Joy Division‘s most iconic single, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, was released in June 1980, and tragically, within a month, lead singer Ian Curtis took his own life at the age of 23. Battling epilepsy, depression, and the breakdown of his marriage, Curtis was discovered dead in his kitchen just before the band’s inaugural North American tour.

As a result, Curtis didn’t get to enjoy the immense success that Joy Division would achieve. The single marked Joy Division’s first chart success, reaching 13th on the UK Singles Chart and claiming the top spot on the UK Indie Chart. The tragic death of the singer brought attention to ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, as its melancholic lyrics became forever linked to Curtis’ untimely passing.

Although the song has since become one of the best contributions to the realm of post-punk, Curtis originally wrote the song as a response to the Captain and Tennille’s track ‘Love Will Keep Us Together’. Disillusioned by his deteriorating marriage, the instability in his life, and escalating health problems, the musician wrote the melancholic track.

Unlike the version sung by a married couple, “Captain” Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille, which was written as an affirmation that they will always be together, Joy Division’s darker, more sinister take revolved around Curtis’ own personal struggles during a time when “resentment rides high, but emotions won’t grow.”

Strangely, however, the song’s appeal remains attached to its upbeat arrangements. As bassist Peter Hook explained: “It’s quite strange really because the lyrics are very dark, but I find the song to be very uplifting – no other Joy Division song works like that. People go nuts for that song when we play it live, but it really is quite dark.”

Its paradoxical nature made it the perfect Joy Division anthem, akin to the highs and lows of Curtis’ real life. ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is often celebrated as being one of the best, most calculated additions to rock. The title was engraved on Curtis’ gravestone at Macclesfield Cemetery to commemorate its significance.

Although Curtis’ legacy endures through the music he crafted during his brief life, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ stands out as the band’s most poignant work due to the circumstances surrounding its release and Curtis’ subsequent death. For drummer Stephen Morris, it’s still difficult to revisit. “In retrospect, when you listen to it in light of what happened, it seems bloody obvious,” he said. “I honestly didn’t realize that he was writing about himself.”

 

Source: faroutmagazine.co.uk, Kelly Scanlon

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