Cave released his first album with the Bad Seeds, From Her to Eternity, in 1984, which contained a noteworthy cover of Elvis Presley's "In the Ghetto," foreshadowing much of Cave's style and subject matter on the follow-up The Firstborn Is Dead. Kicking Against the Pricks, an all-covers album, broke the band in England with the help of "The Singer," which hit number one on the U.K. independent charts. The album also strengthened Cave's reputation as an original interpreter and a vocal stylist of note. Following 1986's Your Funeral...My Trial, Cave took a two-year hiatus from recording, partially to appear in Wim Wenders' 1987 film Wings of Desire, and then returned with Tender Prey, which featured Cramps guitarist Kid Congo Powers and Cave's strongest vocal performance up to that point.
Cave's productivity picked up immensely over the next two years after he kicked a heroin habit. He had two books (1988's King Ink, a collection of lyrics, plays, and prose, and 1989's And the Ass Saw the Angel, a novel) published; appeared in the 1989 Australian film Ghosts...of the Civil Dead as a prisoner; recorded a soundtrack to the film with Harvey and Bargeld; and released 1990's The Good Son, his most relaxed, quiet album. Cave received his due as one of the leading figures in alternative rock when he was invited to perform on the 1994 edition of the Lollapalooza tour to promote his Let Love In album. Early in 1996, he released Murder Ballads, a collection of songs about murder. Murder Ballads became Cave's most commercially successful album to date, and, with typical perversity, he followed it with the introspective and personal The Boatman's Call in early 1997. A spoken word release, Secret Life of the Love Song, followed in 1999.
Two years later, a rejuvenated Cave teamed up with the Bad Seeds once again for the piano-laden No More Shall We Part. Nocturama was released in 2003, and the double-album Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus followed by the end of 2004. After touring in support of the album throughout 2005, Cave embarked on a new project called Grinderman with Bad Seeds members Warren Ellis, Martyn Casey, and Jim Sclavunos. The group's self-titled debut was released in 2007, the same year Cave was inducted into Australia's ARIA Hall of Fame. In 2008, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds released Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! It was followed by a second Grinderman recordings -- entitled Grinderman II, followed by a world tour and the band's breakup announced by Cave on-stage in December of 2011. Cave penned the screenplay for director John Hillcoat's 2012 bootlegging film Lawless, which also featured a score composed by Cave and Warren Ellis. The duo had previously collaborated on scores for The Proposition, The Road, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Days of Grace.