A talented singer-songwriter whose personal demons eclipsed his art, Pete Doherty broke out alongside his friend Carl Barât with The Libertines. Powered by Doherty's potent songwriting, the band dazzled critics and fans with songs like "Up the Bracket," "Time for Heroes" and "Can't Stand Me Now." While stepping out on his own to collaborate on hits like "For Lovers" with Wolfman and "Prangin' Out" with The Streets, Doherty's drug use and erratic behavior derailed The Libertines and he rebounded with a new group, Babyshambles. While dating and musically collaborating with supermodel Kate Moss, Doherty achieved major label success and critical praise with his band, charting the hit "F*** Forever." After splitting with Moss and a brief engagement to model Irina Lazareanu, Doherty went solo with the masterful Grace/Wastelands. Despite his musical gifts and acclaimed output, Doherty was best known worldwide for his frequent stints in prison, failed attempts at rehab, and seemingly death's-door photos of him strung out on heroin, crack and cocaine. When fellow troubled soul and addict Amy Winehouse died in 2011, many worried he might be next. Although critics noted exceptional beauty and talent in the music, writings and art he created, Pete Doherty struggled to ensure that his ultimate legacy would reflect his body of work and not just his painful-to-watch battles with substance abuse and jail time.
Born March 12, 1979 in Hexham, Northumberland, England, Peter Doherty grew up a British Army brat, living throughout the United Kingdom and Europe. Evidencing a passion and talent for literature, Doherty won a poetry competition at 16 which earned him a tour of Russia. After high school, he moved to London to live with his grandmother and took a job filling graves in a cemetery while studying English literature at the University of London. He dropped out after a year and moved in with friend and fellow aspiring musician, Carl Barât. The two formed a band called The Libertines and began to build an excellent reputation, in great part due to Doherty's songwriting ability. Rising from cult success to mainstream acclaim, their debut album, 2002's Up the Bracket was showered with critical praise and cited as one of the greatest sets of the era, launching the title track and the hit "Time for Heroes."
Although he was in an enviable professional position, Doherty had escalated his drug use to the point where it caused the other band members to cut him out, and he was arrested and jailed in 2003 for burgling Barât's apartment. The two eventually made up, and after Doherty's release, the band reformed and the troubled singer-songwriter made an unsuccessful attempt to complete rehab. His personal life was complicated further when he fathered a son with singer Lisa Moorish in 2003, but he chose not to remain actively in the child's life. The band's second album, a self-titled set, was released against this background in 2004, and thrillingly captured the clashes between Barât and Doherty. Shooting straight to No. 1 on the charts, the album spun off the singles "Can't Stand Me Now" and "What Became of the Likely Lads" as well as the popular deep cut "Arbeit Macht Frei." However, Doherty's addictions destroyed any chance of the band staying together, and they effectively disbanded that same year despite their success on the charts.
In spite of his erratic, drug-fueled behavior, Doherty remained a talented writer and performer, notching several successful but short-lived collaborations, including "For Lovers" with Wolfman, "Down to the Underground" with Client, "Their Way" with Littl'ans, and "Prangin' Out" with The Streets. Out of the wreckage of The Libertines, Doherty founded a new band, Babyshambles, and in January 2005 met and fell in love with supermodel Kate Moss, a glamorous match that added to the luster of both their celebrity profiles. She contributed vocals to the band's first album, 2005's Down in Albion, a set that earned mixed reviews but launched the hit "F*** Forever" and continued the national fascination with Doherty's mix of artistic talent and self-destructive behavior. Babyshambles signed a major label deal with Parlophone, releasing 2006's The Blinding EP, and the subsequent year embarked on an arena tour.
Doherty announced his engagement to Kate Moss, who co-wrote several songs on the band's 2007 album Shotter's Nation and occasionally sang at some of his shows, but the two split that same year. The ever-unpredictable Doherty announced an engagement later that year to model Irina Lazareanu, but it proved short-lived. Although he remained a wild card capable of disastrous performances and death-defying drug use, Doherty also managed to pull himself together on occasion, becoming the face of Roberto Cavalli's 2007-08 campaign and headlining a successful solo show at the Royal Albert Hall. After releasing a live album, Babyshambles called it quits and Doherty struck out on his own with the critically acclaimed 2009 set Grace/Wastelands, which spawned the singles "Last of the English Roses" and "Broken Love Song." Although it received excellent reviews and restored much of Doherty's credibility with critics, the album sold modestly.
Driven by the desire to create as well as by his considerable demons, Doherty made headlines with the release of The Books of Albion: The Collected Writings of Peter Doherty as well as an exhibit of his paintings called "Art of Albion" that sparked controversy due to several pieces made with Doherty's own blood that critics felt glamorized his drug abuse. Substance abuse indeed overshadowed much of Doherty's impact in the United Kingdom but even more so in the world, with his numerous stints in prison, unflattering drug binge photos, and scandalous behavior - including a photo of the singer forcing his cat to inhale from a crack pipe - drowning out any discussion of his actual talent or music. Heroin, cocaine and crack proved particularly troublesome for Doherty, who repeatedly and unsuccessfully attempted rehab and found himself serving long stints in prison and being refused entry into the United States in 2010. With the death of Amy Winehouse in July 2011, many looked to the similarly troubled and drug-addicted Doherty with concern that unless he made major life changes, he, too, might succumb to a similarly tragic fate.