Ian Kevin Curtis (15 July 1956 – 18 May 1980) was an English singer-songwriter and musician. He was the lead singer and lyricist of the post-punk band Joy Division. Joy Division released their debut album, Unknown Pleasures, in 1979 and recorded their follow-up, Closer, in 1980.
Curtis, who suffered from epilepsy and depression, took his own life on 18 May 1980, on the eve of Joy Division's first North American tour and shortly before the release of their second album. His suicide resulted in the band's dissolution and the subsequent formation of New Order. Curtis was known for his bass-baritone voice, dance style, and songwriting typically filled with imagery of desolation, emptiness, and alienation.
Curtis was born on 15 July 1956, at the Memorial Hospital in Stretford, Manchester, and grew up in a working-class household in Macclesfield in Cheshire. He was the first of two children born to Kevin and Doreen Curtis.
From an early age, Curtis was a bookish and intelligent child, displaying a particular flair for poetry. He was awarded a scholarship at the age of eleven at Macclesfield's independent King's School. Here, he developed his interests in philosophy, literature, and eminent poets such as Thom Gunn. While at King's School, he was awarded several scholastic awards in recognition of his abilities—particularly at the ages of 15 and 16. The year after Ian had graduated from King's School, the Curtis family purchased a house from a relative, and moved to New Moston.
As a teenager, Curtis chose to perform social service by visiting the elderly as part of a school programme. While visiting these people, he and his friends would steal any prescription drugs that they found and later take them together as a group. On one occasion when he was sixteen, after consuming a large dosage of Largactil he and his friends had stolen, Curtis was discovered unconscious in his bedroom by his father, and taken to hospital to have his stomach pumped.
Curtis had held a keen interest in music since the age of twelve, and this interest developed greatly in his teenage years, with artists such as Jim Morrison and David Bowie being particular favourites of his, and thus influencing his poetry and art. Curtis could seldom afford to purchase records, leading him to frequently steal them from local shops.[n 1] By his mid-teens, Curtis had also developed a reputation among his peers as a strong-willed individual, with a keen interest in fashion.
Despite gaining nine O-levels at King's School, and briefly studying A-Levels in History and Divinity at St. John's College, Curtis soon became disenchanted with academic life, and abandoned his studies to commit himself to finding employment. Despite abandoning his studies at St. John's College, Curtis continued to focus on the pursuit of art, literature and music, and would gradually draw lyrical and conceptual inspiration from ever more insidious subjects.