Robert James Smith (born April 21, 1959 in Blackpool, England) is a guitarist, vocalist,
and songwriter, and has been the lead singer of British post-punk band The Cure since its founding in 1976. NY Rock calls him "pop culture's unkempt poster child of doom and gloom", and describes his songs
as "somber introspection over lush, brooding guitars." Smith is a multi-instrumentalist and can play 6 and 12-string
guitars, 4 and 6 string bass guitars, double bass, keyboards, and violins.
Robert Smith is the third of four children born to Alex and Rita Smith. His siblings are Richard,
Margaret, and Janet. Janet is married to Porl Thompson, the "second" guitarist of The Cure, as he and Smith switch between playing lead and rhythm guitar.
Smith was raised as a Catholic and went
to Notre Dame Middle School and St. Wilfrid's Comprehensive School in Crawley.
Smith was an accomplished student who maintained high marks, but his primary focus quickly became his music, after he began
playing guitar at the age of 12. Musically, he was influenced by The Beatles, Nick Drake, Jimi Hendrix, and David Bowie.
Smith met Mary Poole in school when he was 14 years old, and they married in 1988. Smith wrote one
of the Cure's signature compositions, "Lovesong", as a wedding present to his wife. As a teenager, he once wore a black velvet dress to school - just
to shock everyone, and once held a benefit concert for a gay teacher
who had been fired.
Role in The Cure
Smith has written or co-written the bulk of The Cure's music and lyrics in a career spanning 30 years.
When the Cure was first formed, Smith did not intend to become the lead vocalist; he only began singing because, after the
original singer left, the group could not find a suitable vocalist. During the late 1970s and into the 80s, Smith composed
some of The Cure's songs on a Hammond organ, and recorded a complete
demo of the song "10:15 Saturday Night".
Smith is the only member of the band who has stayed on from the beginning. With Lol Tolhurst, he wrote songs such as singles "The Lovecats" "Let's Go To Bed", "The Walk" although he has admitted he was trying to emulate New Order's hit
record of the time, "Blue Monday", but it became "The Walk". He also
wrote the album The Top between stints as Siouxsie and the Banshees guitarist. Smith has co-produced most of the band's material.
Stage persona and image
Smith helped popularize the "goth" style of
dress with his trademark smeared red lipstick and messy black hair, a look that he began sporting in the early 1980s. According
to Siouxsie and the Banshees bassist Steven
Severin, Smith first used Siouxsie Sioux's
lipstick after using opium. However, Smith claims that he has worn make-up
since he was young.
His songwriting for the band's early albums -- particularly Faith, Pornography, and the later album Disintegration -- centered around themes of depression, loneliness, and isolation. The somber mood of these early albums, along
with Smith's onstage persona, cemented the band's "gothic" image.
Following the temporary dissolution of the band in 1986, however, Smith developed a new stage appearance
- a shaved head (this can be seen in In Orange , a concert in the south of France released on video 1987). The band's
aesthetic went from gloomy to psychedelic beginning with the album The Head on the Door.
Although Smith's public persona emphasizes a depressed image, he has said that his songs do not convey
how he feels all, or even most, of the time.
- "At the time we wrote Disintegration...it's just about what I was doing really, how I felt.
But I'm not like that all the time. That's the difficulty of writing songs that are a bit depressing. People think you're
like that all the time, but I don't think that. I just usually write when I'm depressed."
In the band's earliest period, Smith used a soft vocal style on the demos of "10:15 Saturday Night"
and "Boys Don't Cry" and the frenetic punk style of "I Just Need Myself". Both of those
styles were left behind as a third emerged during the production of the band's debut album, Three Imaginary Boys. This new sound, which can be heard on most of the final versions of songs from that period, became the signature Smith
sound, which he generally employed until the album Bloodflowers. Around that time, Smith said he wanted to improve his singing, the opposite of his goal in 1984; he remarked in the
documentary Ten Imaginary Years that he tried to sing badly for the album The Top.
Smith's songwriting has shown a range of styles and themes over the years. Early songs incorporated
literary paraphrase (the reference to Camus' novel L'Etranger
in "Killing an Arab"), punk metafiction ("So What"), surrealism ("Accuracy"), straight-forward rock/pop ("Boys Don't Cry," "I'm Cold"), and poetic mood pieces ("Another Day" and "Fire in Cairo"). In subsequent decades, Smith explored more poetic moods.
Smith's songwriting took a more pop-oriented
turn following Pornography. Even Smith's seemingly upbeat tracks often contain dark themes, however; the single "Inbetween Days," for example, contrasts a bouncy pop-rock beat with lyrics about sadness and death.
In an interview in 2000, Smith said that "...there is one particular kind of music, an atmospheric
type of music, that I enjoy making with the Cure. I enjoy it a lot more than any other kind of sound. When Smith was asked
about the 'sound' of his songwriting, Smith said that he did not "...think there is such a thing as a typical Cure sound.
I think there are various Cure sounds from different periods and different line-ups."
Smith has also been involved in other musical projects, including a stint with Siouxsie & the
Banshees and a side project with Steven Severin called The Glove. He has also contributed to a number of independent projects and performances,
among them the B-side of the Faith cassette, a 30-minute instrumental track from a movie project, Carnage Visors.
