Hole leader Courtney Love is no stranger to controversy. A truly polarising figure, Love has garnered kudos for her work at the forefront of alternative rock for years. Still, this musical legacy is often in danger of being overshadowed by her penchant for bitter – and very public – feuds. While this reputation is not entirely the fault of her own, the outspoken artist has butted heads with many over the years.
Enjoying a storied life from the get-go, Love was born into the world of the arts. The daughter of a psychotherapist mother and a father who once road-managed the Grateful Dead, she spent her earliest years in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco. Naturally, having this initial experience in the centre of the counterculture exposed Love to both the enlightening and dark sides of hippiedom. Following the divorce of her parents in 1970, her mother shockingly testified that Love’s father gave her LSD when she was just four years old.
After that, Love lived an itinerant life that saw her mother raise her in a free household where nudity was a fixture and genders were cast off. Then, when older, she lived and studied in Dublin, hung out with Echo and the Bunnymen in Liverpool, and briefly recorded with an early iteration of Faith No More. The most significant point in Love’s life, however, came in 1992, when she married Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. Due to his status as the definitive musician of the era, Love unfairly became a target of heavy criticism. She was then thrust into the role of pantomime villain when Cobain tragically died by suicide in 1994.
Notably, Love dived into a variety of spats when Cobain was alive. One of the most notorious of these was with Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose. Not long after bursting onto the scene with Hole in the early 1990s, Love established herself as one of the music world’s biggest loudmouths, and ever since, her list of enemies has been expanding. However, she’s always backed herself, admirably – and sometimes naively – fighting her corner.
Five artists hated by Courtney Love:
Kathleen Hanna / Bikini Kill
From the moment alternative rock became all the rage, Love and Bikini Kill/Le Tigre frontwoman Kathleen Hanna have been enemies. Their fierce feud goes back to Lollapalooza 1995, a time when a fight broke out between the two backstage. Unsurprisingly, accounts differ on how and why the incident unfolded, but one thing is clear; Love hasn’t forgotten her disdain for the Riot Grrrl pioneer.
When the news broke that Bikini Kill were reuniting in 2019, Love made her thoughts clear on Hanna and the band. She wrote under an excited Bust Magazine Instagram post: “Speak for yourself. Biggest hoax in history of rock and roll,” she wrote.
Responding to an Instagram user, Love said: “Yeah. It’s worse when I speak truth to rock male industrial complex. But at least I have the best view. Two of that band total amateurs. Hanna is a good hype man. But her persona is such a diy nonsense dilettante. A big idea they cannot convey, because they suck. That’s all! Back to Paris couture, because frocks don’t trigger me. Ce vai!”
This is a much more severe matter, so a trigger warning must be issued.
In 2004, when Love phoned The Howard Stern Show, she claimed that one of the first times she had oral sex was with the controversial rocker Ted Nugent backstage at a show. Sounding utterly traumatised by the event, the Hole frontwoman maintained that she couldn’t remember how old she was at the time. Love then said she was 12 years old. Compounding the sickening story, the musician relayed that she hadn’t developed breasts at the time of the incident.
When Love appeared on The Howard Stern Show again in 2013, she changed her account by adding a different dimension to the claim – which Nugent fully denies. Instead, the future Hole star claimed she was 14 when the alleged incident occurred. She then asserted that there was a line of young girls waiting to engage in sexual acts with Nugent. She said she wore a yellow tube top and “shouldn’t have been there”.
In the spring of 2021, Olivia Rodrigo burst onto the scene with her debut album Sour. The record is brimming with musical and lyrical references to the Y2K era, with the hit single ‘Good 4 U’ offering the perfect example. However, the album was dismissed by many, including Love, for what appeared to be blatant lifts of material from other artists.
In June of that year, the alt-rock legend posted a picture of Rodrigo’s Sour Prom concert film next to the artwork for Hole’s album Live Through This. She accompanied it with the caption: “Spot the difference! #twinning.” Although the pair engaged in fake niceties on social media, when Love started responding to fans on Facebook who questioned her on the matter, she let her thoughts spill out.
Love responded to one fan, saying: “[sic] it was rude of her, and [Rodrigo’s label] Geffen not to ask myself or [Live Through This cover photographer] Ellen von Unwerth.”
The Hole singer then explained her position: “[sic] Stealing an original idea and not asking permission is rude. There’s no way to be elegant about it. I’m not angry. It happens all the time to me. But this was bad form. That’s not bullying or bomb-throwing. This person’s music has nothing to do with my life. Possibly never will. It was rude, and I gave every right to stick up for my work. Don’t gatekeep me! I’m honourable as fuck to my fellow artists, and I expect the same.”
Love added: “[sic] I’ve informed her I await her flowers and note, I sure hope it’s long. Does Disney teach kids reading and writing? God knows. Let’s see. Yes, this is rude. Rage inducing? Honey, if I had a dollar for everyone this happens? I’d be real rich!”
In 2019, Californian alternative rockers Redd Kross claimed Love had them “blacklisted” from supporting Nirvana when they were at their peak. Kurt Cobain was supposedly a fan of Red Kross, who formed in 1978, and when he found success with Nirvana, both bands were managed by the same people. Naturally, they crossed paths on many occasions.
Given just how successful Nirvana were, Redd Kross’ bassist Steven McDonald asked their manager to arrange a support slot for Nirvana. “We were never able to open for Nirvana,” McDonald told The Guardian in 2019. “We shared the same manager. Flash forward to Nirvana being the biggest thing in the world—OK, can we please go on tour with your band? We were told we couldn’t, because Courtney Love said we were mean to her when she was fat.”
Asked if there was any validity to his claims, McDonald dismissed the rumour that Love’s actions were fuelled by him and his friends being derogatory about her. He said: “We used to crank call Courtney. But not about being fat. We didn’t even know she was fat”.
He concluded: “When she met Kurt Cobain, we realised: Oh man, that Courtney chick—we have to be friends with her now. But she had her revenge. She blacklisted us from Nirvana tours.”
Courtney Love’s feud with Gwen Stefani is an infamous one. Reportedly, after Love dismissed Stefani as a “cheerleader” during an interview, the former No Doubt singer hit back with her hit song ‘Hollaback Girl’. Then in 2010, when appearing on The Howard Stern Show, Love claimed that she slept with Stefani’s then-husband, Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale, while the two were dating.
Love claimed that they had been together for eight months and that “he was lovely”. Allegedly, they “had a really good time,” and Ross was sleeping with “everyone … yeah … and a few other people,” with Stefani knowing about it.
Three years later, during an interview with ABC News, Love couldn’t resist mentioning Stefani again. When discussing her clothing line, Never the Bride, she segued into a discussion about Yves Saint Laurent. Why was this important? Love had chosen to wear the brand for the first part of her show, with Gwen Stefani also sporting a jacket by the brand on a recent cover of Vogue.
“Funny thing, you know, I would’ve never really bet on Gwen,” she said. “Not back in the day”. Love then undermined Stefani’s success further by attributing it all to Rossdale. “His band never did that well but he is very, very smart,” she opined. “He runs the Gwen show, that’s him. He runs the clothing line, he f**king built that up, he has nothing else to do.”