Column: Honoring a music legend

Ryan Meyer

Monday, May 18, 2020, was the 40th anniversary of the death of Ian Curtis, a lyrical mastermind and singer of the band that was at the front of the post-punk musical movement, Joy Division.

There is a mythical aura surrounding Curtis and his band, as there is with many artists who perish too early. And, as with those other artists, the much-analyzed music of Joy Division contributes to these feelings.

Curtis’ voice cannot be compared to any heard before him, but influenced many after. His voice perfectly suits the minimal and dismal textures the rest of the band provided. And it’s not as if the rest of the band are just Curtis’ backing group, either. Bassist Peter Hook and drummer Stephen Morris are among the most formidable rhythm sections, as seen in their work with both Joy Division and New Order. Guitarist Bernard Sumner’s playing embodies the entire post-punk movement with its grit and simplicity. Curtis’s baritone voice rises above the stark symphonies with poetry unseen in any genre of music in history.

Curtis’ epilepsy, diagnosed in the middle of the band’s career, influenced many of his lyrics and behavior, including one of Joy Division’s most popular songs, “She’s Lost Control.”

The stage presence of Curtis can be glimpsed in grainy footage from Joy Division’s halcyon days or can be read in accounts of those who were fortunate enough to witness the spectacle that was a Joy Division concert.

Ian Curtis committed suicide on May 18, 1980, shortly before Joy Division were set to tour North America and undoubtedly spark the same movement in the U.S. that they had in the U.K. We are only left to speculate just how important Joy Division would’ve become on a global scale. Instead, the remaining members went on to form another fantastic, influential band in New Order.

So take three or four minutes out of your day, listen to “New Dawn Fades,” “Atmosphere,” or “Shadowplay.” By doing so, you are honoring the music and poetry that Ian Curtis and his bandmates worked so hard to create.


Ryan Meyer can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]