Joy Division's Ian Curtis: Gone 30 years today

Ian-CurtisImage Credit: Paul Slattery/Retna UK/LandovRock history is littered with the names of superstars who died too soon, many at the peak of their fame. But Lancashire-born Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis is one of the rareified few, like Nick Drake or Arthur Russell, whose modest cult status transformed into something much larger and more influential after his death.

Bands ranging from the Cure and U2 to Radiohead, Interpol, and Bloc Party all owe some musical debt to the bleak, baritoned post-punk sound that Curtis, who took his own life two months shy of his 24th birthday, pioneered with Joy Division.

And countless artists (among them, U2 and Arcade Fire, Fall Out Boy, and of course New Order, the band that sprung from JD’s ashes) have covered the band’s signature song, “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Still, no one else ever quite mastered his onstage trademark, the malfunctioning-robot dance:

Rest in peace, Ian, and thanks for what you gave us; we wish your time here could have lasted a little longer.

Comments (36 total) Add your comment
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  • Heather2

    Wow, it’s really been that long. Unforgettable music.

  • Jim

    I have “Unknown Pleasures” playing on my computer right now in tribute; such bleak, yet beautiful music. RIP, Ian.

  • MN

    One should check out the film “Control”, that came out a couple years ago with a great performance by Sam Reilly as Ian. Also, the article did not mention New Order, which sprang from Joy Division.

    • Leah Greenblatt

      Hey MN! you may have missed it, but we actually do mention NO and link to Bernard Sumner singing “Love” live above

      • Benny01

        Hey Leah Greenblatt! Thanks for remembering Ian, but don’t be afraid to go a little longer and deeper next time. It would’ve been awesome to click through to a more extensive article; as it is, for me at least, it was a kick to see the post title but something of a disappointment that the post itself turned out to be only a few brief paragraphs.

    • S.O.

      Don’t forget to check out “24 Hour Party People”. The film that about the guy (forgot his name) who created the record label that found & signed Joy Division.

    • rina

      i have to say i just saw the movie ” control” and it was amazing. anyone who likes or loves joy division should check it out.

  • james

    There will never be a band quite like Joy Division Ian was genious. RIP

    • Waffles_Of_Doom

      orly? check Nine Inch Nails (NIN) band, their singer is suffering from the same depressing ass songs that he created

  • Dooby Ellis

    Such a shame a musical icon has been gone so long. Ian was truly a talented poet,songwriter and singer. Joy Division are a band that were never justified enough during there time. We truly don’t know what we have until its gone

  • jspaceman

    one of the greatest rock singers and lyricists of all time. the guys in interpol must be pretty bummed today …

  • live transmission

    The music sounds as fresh and as vital as it did 30 years ago. When is Idol going to have a Joy Division theme night??

    • oh hell no

      God forbid

    • Annie

      Totally agree!

  • David

    Never heard any of their music.

    • James S.

      Then you’re missing out on some of the greatest music ever recorded.

    • live transmission

      Is there a contractual obligation for there to be at least one person saying “I don’t know this person” or “I don’t know their music” for every EW post on a deceased musician? Seriously, if you’ve never heard their music, why on earth would you feel compelled to say so? You see the post, you read it…and after all that, feel like you have to say to people you haven’t heard their music? It makes no sense at all

      • David

        I just wanted everyone to know how ignorant I am – is that too much to ask?

  • Susan

    Thanks for remembering Ian today. I was only eleven when he died, but Joy Division was already one of my favorite bands then. I still love them today. This generation is missing out on great music by not knowing Joy Division. Hopefully your post will let them see what they have been missing.

  • John_6

    He was no Andrew Eldritch…

    • live transmission

      No one is Andrew Eldritch! Except maybe Andrew, of course

    • shamajuju

      Andrew would have had a hard time being Andrew if Ian hadn’t come first.

  • Eddie

    For 25 years I have listened to New Order and kind of worked backwards to Joy Division they’re truely aband ahead of their time. Love will tear us apart is a classic and Heart and soul is a forgetten gem. Thanks Ian, bernard,stephen and peter.

  • Lloyd

    Love Will Tear Us Apart gets all the attention, but Heart and Soul is a much better song. Way ahead of its time.

    • Greg

      Was ironically listening to that song as I read your comment. “Heart and Soul” is so devastating. If there’s one song that makes you feel what the singer is going through, then that song captures it perfectly.

  • Kathleen

    I agree with you Lloyd. In my top ten favorite JD songs, LWTUA is #11. It’s a great song but I don’t think it’s their best song.

  • Greg

    Been listening to them non-stop for about a year now. Man, once this band grows on you, it gets in your blood. Their music is like a religious experience.

    • Waffles_Of_Doom

      You must really have nothing else to do…but then again it’s up to decide what you wanna do

  • Linus Solanki

    Ian Curtis is a legend, Joy Division is a great band, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Steve Morris who still are alive today still make great music and Ian would be proud of them.

    • Waffles_Of_Doom

      Their songs…are for poets and realists who can’t find a place in this world. I know quite a few of emo-punk-rock singers who killed themseves cause of their own depressing ass music

    • Waffles_Of_Doom

      Ian Curtis maybe WAS a legend, but not in this time. Every band has to meet their better sooner of later

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