The Cure’s Robert Smith is perhaps one of the most beloved musical icons of our day. A living legend, Smith’s mainstream popularity is shocking if looked at objectively—as the 61-year-old musician is in many ways lauded as the patron saint of misfits and outcasts.
Regardless of this, Smith has undeniably has a spellbinding ability to compose passionate music that brings together fandom who know that, however odd or ordinary, they are indeed not alone.
To quote one of these fans:
“For some of us he’s just the voice of our souls. And I’m sure he doesn’t need everyone’s love. He is just himself. As it should be for all of us.”
When David Bowie calls you an eccentric, it probably means that your unconventional persona is perhaps so bizarre, it even rivals that of Kate Bush and Bjork.
Such is the case with Robert Smith, whose backcombed hair has superseded that of Albert Einstein’s in the echelon of wild hairdos. This taken together with his messy use of lipstick and eyeliner created the archetype for what is “Goth”.
Regardless of whether or not you think Smith meets the criteria for the above label, he ultimately doesn’t take himself too seriously and could care less what anyone else thinks.
This is evident from a recent interview the celebrated singer made with Time Out London:
“You’ve had a rocky relationship with the word ‘goth’. Does it have anything to do with you?
‘Not really! We got stuck with it at a certain time when goths first started. I was playing guitar with Siouxsie And The Banshees, so I had to play the part. Goth was like pantomime to me. I never really took the whole culture thing seriously.’
But you’re a goth icon! You’ve spent the last 35-plus years wearing black outfits and make-up!
‘It’s just a theatrical thing. It’s part of the ritual of going on stage. Also there is the prosaic reason: I have ill-defined features and naturally pale skin. I mean, not at the moment, because I unfortunately fell asleep in the sun yesterday – very un-goth.’”
Smith then went on to close the interview with self-effacing charm:
“Anyway, one day my hair will all fall out and I won’t look gothic any more. So just wait for that.”
Helping Fellow Musicians
Technically Robert Smith played alongside Joy Division three times, but one of those times was the infamous March 4th Marquee Club gig series of Sundays where The Cure chose a different band during each night of the residency.
This attitude continued with the booking of tour support band’s like and also the trees, Shelleyan Orphan, and Cranes, as well as with Mogwai and Interpol (among others) performing at 2004’s Curiosa concert tour.
This trend continues to this day, with 3 of the above bands slotted to at either the 25th annual Meltdown Fest in June, or The Cure’s 40th-anniversary concert, and the Pasadena Daydream Festival.
One of the bands on the bill for the 2018 40th Anniversary event that took place in London’s Hyde Park was the newly reformed Slowdive. In a 2014 interview with Post-Punk.com, the band had stated that it was their dream to open for The Cure. Robert Smith has now made that dream come true.
But it doesn’t stop there, as we can verify that for Meltdown Fest Robert Smith did indeed send a personalized letter to each band requesting that the play the event—which meant a lot to newer and more underground acts such as Kælan Mikla, The Soft Moon, The KVB, and Tropic of Cancer.
Compassion and Forgiveness
Our editorial staff wept several times while reading Cure co-founder Lol Tolhurst’s memoir Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys, that recounts his disintegration into alcoholism that resulted in his being ask to leave the band. Tolhurst would later sue Smith and Fiction Records, claiming joint ownership of The Cure, and royalty payments, which was ultimately a painful experience for all.
Tolhurst would eventually come to terms with his alcoholism, and after years of sobriety, with the reconciliation with Smith culminating with the two standing on a beach, and performing together one more time during the “Reflections” series of concerts in Sydney, New York, London, and Los Angeles.
Love Of Poetry and Literature
Far from being one to charm with superficial wit, Robert Smith perhaps is more concerned with the deeper emotional content culled from the books upon his shelf.
Starting with his exploration of absurdism in Albert Camus L’stranger in the band’s first single “Killing An Arab”, to angry the nihilism of Pornography, and the Nietzschean idea of transcending despair through art during the production of Disintegration.
The album Faith had songs inspired by the steampunk Gormenghast trilogy of novels, and the stand alone single “Charlotte Sometimes” was based on the book of the same name featured author Penelope Farmer’s series of three fantasy novels featuring the Makepeace sisters, Charlotte and Emma.
(The b-side “Splintered In Her Head”, and The Top track “The Empty World” are also based upon Charlotte Sometimes as well).
Kiss me Kiss Me Kiss Me’s “How Beautiful You Are” lyrics are almost identical to Charles Baudelaire poem called The Eyes Of The Poor, which begins with the line, “So you would like to know why I hate you today?”
And the album Wish’s track “Open” has lyrics that allude to Sylvia Plath with the line “and the way the rain comes down hard / that’s the way I feel inside…” resembling what she originally penned in In Letters Home: “I am glad the rain is coming down hard. It’s the way I feel inside.
Robert Smith is a very hard working musician, who at one point was a member of The Cure, The Glove, and Siouxsie and the Banshees—all at the same time. When the workload was too much for him, he did the right thing and quit The Banshees and The Glove to focus on The Cure.
(Note that Smith joined Siouxsie & the Banshees twice, the first time replacing guitarist John McKay when he quit in 1979, and the second time after John McGeoch had a breakdown and was dismissed in 1982).
Early in The Cure’s career, Robert made it a point to not overspend on extravagances, and keep the band economically sound, despite drugs and alcohol use.
Robert has also ensured to this day that neither he, or the band had any harmful publicity, save for the unfortunate legal battle with Tolhurst, for which the former Cure drummer and keyboardist takes full accountability for.
Additionally, Robert Smith has stated that he is not comfortable with politics being expressed through music, which is ironic however, because of both the band’s frequent donations to Amnesty International, and by the singer/songwriter “non-political” stance against racist’s co-opting the existentialist song “Killing An Arab” into something literal.
Smith would later during the promotion of the Standing On A Beach/Staring At The Sea compilations request that radio stations not play the song, and to this day when The Cure perform the track live, do so with variations on the lyrics such as “Kissing An Arab”, or “Killing An Ahab”.
His Romance and Family
Robert Smith and Mary Poole have been together since a 14 years old Robert had asked Mary to be his partner for a school activity in drama class. Mary would become his partner for life, as the couple would marry in 1988.
Mary appears in the 1987 video for The Cure’s hit single “Just Like Heaven”, dancing with Robert on the cliffs of Beachy Head, and the next year the Cure singer would penn “Love Song” as as a wedding present for Mary.
The couple have no children, with Smith stating in an interview with the Guardian that:
“I’ve never regretted not having children. My mindset in that regard has been constant. I objected to being born, and I refuse to impose life on someone else. Living, it’s awful for me. I can’t on one hand argue the futility of life and the pointlessness of existence and have a family. It doesn’t sit comfortably.
Despite this, staunch atheist Smith loves Christmas, and it is alleged that he and his wife Mary spoil mercilessly each of their 25 nephews and nieces.