Ian Curtis, born July 15, 1956, is one of the more tragic figures in rock. As lead singer of the British band Joy Division, he seemed to ride the crest of the postpunk curve, thanks to a pair of albums now deemed classics, Unknown Pleasures and Closer. Sadly, though, beneath that visionary veneer was a man besieged by both physical and mental maladies. A bout with epilepsy, marital problems, and depression eventually drove him to forsake the trappings of pop success and take his own life.
Curtis displayed artistic aptitude early on, winning a scholarship at age 11 and showing a flair for poetry. Though he remained an average student, Curtis also retained an inherent interest in music. After meeting guitarist Bernard Sumner and bassist Peter Hook at a Sex Pistols gig in 1976, the trio decided to enlist drummer Stephen Morris and form a band they initially named Warsaw. But a name conflict forced them to change their title to Joy Division, taken from a 1955 novel, The House of Dolls, written about a Nazi concentration camp that included a sex slave facility.