I first came across the musician and singer in 1993 when I was a fan of her husband, Kurt Cobain. At the time I was really into grunge-no-future-punk. I was rebelling against pretty much everything and only wore ripped jeans and oversized lumberjack shirts. I didn’t fit in with the heteronormative values of the “good” girls in my class and I didn’t see much on the horizon for someone like me, incapable of conforming to the sort of normality society accepts. And then it slapped me right in the face, that pout, that voice, that look, not to mention those angry melodies.
It was like a primal scream resonating deep down in my guts, a hand offered like an uppercut, a glimmer of hope in my daily darkness. This powerful woman with her virile stances roared things I’d never heard before, she wasn’t scared of vulgarity or what anyone else might say. With her band Hole, she talked about violence, body image, lesbianism, beauty, incest, rape, maternity and even femininity unlike anybody else before her. This woman spoke to other women, without every beating round the proverbial bush and she never lied.
“Thank goodness for Courtney Love. In particular. And for punk rock, in general,” wrote Virginie Despentes in her book King Kong Théorie. And thank goodness for Courtney Love in my life, in particular, and for music in general.”
In the press too her words gave us wings. An eternal ally with the LGBT movement her quotes were inspirational: “Don’t be the team captain’s groupie, be the captain!” or, “I want all the girls to come, to start shouting and pick up a guitar.” She’d never hesitate to openly insult her male contemporaries. And above all she was never sorry.
In short Courtney Love gave us the courage to be different. No longer the sweet little girl to be gazed at and desired by men. Her hair was dyed blonde with angry dark roots. Bright red lipstick was smeared over her mouth and her school girl dresses were grubby. This look that became known as “kinderwhore” was a pure antidote to America’s perfect prom queens and would later inspire the likes of Hedi Slimane and Marc Jacobs. Between the exaggerated femininity of Blondie and the gender-fluidity of Patti Smith, Courtney invented her own genre, one that was sexy, troubled and brand new. Another route suddenly opened up. Hers was also one of resilience. Love survived the death of her husband, public criticism, heroin addiction, her time as a stripper, correctional institutions, losing custody of her daughter and a whole load of other damning twists of fate.
“Between the exaggerated femininity of Blondie and the gender fluidity of Patti Smith, Courtney invented her own sexy, troubled and previously unseen genre.”
But most of all Courtney Love showed us that just because we’d been born a girl nothing was forbidden. Be active, not passive. Shout, cry, climb up and tell your truth. I wanted to write about music not go backstage to try and seduce a rock star. I wanted to go into a profession dominated by men. Love sliced opened the way in a macho (rock music) world, with her shabby sequins, glamour, rage and an innate sex appeal, at the end of a path paved with traps.
Today girls like Scout Niblett, Brody Dalle, the Dum Dum Girls, Lana Del Rey (her great friend who she interviews this month in Dazed And Confused), Tove Lo and Sky Ferreira all cite her as their muse. And even Miley Cyrus recently copied her look as well as a song title in her latest video “Malibu”. Many people are still quick to claim this ‘talent-less’ blonde killed her husband, while the likes of Keith Richards, who lived a similarly flamboyant and debauched life, remain adulated. But then these are the same people who think that Brigitte Macron is too old for her president husband…
“Courtney Love”, by Violaine Schutz is published by Camion Blanc.