He was responsible for the release of two singles by Crawley based artists in the early 80's: "Cult Hero" a local postman
and the "Obtainers" who were two local school kids.
In 2000, Smith collaborated on the track 'Yesterday's Gone' with David Bowie side man Reeves Gabrel's
on his solo album "Ulysses (Della Notte)".
In 2003, Smith collaborated with the pop-punk band blink-182 on the track "All of This" off their self-titled
album. In 2004, Blank & Jones remixed
"A Forest" featuring Smith on vocals. That year, he also provided vocals for Junior Jack for the club hit "Da Hype".
In 2004, he stood in as one of three guest presenters for John
Peel on BBC Radio
1, a week before Peel's death.
In November, he joined Placebo onstage at their
Wembley arena gig to sing that band's hit song "Without You I'm Nothing", as well as the Cure staple "Boys Don't Cry." He
also co-wrote and supplied vocals for the Tweaker song "Truth Is." That
same year, Smith collaborated again with Junior Jack on a remix of "Da Hype", featured on the album Trust It. He was
also featured as a vocalist and co-writer on JunkieXL's "Perfect Blue
In 2005, Smith teamed up with Billy Corgan, the
former lead singer and lead guitarist of both The Smashing Pumpkins
and Zwan, to do a cover of the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody"
on Corgan's first solo release, TheFutureEmbrace.
In 2006, Smith worked with Faithless on a remix
of the Cure's "Lullaby" for the album To All New Arrivals.
In December 2006, Smith appeared on stage with Korn
for their MTV Unplugged recording session for the song "Make Me Bad
/ In Between Days"
In 2007 Robert Smith has been featured on a single called "Please" from Paul
Hartnoll's album, The Ideal Condition. The single is available as a 7", a 12" and as a CD
single through the Kids label.
In 2007, it was unofficially announced that Smith would produce as well as collaborate with Ashlee Simpson on her yet untitled third studio album, however, he denied the rumor
in a post on the official Cure forum.
See The Cure discography from 1976 (start) to present
See The Glove discography in 1983 (only album)
See Siouxsie & the Banshees discography: 1983-1984
For over two decades, Smith has suggested that he may do a solo album. Smith has been widely credited with writing the
songs "Homesick" and "Untitled" as solo tracks; Smith denied this, crediting those songs to other members:
- "I didn't write "Homesick" and I didn't write the music too. It's another misconception. [...] Out of the 12 songs
on the CD, I think I only wrote six musically... "Untitled"... (to Simon [Gallup]) You wrote that one ? ...It was Roger
[O'Donnell]. So it [(Disintegration)] couldn't have been a solo album and if I'd done on my own it wouldn't have sounded
anything like The Cure anyway apart from my own voice. The Top album could have been a solo album but it's not true
the way we worked in studio [...]"
In 2001, Smith was going to disband The Cure and work on his solo album, but was convinced otherwise
by producer Ross Robinson. Robinson urged Smith to make another Cure album, and Smith obliged, titled the band's 2004 release
For the 2004 "Curiosa" festival, Smith personally selected 11 bands to open for The Cure. It began
with a concert in West Palm Beach, Florida on July 24 and ended in Sacramento, California on August 29. Those bands included Interpol, The Rapture, and Mogwai. The concert had two stages, with the headlining bands on the main stage and the less well-known bands on the
second stage. Bands and artists on the second stage changed throughout the tour, and included Muse, Cursive, Head Automatica, Thursday, Scarling., The Cooper Temple Clause, and Melissa
Auf Der Maur
Robert Smith has confessed to drooling onto passersby from up in trees when he was a child.
Smith voiced himself in an episode of South Park in which he defeats Barbra
Streisand in a battle. Series creator Trey Parker
is a fan of The Cure.
In The Mighty Boosh episode "Nanageddon",
Smith's tears are mentioned as an ingredient for the most powerful hairspray known to man (Gothjuice)
Smith has expressed his distaste for Morrissey
(lead singer of The Smiths), stating that "if Morrissey says don't eat
meat, then I'll eat meat because I hate Morrissey." The feeling was mutual. The rivalry remained strong throughout the late
80s and 90s and as recently as 2004, when both artists released albums. It has faded in recent times.
Smith is (or was) a pretty useful football (American soccer) player and he supports west London team
Queens Park Rangers.
Smith is the only artist to appear twice on 'Top Of The Pops' in the same showing playing in two different
bands. The Cure performed "The Lovecats" and The Banshees performed "Dear Prudence" for the Christmas edition in 1983. Damon Albarn appeared in the same edition of the show in 1995 playing in both Blur and Elastica, although
his keyboard performance in Elastica was mimed.
Smith provides backing vocals to Billy Corgan's
cover of To Love Somebody by the Bee Gees from his solo album TheFutureEmbrace (2005). Corgan, and his band The Smashing Pumpkins,
are fans of The Cure and a cover of 'A Night Like This' appears as a B-side to the single 'Bullet With Butterfly Wings'.
He has also done a voice cameo appearance as a character on the Cartoon
Network show "Courage The Cowardly Dog".