Meaning of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division

Love Will Tear Us Apart is a song performed by the legendary English post-punk band Joy Division. The dark lyrics, which were written by Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, are mainly based on the problems that he was facing with his wife Deborah Curtis due to his extramarital affair with a Belgian journalist named Annik Honoré. The song was one of the last songs Curtis wrote before his tragic death at the age of 23.

 Love Will Tear Us Apart lyrics

Facts about “Love Will Tear Us Apart”

  • The song was written by all four members of Joy Division Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Ian Curtis, with Curtis writing the lyrics.
  • The song was produced by Joy Division in collaboration with music producer Martin Hannett.
  • The song’s title ironically makes reference to the Howard Greenfield and Neil Sedaka penned song Love Will Keep Us Together, which was first recorded by Sedaka in 1973 and later made famous by the American pop duo Captain & Tennille in 1975.
  • The band performed the song for the first time in September 1979 while supporting the Buzzcocks.
  • The music video for Love Will Tear Us Apart was shot on April 25th, 1980 by the members of the band themselves.
  • The song is one of the few Joy Division song’s in which Curtis plays a musical instrument (guitar).
  • Curtis tragically committed suicide in May 1980 about three few weeks after shooting the song’s music video. He was only 23 years old at the time of his shocking death.
  • The song was officially released in June 1980 (just few weeks after Ian Curtis’ tragic suicide) and became Joy Division’s first chart hit when it peaked at the 13th position in the UK Singles Chart that year.
  • Curtis’ wife Deborah inscribed the song’s title and key line “Love Will Tear Us Apart” on his grave marker.
  • Musician Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys fame once stated in an interview for the 1993 documentary New Order Story that his favorite pop song ever was Love Will Tear Us Apart.
  • In 2002, NME named the song as the greatest single of all time.
  • In the prestigious Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, the song was placed at the 179th and 181st in 2004 and 2011 respectively.
  • According to an interview Peter Hook of Joy Division had with SongFacts, the song is Joy Division’s greatest work. Hook later stated that despite the song having very dark lyrics, he strangely finds it “very uplifting”.

Which artists have covered “Love Will Tear Us Apart”?

Being one of Joy Division’s most famous songs, the song has been covered by several artists since its release in 1980, including the following:

  • English singer and songwriter Paul Young in 1983.
  • Swedish folk singer José González in 2004.
  • American rock band Fall Out Boy in 2004.
  • American indie rock band Calexico in 2005.
  • Norwegian singer Susanna Wallumrød in 2006.

What films and television shows has “Love Will Tear Us” Apart appeared?

The song was used in the the 2001 science fiction film Donnie Darko.

In 2009, the song was used in Episode 7 of Season 5 of the hit CBS TV series Criminal Minds.


2 Responses

  1. Marc says:

    Thanks for the facts Kojo. What do you think the lyrics “Love will tear us apart” mean?

    • Kojo says:

      I personally think the lyrics of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” are purely based on the marital problems Ian and Deborah were facing.

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