Who is Nick Cave?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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Nick Cave is an Australian rock musician, composer, author, screenwriter, and actor. He is best known for fronting the bands The Birthday Party and Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.

Born on 22 September 1957 in Victoria, Australia, Nick Cave was introduced to both literature and music at a young age. His father was an English teacher and his mother was a librarian. Raised Anglican, he sang in the boys' choir at Wangaratta Cathedral as a child and later joined the choir at his boarding school, Caulfield Grammar School in Melbourne. In 1973, he formed a cover band with fellow classmates Mick Harvey, Tracy Pew, and Phill Calvert.

After secondary school, Nick Cave went on to study painting at the Caulfield Institute of Technology in 1976. The following year, his life would change drastically following his father's death in a car accident. Cave began using heroin, a habit he would continue until 1999, and dropped out of school, focusing his attention on his band.

The group called themselves the Boys Next Door and began playing mostly original music. Rowland S. Howard joined the band in 1978, and they released their first album in 1979. In 1980, the group moved to London and renamed themselves The Birthday Party. Nick Cave's early music was frightening and challenging, both in his aggressive vocal style and in his cryptically nihilistic and blasphemous lyrics.


The Birthday Party disbanded in 1984 due to personality conflicts between Howard and Cave, both heavy drug users. Nick Cave and Mick Harvey soon thereafter began a new band, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. They have released 14 successful studio albums, all but one of which have made it into the UK top 100. Their latest album, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, was released on 8 April 2008.

Nick Cave's style has become increasingly subdued over the years, and he has experimented with an ever wider array of musical styles. His songwriting, while impressionistic in his Birthday Party songs, has tended more towards ballads and detailed narrative in the Bad Seeds. In 2006, Cave began a new project with fellow Bad Seeds members Warren Ellis, Martyn P. Casey, and Jim Sclavunos called Grinderman. The band features Cave on electric guitar and has a more garage-like sound than his previous work.

In addition to his rock albums, Nick Cave had contributed to a number of soundtracks, including Shrek, Shrek 2, Dumb and Dumber, and the Scream trilogy. His music has appeared in many of director Wim Wender's films, such as Wings of Desire, in which Cave also gives a live performance. Nick Cave has written or co-written the score to the films Ghosts... of the Civil Dead (1988), To Have and to Hold (1996), The Proposition (2005), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), and The Road (due for release 2008).

Nick Cave has published two volumes of lyrics and plays, entitled King Ink (1988) and King Ink II (1987), as well as a Southern Gothic novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel (1989), which shares many themes and linguistic devices with his song lyrics. He also wrote the screenplay to director John Hillcoat's 2005 film, The Proposition. He has appeared as an actor in Hillcoat's Ghosts ... of the Civil Dead and alongside Johnny Depp in Johnny Suede (1991).


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