the show was about bands or musicians who went through some serious tragedy and had some serious baggage. Whether it was drugs, alcohol, divorce or a fight with a label, these shows told the story. Some would say that Behind the Music glamorized the rock and roll lifestyle while others thought it was a window into the subject’s background.

The most recent episode of Behind the Music profiled Courtney Love who is the perfect candidate because she has had more ups and downs than one would think was possible. The two-hour episode talked about Love’s parents who were too into drugs to raise her, Love’s time as a stripper, her anger and rage that turned her on to rock and roll and of course her relationship with Kurt Cobain.

“I get shit because I’m the only woman left standing,” Love said.

Although Love’s out of control behavior has earned her the “crazy bitch” reputation over the years it’s possible that she is hated because people speculate that she killed Kurt Cobain or maybe it’s because she says exactly what she thinks or maybe it’s the fact that she always took copious amounts of drugs. There is no question that she has said, worn and done some insane things but there is also no question that she is talented. She is hated and loved because she can’t keep her mouth shut and was an addict for a long time.

During the show she said that she had so much rage and that it could only be controlled by rock and roll.

“My ambition is unwavering but I can be terribly self-destruction.”

For those of you reading this who hate Courtney Love (and I'm assuming that’s the general consensus) I am not writing about her to change your mind. She has done way too many things to get people to hate her with over the top comments and generally obnoxious demeanor. That being said, as someone who generally prefers male singers to female singers, her aggressive sound was always interesting to me. And she can play her guitar very well. Love is so angry and she uses music as her outlet so I can’t even imagine what kind of monster Courtney Love would be if she didn’t have rock and roll.

With all her turmoil Love also apparently had a lot of insecurities like her nose which she had done several times. I found it almost funny that she got nose jobs since it’s so stereotypically something that girls like Love would never do. She was also very self-conscious about becoming a famous musician and not being in anyone’s shadow. Her issues worsened due to a Vanity Fair article written about Kurt and Courtney questioning their drug addiction and ability to be good parents. The article also questioned if the couple was the next John and Yoko or the next Sid and Nancy.

Although Kurt and Courtney fought for custody of their daughter Frances, Cobain was more of a mess than anyone could have imagined. He overdosed several times, was in constant pain due to his stomach issues and battled with being so famous. That, coupled with his heroin addiction, led to his demise. On April 8, 1994 he committed suicide with a shotgun and contrary to popular opinion, Love was in an L.A. rehab center when she heard what happened.

Hole’s next album, eerily titled Live Through This, was a huge success which led to the media speculating that Love killed Cobain. Two months after Kurt died, Hole’s bassist overdosed on heroin. Soon after, Hole hit the road with a new bassist and, while on stage, Courtney would scream at the audience and act like a crazy person who should have been recovering not performing. The photos of her taken during that time are devastating.

When Love landed a role in The People vs. Larry Flynt and earned a Golden Globe nomination it looked as though she had cleaned up her act. Released in 1998, Hole’s Celebrity Skin went platinum and Love seemed to be back on top. In the early 2000’s she overdosed on oxycontin and lost custody of her daughter. History was repeating itself. On the 10th anniversary of Cobain’s death she hit another low and went to a psychiatric ward. Her 2004 solo album America’s Sweetheart was critically slammed and after coming inches away from facing prison time she finally got clean. In April of this year Hole released Nobody’s Daughter which has earned very positive reviews. Love said the album is for Frances who is now a beautiful teenager and looks so much like Cobain it’s scary.

Although these days going to rehab seems like par for the course for actors and musicians, for Love, who has been in and out more than a handful of times, rehab saved her life. She admits she made mistakes and that she is an addict. That being said, throughout her entire Behind the Music interview she was clear-eyed, well-spoken and emotional. True to form she also chain-smoked and cussed her way through the whole thing.

Whether or not you are a fan of Courtney Love (or Hole) she very much holds an important place in rock and roll history. The fact that this is the longest blog post I’ve ever written indicates (to me at least) that her ups and downs and relationship with arguably one of the most influential musicians ever makes her matter. She is a nightmare and a great musician all at once; she is interesting and a cliché at the same time. She is, whether we like it or not, rock and roll.


  1. Being that you prefer male singers it is no surprise that you gravitate towards Courtney Love. An aggressive, guitar-slinging, drug addict? Sounds like largely male characteristics.
    History has always turned its nose up at women who refuse to tip toe through life whispering their "please and thank you's." Courtney's screaming, shooting up, and f-bombing the pop culture world doesn't exactly make her the #1 candidate for Miss America, but that's why some of us fucking love her!
    She embodies the agonizing, dingy, bedraggled rock n' roll spirit that is more so celebrated if your name is "Kurt."

  2. Wow. Carly, I really could not have said it better myself. Seriously....PLEASE let me help you set up your own blog!

  3. Absolutely, to both of you. Saw this episode and was deeply moved. Sometimes you wonder who suffers more in these tragic love stories. Is it worse that she has to live without him? Or that she has to live with him? You have to wonder what Love's story would have been if he was still here...