Ian Curtis

Ian Curtis
Ian Curtis Joy Division 1979.jpg
Curtis performing live with Joy Division at the Mayflower in Manchester in 1979
Background information
Birth nameIan Kevin Curtis
Born(1956-07-15)15 July 1956
Stretford, Lancashire, England
Died18 May 1980(1980-05-18) (aged 23)
Macclesfield, Cheshire, England
  • Singer-songwriter
  • musician
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • melodica
  • synthesizer
Years active1976–1980
Associated actsJoy Division

Ian Kevin Curtis (15 July 1956 – 18 May 1980) was an English singer-songwriter and musician. He is best known as 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 both 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.

Early life and adolescence

Curtis was born on 15 July 1956, at the Memorial Hospital in Stretford, Manchester, Lancashire and grew up in a working-class household in the market town of Macclesfield in Cheshire.[2] He was the first of two children born to Kevin and Doreen Curtis.[3]

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 would develop his interests in philosophy, literature, and eminent poets such as Thom Gunn.[4] While a student at King's School, he would be 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 relocated to New Moston.[5]

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 notable occasion when he was sixteen,[6] after consuming a large dosage of Largactil he and his friends had stolen, Curtis was discovered unconscious[7] in his bedroom by his father, and subsequently taken to a nearby hospital to have his stomach pumped.[8]

Curtis had held a keen interest in music since the age of twelve, and this interest would develop 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.[9] Nonetheless, as Curtis hailed from a working-class background, he could seldom afford to purchase records, leading him to frequently resort to stealing 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.[11]

Despite gaining nine O-levels at King's School,[12][13] and briefly studying A-Levels in History and Divinity at St. John's College, Curtis soon became disenchanted with academic life, and thus chose to abandon his studies and commit himself to finding employment.[14] Nonetheless, 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 evermore insidious subjects.[15]

Having stated to his family and friends that he did not wish to continue with his studies, but to actually obtain employment, Curtis obtained a job at a record shop in Manchester City Centre,[16] before obtaining more stable employment within the civil service. His employment as a civil servant saw Curtis initially deployed to Cheadle Hulme, where he worked for several months within the Ministry of Defence,[17] before he was offered alternate employment within the Manpower Services Commission in a building located at Piccadilly Gardens. He would later find alternate employment as a civil servant in Woodford, Greater Manchester, although at his request, approximately one year later,[18] Curtis was posted to Macclesfield's Employment Exchange, where he worked as an Assistant Disablement Resettlement Officer.


On 23 August 1975, Curtis married Deborah Woodruff, to whom he was introduced to by a friend, Tony Nuttall.[19] Ian and Deborah initially became friends but then began dating in December 1972, when both were only 16 years old.[20][n 2] Their wedding service was conducted at St Thomas' Church in the Cheshire village of Henbury. At the time they wed, Curtis was 19 and Woodruff 18. The two had one child, a daughter named Natalie, born on 16 April 1979.[21] Initially, the couple lived with Ian's grandparents, although shortly after their marriage, the couple relocated to a working-class neighbourhood in Chadderton,[22] where they undertook a mortgage while working in jobs neither particularly enjoyed. Before long, the couple became disillusioned with life in Oldham, and remortgaged their house[23] before briefly returning to live with Ian's grandparents. Shortly thereafter, in May 1977, the couple moved into their own house in Barton Street, Macclesfield,[6] with one of the rooms of the property becoming colloquially known between the couple as Curtis's "song-writing room".[24]

Other Languages
العربية: إين كورتيس
Bân-lâm-gú: Ian Curtis
български: Иън Къртис
brezhoneg: Ian Curtis
català: Ian Curtis
čeština: Ian Curtis
dansk: Ian Curtis
Deutsch: Ian Curtis
eesti: Ian Curtis
emiliàn e rumagnòl: Ian Curtis
español: Ian Curtis
français: Ian Curtis
Gaeilge: Ian Curtis
galego: Ian Curtis
한국어: 이언 커티스
Հայերեն: Յան Քարթիս
Bahasa Indonesia: Ian Curtis
italiano: Ian Curtis
ქართული: იენ კერტისი
қазақша: Иэн Кёртис
magyar: Ian Curtis
Nederlands: Ian Curtis
norsk: Ian Curtis
polski: Ian Curtis
português: Ian Curtis
română: Ian Curtis
русский: Кёртис, Иэн
Simple English: Ian Curtis
slovenščina: Ian Curtis
српски / srpski: Ијан Кертис
suomi: Ian Curtis
svenska: Ian Curtis
Türkçe: Ian Curtis
українська: Ієн Кертіс