The tragic story behind the sudden death of rock star Nick Cave’s son Jethro Lazenby

Losing a child is every parent’s worst fear — the heartbreak of which singer Nick Cave has already lived through. Now, with the death of his eldest son, Jethro Lazenby, 31, less than seven years after his son Arthur, aged 15, died by falling from a cliff in Brighton after taking LSD, it’s an unimaginable horror he’s suffered twice.

The Bad Seeds singer announced the death of Jethro, a former model and actor, who was born in Melbourne in 1991 to Cave and his model mother Beau Lazenby, this week. The cause of death is not yet known. “With much sadness, I can confirm that my son, Jethro, has passed away,” said the 64-year-old. “We would be grateful for family privacy at this time.” Just days before his death, Jethro had been released on bail from prison, where he’d been jailed for assaulting his mother.

Those who knew Jethro described him as ‘intelligent’, ‘creative’ and ‘unique’ but say that his life was one of thrilling highs and crushing lows. “I’m in shock hearing the news of Jethro dying – he would have puked at the phrase ‘passing away,”’ friend and Savages drummer Fay Wilton tells the Standard. “He was a brilliant soul, funny as f*ck and like nobody I’ve ever met. We were really close friends for a couple of years and it was a deep dive into each other’s crazy energy.

“The Jethro I knew was a completely unique and brilliant soul, always smiling and so, so funny,” she says. “He walked through life with both total irreverence and a sweet kindness. I’ll never forget him turning up in London and yelling for me outside my flat. I looked out and saw this gangly kid with a big grin on his face and a big hooked walking stick. He looked like he just stepped out of a Nightmare Before Christmas.” The pair had a close friendship for a couple of years around 2010, going to festivals and enjoying London’s nightlife, but to Fay’s regret, eventually drifted.

“Jethro had a real magic quality to him that is so rare,” she says. “He was extremely intelligent and creative. Like many, I’d lost touch with him, and it breaks my heart to see there was so much suffering in his life and those around him. I still have a suitcase of his clothes and he still has my synth. I always thought we would meet again someday.”

Another friend, stylist Rose Forde, wrote in an Instagram post: “We had some very fun and sweet times over late nights and early mornings. Back in the day when we worried less. Travel well Jethro.”

Jethro was just 15 when broke into the fashion world, opening for Australian Fashion Week, and quickly became the hot, young thing in the industry – his rock star dad and striking looks helped to earn him immediate allure – but by the time of his death the promising model was struggling with drug addiction. Yet even in his formative years things were difficult, he said. “I haven’t had the easiest life,” Jethro told Hermione Eyre in a 2012 interview for the Evening Standard. “It didn’t start off that great, having all this sh*t with my dad and being in his shadow.” He didn’t meet his father until he was seven years old, something that Cave admitted having “eternal regret” over.

Things were complicated. Jethro was born to Beau and Cave when the singer was married to his first wife, Brazilian journalist Viviane Carneiro, who gave birth to Cave’s second son, Jethro’s half-brother, Luke,  just 10 days later. “It was a difficult time, but it turned out great in the end,” Cave said in an interview in 2008. “I didn’t make much contact with Jethro in the early years, but I now have a great relationship with him.”

Jethro grew up in Collingwood, Melbourne which he once likened to London’s Croydon – “inner-city bleugh,” he said. Desperate for excitement – and a strong need to “get outta Collingwood” he upped sticks and moved to Stoke Newington, where he stayed with a friend of his mother’s and pursued a career in music, acting and modelling. Not that he found it easy. “You people [Brits] aren’t so friendly,” he told ES Magazine at the time.

Despite his initial loneliness, he quickly became a fashion muse, winning modelling contracts with major brands like Balenciaga and Lou Dalton. Critically acclaimed photographer and ex creative director of Dior Homme, Hedi Slimane, was so taken by Jethro that he arranged a photoshoot with him after their first meeting. “The scion of legendary rocker Nick Cave surfaced on the scene last year with an impossible-to-miss look,” fashion experts proclaimed at the time. “Namely, his half-shaved/half-long-locked coif that mimics it-girl Alice Dellal.” He was tipped for big things.

He hadn’t found where he belonged. He seemed vulnerable

Even though they were now in the same country, Jethro still didn’t see his father much in his early 20s. In fact, he said in 2012 that he felt he couldn’t invite him to his gigs. “In a dirty warehouse? I don’t think he’d go down well with that. I try to segregate myself from that as much as I can.” He added: “We’re both very busy so we don’t get to see as much of each other as we probably should”, but said he thought of his father as a “very intelligent, talented man.”

A source, who’d like to remain anonymous, tells the Standard that despite his clear creativity and spirited nature, Jethro had a vulnerability to him that was clear at that time. “He was intelligent and trying to make his way in the world but it seemed he didn’t really have a scene in London. He hadn’t found where he belonged. He seemed vulnerable.”

In 2012 Jethro was dropped from an Australian fashion show due to ‘erratic behaviour’ at a rehearsal that had ‘concerned’ other models. He laughed it off at the time but his fashion career nosedived and he moved back to Australia. There, in 2018, he was jailed for a series of violent assaults on his girlfriend. The court heard how he had screamed: “I’m going to murder you” three times while holding down his then-girlfriend. He was ordered to undergo treatment for substance abuse and issued with a restraining order.

Two days before he died Jethro had kneed his mother in the face during a row over cigarettes, leaving her ‘bruised and bleeding’. His lawyer Sean Ghattas, said that he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, which had affected his judgement.

After the death of his son Arthur, in 2015, Nick Cave spoke openly and poignantly about his grief. He and wife Susie Cave had to leave Brighton for LA after Arthur’s death. “It’s too many memories, really. We’ve really tried. But it’s just beyond us, in a way, to remain.” But later he wrote that he’d been able to find some goodness in his pain. “We found grief contained many things — happiness, empathy, commonality, sorrow, fury, joy, forgiveness, combativeness, gratitude, awe, and even a certain peace. For us, grief became an attitude, a belief system, a doctrine — a conscious inhabiting of our vulnerable selves, protected and enriched by the absence of the one we loved and that we lost.”

Now that the second of his four sons have died, fans of Cave are at a loss at how he will cope.

Replying to a letter from a fan in 2018, who’d also suffered devastating loss, Cave said: “It seems to me that if we love, we grieve. Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is non-negotiable.”

Friend of Jethro’s, Fay, who posted several pictures of them together on her Instagram, said: “I hope he visits me in my dreams. The world is richer for having his memory in it.”

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