Very privately, Hank Harrison, Courtney Love’s estranged father, died of heart failure on January 23rd. With a pedigree like his – he was briefly the manager of Phil Lesh’s band, the Warlocks, which soon became the Grateful Dead and wrote two books about the band – I would have expected a little blurb about his passing in Rolling Stone, Spin, or Pitchfork. The death of Bethany Cosentino’s cat was mentioned everywhere! But nothing, not a line for Hank anywhere except for an article in the Galt Herald, a local paper located in the small California town where Harrison lived.
Isn’t it a bit strange? Music magazines never miss to report about the death of a celebrity’s relative, but of course, the situation here was quite unusual. Harrison was also an author who had contributed to newspapers, magazines, and journals, and his most recent book, “Love Kills: The Assassination of Kurt Cobain,” published in 2017, presented the controversial theory that Kurt Cobain’s death was not a suicide but a murder and that his own daughter Courtney Love was involved in his assassination. The last time I saw a mainstream publication approaching the subject was with this 2014 Stereogum article, which was quoting other articles published by tabloids such as RadarOnline and The Daily Mail. However, Harrison’s book never received any attention from mainstream media, just like his death, which was unassumingly announced by Catriona Watson, his wife of 42 years, on social media.
Naturally, there is no trace of Hank’s death on Courtney Love’s social media, but, saying that their relationship was strained would be an understatement. When you accuse your daughter of participating in a murder conspiracy, it’s quite understandable but their fallout predated Harrison’s book. They have accused each other of the worst: Love has claimed that her father gave her LSD when she was just a toddler, something Harrison has of course always vehemently denied. The conspiracy even goes as far as to declare that Harrison was a C.I.A handler for Kurt Cobain, a role linked to the secret MK-ultra project. But Harrison’s connection to LSD is nevertheless very real as it was also reported that he founded the LSD Rescue in 1966, the nation’s first 24-hour, telephone, drug intervention center. Harrison is also famous for his two books about the Grateful Dead, “The Dead Book,” published in 1973, and “The Dead,” which came out in 1980. But like a lot of things around Harrison, his books are not highly regarded by the Dead fans.
In 1969, Harrison lost custody of his daughter in a divorce, and barely had contact with her, whereas he has never met his son-in-law Kurt Cobain, nor his granddaughter, Frances. If you read anything about Hank and Courtney’s respective lives, depending on who oversees the narrative, you will get very different stories … and since they are both known to lie a lot, who knows where the truth is! 17- year-old Love traveled to Ireland in 1981 to visit her father, who said they lived together there for seven months and got along fine. Meanwhile, she said she barely stayed there for a few days because he beat her up badly. It goes on and on for every part of their lives. According to what I have read, Hank and Courtney haven’t seen each other since 1993 when Harrison drove Love to a club in the Bay area, where her band, Hole, was playing. He apparently didn’t stay to see his daughter play.
Hank Harrison had a degree in Psychology from San Francisco State University, he also studied anthropology, was the author of many books, had several jobs as a journalist (he worked as the writer-in-residence at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga in 1972, won a six-month journalism residency in Las Vegas as feature editor for the Las Vegas Sun… ), he established his own publishing company, Arkives Press. He was also interested in medieval Arthurian literature and Megalithic or Stonehenge European civilizations, and in the end, he was certainly no one-trick pony… as a matter of fact, he was also rescuing ponies (and other animals) with his partner.
But I still don’t know exactly who Hank Harrison was. A great opportunist or a truth holder? A shady character who knew how to exploit people around him or a clever man who had figured out a lot of stuff? In any case, the silence of the media regarding his death is odd. It is not as if Spin magazine had ever missed an occasion to write about Courtney Love, so what’s going on?
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