A major figure on the American indie rock scene of the ’80s and onward, Kim Gordon is best known for her work with the influential group Sonic Youth. However, in many respects Gordon was as well regarded for her writings and interviews as for her music; she was willing to discuss feminism in a way that was as thoughtful but direct as Sonic Youth’s music. Gordon was also willing to explore the outer limits of experimental rock music, both with Sonic Youth and her various side projects, and her most advanced work helped to link indie rock with the true musical avant-garde.
Kim Gordon was born in Rochester, New York on April 28, 1953. She grew up in Los Angeles, California, where her father was a professor at UCLA. Gordon attended progressive schools in L.A., and after completing high school, she studied visual art at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, California and York University in Toronto, Canada. In 1974, while in Toronto, Gordon formed a short-lived band with fellow art students, but the group broke up after a single show at the Ann Arbor Film Festival. She continued to focus on visual art, and moved to New York City in 1979.
In 1980, Gordon began immersing herself in New York’s no wave music scene, and was emboldened by the eagerness of the musicians to crush accepted musical boundaries. She partnered with Christine Hahn and Stanton Miranda to form a band called CKM, but the group’s most important legacy was that Miranda introduced her to fellow aspiring noise musician Thurston Moore. Moore and Gordon began dating, and when he discovered she had inherited a battered guitar from a friend, they decided to start collaborating musically.
In 1981, Gordon, Moore, and Lee Ranaldo formed a band that would come to be known as Sonic Youth, with Gordon on bass, Moore and Ranaldo on guitars, and a variety of drummers before Steve Shelley joined in 1986 and solidified what would become one of the most adventurous and well-respected bands on the independent scene. Gordon and Moore’s personal relationship was also solidified when they married in 1984. Gordon occasionally served as lead singer and lyricist with Sonic Youth as well as bassist, and her songs were often powerfully atmospheric as well as dealing with feminism in both practical and abstract terms.