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Made in the 1990s: The Celebrity Marriage of Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale

Considering the hectic pace of recording an album and touring a record, it’s truly amazing that musicians are even able to find love.  After all, how easy can being on the road for months of the time while sustaining a relationship possibly be?  Although there are many musicians that hook up for periods of time, it seems very rare for successful musicians in different musical projects to sustain a marriage.  One exception to this rule has been the surprisingly sturdy marriage between No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani and former Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale.  While the couple have stated on numerous occasions that they would rather have their private lives kept out of public discussions, it’s hard not to notice this rather attractive couple.  Firmly by each other’s sides at awards shows, singing about each other in their songs, and even making a cameo appearance in the Ben Stiller comedic masterpiece, “Zoolander,” Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale are a living testament to those fun filled days of the late 1990s.

As Paula Abdul once sang, “Opposites Attract” and this can definitely be seen in the celebrity marriage of Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale.  Although the two both rose to prominence as the lead singers for bands that became popular in the late 1990s, the couple rose to success in completely different fashions.  While Stefani fronted the third wave ska act, No Doubt, who were praised by critics and fans for their colorful and unique pop sound, Rossdale’s band Bush was often criticized for being derivative of influential alternative acts like Nirvana and Pixies.  Whereas Stefani portrayed a fun loving image that allowed her indulge in her girly side, Rossdale was the brooding, angry young man sneering stream of conscious lyrics over a noisy racket.  Stefani’s band No Doubt represented a lightness in music while Rossdale was constantly trying to Bush into more darker overtones.  Although one can focus on their differences, it’s hard to overlook that the two do share charismatic personalities and an understanding of the unique responsibilities that being a musician has.

Another thing that Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale share was an immediate attraction.  The couple met in 1995 after Rossdale attended a No Doubt concert and quickly started a long distance relationship.  Throughout their extensive time together, the couple has seen their fair share of highs and lows.  However, Gavin Rossdale and Gwen Stefani seem to have figured out a way to maintain a successful celebrity marriage while balancing their musical pursuits.  Establishing what could be a blueprint for future musicians to sustain a healthy marriage, we will examine how these two lovebirds rose to professional success and found private love within the shark infested world that is the music industry.

Named after the stewardess character in the 1968 best selling novel “Airport” which her mother was reading while she was pregnant, Gwen Renee Stefani was born on October 3, 1969.  Raised in the Orange County city of Anaheim in California, Stefani was greatly influenced by the burgeoning ska and reggae influenced sounds that were all around her.  Struck by the music bug at such a young age, Stefani formed No Doubt with her brother, Eric Stefani, and their friend, John Spence, at the tender age of 17.  Although she was originally just a co-vocalist, the tragic suicide of Spence forced Stefani into the spotlight.  From their beginnings in 1986, Stefani worked tirelessly with No Doubt to establish a reputation for putting on a high energy show.  Their local success resulted in Interscope Records signing the band to a recording contract in 1991.

Despite reaching a goal that thousands of bands shoot for, No Doubt and Gwen Stefani found themselves at the wrong place at the wrong time.  They released their self-titled debut album in 1992 and found that a marketplace enamored with the grunge sounds coming out of Seattle had little room for a sunny Californian pop-ska band.  The record was a commercial failure and ignored by critics who were preoccupied with finding new superlatives to heap on grunge acts like Nirvana and Pearl Jam.  Facing low record sales and increased record label indifference, No Doubt found itself in the precarious position of being a young band that few people cared about. 

However, rather than waving the white flag, Gwen Stefani and No Doubt soldiered on.  From self-financing later records to touring relentlessly to collaborating with like minded musicians like Sublime, No Doubt had the heart and hustle to make it big in the music industry.  What they needed was the right time and a universal message that anybody could relate to.  As it turned out, 1995 was the right time for No Doubt.  As grunge receded into a world of bleakness and self-reproachment, music lovers were waiting for a new poppier sound.  With No Doubt’s third album, “Tragic Kingdom,” pop fans had a new band that they could champion.  Although the album featured hooks galore and plenty of musical delights, a major part of “Tragic Kingdom’s” success lay in Stefani’s lyrics.  Her seven year relationship with No Doubt bassist, Tony Kanal had ended and songs like “Don’t Speak” captured heartache, something that everybody could relate to.  The album would launch these Californians to the top of the music charts and made Gwen Stefani into a star.

