It was indeed rare for any artist to crossover from one medium to the next, let alone several, and be accomplished in all. But Nick Cave, lead singer and songwriter for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, a band that rose out of the punk era to produce some of Australia's more bleak and soul-sucking music, transcended his role as gyrating front man to become a published author and compelling screenwriter. Already penning literate and profound lyrics, Cave found the transition to writing books and movies relatively smooth, thanks to a childhood spent reading literature and the Bible. The latter was the most profound influence on his life and his work - one can hear ech s of the Good Book in his lyrics, even at a cursory listen. Not that Cave actively preached the Word to the spike-haired masses - a decades-long heroin addiction kept him far off the righteous path - but he did allow religion to seep into his music for the sake of artistry, expressing the inherent contradictions between his faith and the life he had lead.
Born Sept. 22, 1957 in Warracknabeal, Victoria, Australia, Cave came from a moderate middle-class home in the small outback town of Wangaratta, near Melbourne, on the southeastern coast of the country. Raised Anglican by his parents - his dad taught literature; his mom was a librarian - he sang praises in his church's choir and went to Sunday school every week. An unruly youth in school, his parents shipped him off to Caulfield Grammar, a private boarding school in Melbourne. Cave became friends with the likes of Rowland Howard, Mick Harvey, Phill Calvert and Tracy Pew, with whom he formed his first band, the Boys Next Door (later renamed The Birthday Party). Despite his initial ambition to become a painter - he made a failed attempt to study fine art at Caulfield Technical College - he nonetheless remained greatly influenced by religious paintings. Meanwhile, the Birthday Party quickly became the scourge of Melbourne, terrorizing audiences with fast, feedback-laden punk rock punctuated by Cave's violent and perverse lyrics. In 1980, the band fled the constricting Melbourne music scene to hit London well after the punk scene had come and gone.
By 1983, the band had released three studio albums, but had become tired from too much, too fast and played their last concert in Melbourne later that year. Cave had, by this time, become a full-blown junkie, albeit a high-functioning one. He thought his music career was finished when The Birthday Party broke up, but Mick Harvey approached him with the idea of forming another band, which became Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (taken from the Book of Psalms). The music was less noisy and aggressive; more moody and angst-ridden than The Birthday Party. His lyrics, however, continued to explore his obsessions with love, death, religion and violence, while backed with music steeped in gospel, rock, blues and neo-punk. The band released its first album, From Her to Eternity, in 1984, followed up quickly with three more, including Kicking Against the Pricks and Your Funeral My Trial, both released in 1986. Cave then took a break from recording, mainly to appear as himself in Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire" (1987).
After a two year hiatus, Cave and his mates emerged from the recording studio with Tender Prey in 1988, which boasted the single about a condemned man, "The Mercy Seat." Also that year, Cave published his first book, King Ink, a collection of lyrics and plays, including several collaborations with celebrated punk performer, Lydia Lunch.
Cave had his first fictional movie role and wrote his first screenplay with "Ghosts of the Civil Dead" (1988), a prison drama about a group of inmates who rebel against their sadistic captors, also recording the film's soundtrack with the Bad Seeds. Throughout the decade, Cave released several well-received albums, including The Good Son (1990), Let Love In (1994) and Murder Ballads (1996), all of which helped solidify him as alternative music's most innovative and introspective artist. His collaborations with short-term love interest P.J. Harvey on the singles "Where The Wild Roses Grow" and "Henry Lee" helped the Bad Seeds gain their widest exposure to date. Meanwhile, Cave's songs began cropping up on television and in movies, including "The X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002), "Dumb and Dumber" (1994) and "Scream 2" (1997).
Despite his growing celebrity and critical acclaim, Cave was starting to suffer from his long-running addiction to heroin. He had spent a better part of the 1990s trying to kick the habit - thanks in part to an arrest for possession in 1988 - but failed. Nonetheless, his career continued to grow and diversify. He released another collection of lyrics and essays, King Ink II, in 1996, then recorded The Boatman's Call (1997), an honest and despairing album about failed romances and doubts on religion. A best-of album was released in 1998, followed by publishing his novel And The Ass Saw The Angel (1998), a bizarre gothic tale about a young boy who finds solace from his dysfunctional family in his friendship with a mule. In 1999, Cave married actress and model Susie Bick, who finally gave him the inspiration to kick heroin for good. A few more Bad Seeds albums followed: No More Shall We Part (2001), Nocturama (2003) (considered one of his worst) and Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus (2004), a double album that offered two divergent sounds - one straight-up rock-n-roll, the other quiet and elegant.
Over the years, Cave and director John Hillcoat - who helmed "Ghosts of the Civil Dead" - had talked about doing an Australian western. When Cave was rejected by Russell Crowe's people for his bizarre take on a proposed sequel to "Gladiator" (2000) - he suggested that Maximus, being dead, become an eternal warrior fighting throughout history - he sat down to write the script for "The Proposition" (2006) - a bloody tale about three renegade brothers on the run from the law. Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) is wanted for rape and murder, so when he and his brother Mikey (Richard Wilson) are captured by a local law enforcer (Ray Winstone), an ultimatum is made - either Charlie hunts down their ruthless older brother, Arthur (Danny Huston), or Mikey gets hung from the gallows. Though the film was consigned to limited release in the United States, critics lauded the dark and brutal tale for its finely crafted script and echoes of Sam Peckinpah. Musicially, Cave started the side project Grinderman, whose 2007 and 2010 albums were a partial return to the rough-edged guitar rock attack of the Birthday Party. After composing the music for Andrew Dominik's "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (2007) and John Hillcoat's "The Road" (2009) with his creative partner Warren Ellis, Cave reteamed with Hillcoat, writing the script for "Lawless" (2012), a story of Prohibition-era Virginia bootleggers. The film was bracketed by two Bad Seeds releases, 2008's Dig, Lazarus Dig!!! and 2013's Push the Sky Away. Cave next moved from behind the scenes to in front of the camera for the curious faux documentary "20,000 Days On Earth" (2014). The film follows Cave through the course of a normal day, working with Ellis and spending time watching TV with his children, but every scene is scripted. Tragedy struck on July 14, 2015 when Cave's 15-year-old son Arthur Cave fell to his death from a cliffside near the family's home in Bristol, England.
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Released debut album by The Birthday Party titled Prayers on Fire
The Birthday Party played their last concert
Published first book King Ink, a collection of lyrics and plays, including several collaborations with celebrated punk performer Lydia Lunch
Made feature film acting and screenwriting debut with the prison drama "Ghosts of the Civil Dead"
Cast in a supporting role opposite Brad Pitt in "Johnny Suede"
Published another collection of lyrics and essays King Ink II
Formed the garage rock band Grinderman
Played a saloon singer in the historical crime drama "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," starring Pitt and Casey Affleck
Wrote screenplay for "Lawless," a Depression-era Western based on a novel by Matt Bondurant
Fifteenth album with the Bad Seeds, Push the Sky Away, is released.