Born to Dennis Stefani, a marketing consultant and Patricia, a homemaker, Gwendolyn Renee arrived to compliment the family on October 3, 1969, in Anaheim, California. She grew up in Southern California with her brothers Todd and Eric and sister Jill and was heavily influenced by ska and punk which had begun to make an impact in the South California area.
Eric formed a band “No Doubt” with friend, John Spence in 1987 and asked his sister to sing with Spence which she did until Tony Kanal joined them. They became popular whilst playing at local parties which of course gave them the direction toward a win they were looking for. However, their sound was short lived; John Spence committed suicide shortly thereafter. Gwen became lead vocalist as “No Doubt” continued to perform local gigs and at the same time managed to graduate high school before she went on to study at California State Fullerton College.
Whilst juggling college, Stefani would form a friendship which would become a seven-year romance with Tony Kanal. Complimenting new material were two new members who joined them. The band’s performances were now high wired and they were attracting a fan base that would follow their success due to Flea, the bassist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers who recorded a demo for them. In 1988 the band signed with Interscope Records and by 1992 they had released their first LP, No Doubt. The album did not do well and their record company was unimpressed with their progress. Still, No Doubt was tenacious and went back to the studio with their own money and recorded a collection of their own material. The Beacon Street Collection was released in 1995 and dedicated fans returned as did the record company’s faith.
No Doubt was back and Eric Stefani was leaving the band to become an animator on The Simpsons but not before “Just a Girl” and “Don’t Speak” became a part of Tragic Kingdom. It smashed the charts with those singles as “Just a Girl” was introducing punk tones and was accompanied by a video. “Spider Webs” followed and then the hit “Don’t Speak” which was written by Gwen and Tony as a tribute to their former relationship. It became the band’s biggest hit and topped worldwide charts, It became a Billboard No. 1 and earned two Grammy nominations for the group.
During a two year tour, Stefani met Gavin Rossdale, the lead singer for “Bush”, a British grunge band. Although the relationship would be long distance for several years, it still had its peaks and troughs. Throughout every adversity, particularly that of creating new material, another record would take a further two long years to produce. It was during this time that Stefani wrote some of her most personal lyrics which subsequently gave the band another hit. “Ex-Girlfriend” highlighted some of the complications long distance relationships endure and the song’s first line, “I kinda always knew I’d end up your ex-girlfriend” reflected Stefani’s inner most soul.
The year 2000 saw the release of “Return of Saturn” and then “Ex-Girlfriend” and “Simple Kind of Life.” “Marry Me” was also featured and it seemed Stefani was admitting to a desire to settle down and become a wife and mother. These lyrics and the sound lacked the ska from the band’s earlier music. This was more of a smooth ballad but it had its fair share of mixed reviews.
Stefani’s lyrics incessantly encompassed her seemingly terminal insecurity and docility yet, once again, the biggest single for No Doubt was another analysis of Stefani’s love life. Stefani had married Rossdale in London in the September of 2002 and “Underneath It All” reached No. 1 the same year on the Billboard Top 40 Mainstream chart. It also earned the group their second Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal (the first was for “Hey Baby” the previous year).
In 2004 Stefani debuted with the release of her solo record, Love. Angel. Music. Baby and then made her film debut in The Aviator. She had become the beacon of fashion and set global trends which had her launching her own line she called the “L.A.M.B.” label. A full line of clothing and accessories hit department stores in the spring of 2004. She had achieved all this without losing her interrelated musical credibility.
Stefani was an energetic bomb on stage, sporting platinum-blond hair, and trademark siren-red lipstick. She radiated a distinctive presence that rapidly directed the band toward stardom. Her fashion sense which had been alive since her school days was eye-catching. Never one to settle for the norm, her stage outfits were zippered punk-rock-styled trousers and were widely copied by female fans.
May 2006 and Gwen and Gavin welcomed their first child, a boy they named Kingston James. They would have two more children during their union, Zuma Nesta Rock Rossdale and Bowie Flynn Rossdale until thirteen years later, they would separate.
“It’s My Life” would be the band’s final recording. It had been 17 years since the first days when Stefani had joined the band. They’d survived the ups and downs, the tours and the sacrifices but now they were exhausted. Although she was looking to make a specific record, Stafani’s acting career began to take off. Martin Scorsese cast her alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Aviator as Jean Harlow. Often compared to Madonna for her onstage outfits and grunge image that belied her Italian-American/Roman Catholic lineage, the tabloids had their fair share when they revealed that although Stefani has made Los Angeles her home and had another in London which she shared with an Englishman for a husband, they offered the that Rossdale was the father of a teenage daughter; a runway model; he never knew he had.
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