No Doubt has had one of the most successful careers of bands that achieved popularity in the mid to late 1990s.  Respected for the way that they refine and change their pop-ska sound and also appreciated for their not too serious manner, No Doubt had finally made their music dreams come true.  While the band is highly respected, Gwen Stefani is clearly the star of the show.  With her eccentric taste in fashion, which would lead to the development of Stefani’s clothing line L.A.M.B., and her non-threatening girl next door persona, Stefani has obtained an extremely high level of success.  This was shown by the popularity of her two solo albums, “Love Angel Music Baby” and “The Sweet Escape” and by the fact that respected musicians like Moby and Dr. Dre actively seek to collaborate with her.

If respect and adulation are things that Gwen Stefani can take for granted, they are traits that have proven to be elusive to her husband, Gavin Rossdale.  While Stefani could be considered a true representative for the fun loving, culture hopping style of Orange County, Rossdale is very much a product of a tough British childhood.  Born on October 30, 1965 to Lucy Stephan and Douglas Rossdale, Gavin Rossdale has lived a scrappy life.  Raised by his father and aunt after his parents divorced in 1976, Rossdale frolicked through the streets of Northern London trying to determine what it is he wanted to do in life.

Blessed with handsome looks that would become a subject of ridicule at the height of his fame, Gavin Rossdale briefly modeled in his youth.  A massive fan of American indie rock in the 1980s, Rossdale quickly learned how to play the bass guitar before finding his calling in rhythm guitar.  He was briefly in a band called The Nobodyz and also lived the British dream of pursuing soccer.  However, an injury would derail his soccer career and he continued to pursue music with an early band called Midnight.  Frustrated by the indifference he met in his homeland to the American inspired rock that he was making, Rossdale would travel throughout America in 1991.  Eventually, he would return to England with his determination to have a successful music career at an all-time high.  The next year, he would form the band Future Primitive and concentrate on writing new material.  By 1994, the band had changed its name to Bush and had completed their first album, “Sixteen Stone.”

While his future wife and her band, No Doubt, was beginning to make waves in American music circles for their unique sound, Gavin Rossdale and Bush were gaining attention for their similarities to grunge acts like Nirvana.  Although their alternative rock influenced sound seemed foreign to their native England, it was a huge hit to North American audiences.  Eventually selling over six million records, “Sixteen Stone” had the odd distinction of launching a British band’s music career to massive heights in America while remaining ignored in their home country.

As the frontman and main songwriter of Bush, Gavin Rossdale was the recipient of the admiration and scorn that was heaped on the band.  While their songs were heavily played on the radio, their music videos aired constantly on MTV, Bush couldn’t shake the accusations that they were posers.  Even compliments were often backhanded, which was most evident in Rossdale appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine with the title, “Don’t Hate Them Because He’s Beautiful.”  Despite being an object of scorn, Bush soldiered on and would release four other albums.  However, as neo-grunge faded into obscurity and replaced with the teen pop of Britney Spears and N*Sync, Bush slowly receded from the limelight.

Eventually the band broke up in 2002 and Gavin Rossdale pondered what was the next step of his career.  He formed another band, Institute in 2004 that released their debut album the following year.  While Institute has not reached the same stratospheric heights that his earlier bad had done, they have achieved a level of respect that Bush hadn’t.  Perhaps the early criticism of Rossdale’s work was due to the band obtaining so much success in such a short time.  As Rossdale continues to mine the post grunge sound that he had explored with Bush, he has also looked to expand in a number of ways.  Much like Gwen Stefani, Gavin Rossdale has looked for ways to enter the movie industry.  His biggest acting role has been in 2005 Keanu Reeve’s movie, “Constantine.”

While Gavin Rossdale’s professional career may not be at the same heights as they had been a few years ago, his private life seems steady.  After an extensive courtship, Rossdale and Stefani married on September 14, 2002.  Respecting the fact that they had friends and family in two separate parts of the world, Gavin Rossdale and Gwen Stefani would have two separate marriage ceremonies – one in America and the other in England.  In 2004, a DNA test revealed that Rossdale had fathered a child, aspiring model Daisy Lowe, in the 1980s with former Powder singer and notorious London swinger, Pearl Lowe.  An event that would have destroyed other celebrity marriages, Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale managed to overcome this shock.  Eventually the couple would have their first child, Kingston James McGregor Rossdale on May 26, 2006.  With Gwen burning up the music charts with her successful solo career and Gavin tearing up the tennis courts in the Los Angeles celebrity tennis circuit that he participates in, it warms the heart to see two vastly different people find love with each other.