May 18, 1980: Joy Division’s Ian Curtis Dies

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Joy Division promo photo; Curtis in striped shirt

Joy Division publicity photo

On the eve of the band’s first U.S. tour, Joy Division singer Ian Curtis hanged himself at the age of 23, on May 18, 1980, in the kitchen of his home in Macclesfield, England, using a clothesline. Earlier that night he had watched the Werner Herzog’s movie Stroszek and listened to Iggy Pop’s album The Idiot.

Those close to Curtis cite a number of factors that may have fed into his decision to take his own life: His longtime struggle with depression, being diagnosed with epilepsy the previous year, his separation from his wife, a rift in his close friendship with Belgian music journalist and promoter Annik Honoré, and a fascination with the mythology of rock stars who died young.

Curtis’ life and death were the subject of the critically acclaimed 2007 film Control, directed by noted rock photographer Anton Corbijn. The Joy Division song “Love Will Tear Us Apart” for which Curtis wrote the lyrics has become a modern classic, being covered by numerous other artists and featured in a number of movie and TV shows.

The band would release only two studio albums, 1979’s Unknown Pleasures and 1980’s Closer, which was released shortly after Curtis’ death. The other band members then went on to form the critically acclaimed band, New Order.

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