Joy Division are best remembered for their blockbuster song “Love Will Tear Us Apart” – which was released in 1980. Almost half a century on, the song continues to be a favourite of many. But as the title of the song would suggest, there is a dark meaning behind the song.

The lead singer of the English band – Ian Curtis – wrote the song, with his failing marriage acting as the inspiration for the lyrics. The lyrics in the song paint the portrait of a man struggling with life, which sadly mirrored real life.

Ian Curtis would tragically pass away before the hit song was released. One of the tragedies of this song is the fact that Curtis didn’t live to see its popularity. A music video accompanies the song, as seen below.


Joy Division was initially founded in 1976, with Curtis being joined by Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris and Peter Hook to make up the four-piece band. The band had been tipped to enjoy a bright future, with their debut album “Unknown Pleasures” proving to be a success.

The hit song Love Will Tear Us Apart was released in early 1980 – it was the first time that the group had produced a chart hit. It reached as far as number 13 in the UK Singles Chart, before later topping the UK Indie Chart. It has made various re-entries down the years, and has been covered several times.

The Meaning

Ian Curtis was a very complex individual. He suffered from Epilepsy, and as a result had regular seizures. As well as this, Curtis also struggled with mental health problems – with depression affecting him. His problems were exacerbated by his marriage problems – he was having an affair with a Belgian journalist.

It was these marriage problems that helped inspire the song. He reportedly felt guilty over the affair. He had been married to his wife Deborah since 1975, and the duo had one child, Natalie, together. The opening verse to the song seems to perfectly encapsulate the struggle of a strained relationship:

When routine bites hard
And ambitions are low
And resentment rides high
But emotions won’t grow
And we’re changing ourways, taking different roads,
Then love, love will tear us apart… again

The song goes on to feature other lyrics that can easily be connected to a troubled relationship:

Why is the bedroom so cold
Turned away on your side?

And later:

As desperation takes hold
Is it something so good
Just can’t function no more?

The iconic song made into merchandise

Fate of Ian Curtis

While touring Europe in the early months of 1980, Curtis’ health worsened, with the long hours of touring worsening his epilepsy. His seizures became frequent, and serious doubts were raised over his health. By May, the band were set to start their US/Canada tour – representing the first time that the band had visited North America.

Unfortunately, the evening before the band were set to fly out to the United States, Curtis was found dead, having hanged himself in his kitchen, aged just 23. It had been preceded by a previous suicide attempt two months before. His wife Deborah discovered him. Many paid tribute to Curtis in the aftermath of his death, and as time has gone on, appreciation of his talent has risen.

Legacy of the Song

The song “Love Will Tear Us Apart” has gone on to become one of the most famous songs in recent decades. The name itself has become part of the regular dialogue for many. The song was named as the best single of all time by NME Magazine in 2002.

Ian Curtis’ brilliance has been attested to by many. Many other musicians have prasied his contribution to music. Joy Division disbanded following Curtis’ death, although the remaining members did later set up the group “New Order” – which would go on to achieve moderate chart success.

The Takeaway

Curtis will always be remembered. Not just for this song, but for his immense musical talent. This song was a true masterpiece, and will remain popular for many, many years to come.

Ultimately, the song also has a strong message. The song title teaches the listener about one of life’s fundamental truths – love really does tear us apart.