Joan Jett (born Joan Marie Larkin; September 22, 1958) is an American rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and occasional actress, best known for her work with Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, including their hit cover "I Love Rock 'n' Roll", which was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 from March 20 to May 1, 1982, as well as for their other popular recordings including "Crimson and Clover", "I Hate Myself for Loving You", "Do You Want to Touch Me", "Light of Day", "Love Is All Around" and "Bad Reputation". She has three albums that have been certified Platinum or Gold, and she has been referred to as the "Queen of Rock 'n' Roll" many times during her career.
Joan Marie Larkin was born September 22, 1958 at Lankenau Hospital in Wynnewood, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She moved to Rockville, Maryland, in 1967 where she attended Randolph Junior High and Wheaton High School. Jett got her first guitar at the age of 13. She took some guitar lessons, but quit soon after when the instructor kept trying to teach her folk songs. She also became involved with a bartender at a club from the town, at which point her family then relocated to the city of West Covina, California, in Los Angeles County, providing Jett the opportunity to pursue her musical endeavors.
In Los Angeles, Jett interacted with some of her idols, including Suzi Quatro, the first female bass guitar player to become a major rock star. Quatro was vital to Jett's career, and Jett adopted many of Quatro's qualities including her shag haircut and style. Jett would quietly wait in the lobby of various hotels that Quatro was staying in during her US tours, just to catch a glimpse of her. She wore wooden platform shoes with "Suzi Quatro" carved into the side.
Jett's favorite night spot was Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco. She was introduced to the glam-rock style she so adored as this genre was explosive in the UK and Europe, but never quite took off in the US. Rodney's was the only place Jett could hear this style of music, and it certainly helped develop her image.
Jett became a founding member of The Runaways, alongside drummer Sandy West. Jackie Fox, Lita Ford, and Cherie Currie completed the line-up. While Currie initially fronted the band, Jett shared some lead vocals, played rhythm guitar and wrote or co-wrote a lot of the band's material along with Ford, West and Currie. The band recorded five LPs, with Live In Japan becoming one of the biggest-selling imports in U.S. and U.K. history. The band toured around the world and became an opening act for Cheap Trick, Van Halen and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. They found success abroad, especially in Japan. In 2010, The Runaways, a movie about Jett's band, was made, starring Kristen Stewart as Jett and Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie.
While The Runaways were popular in Europe, Asia, Australia, Canada and South America, they could not garner the same level of success in the U.S. After Currie, the lead singer, left the band, the band released two more albums with Jett handling the lead vocals: Waitin' for the Night and And Now... The Runaways. Altogether they produced five albums from 1975 until they disbanded in spring of 1979.
Soon after, Jett produced The Germs' first and only album (GI).
In 1979, Jett was in England pursuing a solo career. She recorded three songs there with Sex Pistols' Paul Cook and Steve Jones, one of which was an early version of Arrows' "I Love Rock 'n' Roll". This version appears on the 1993 compilation album Flashback.Later that year, she returned to Los Angeles, where she began fulfilling an obligation of the Runaways' to complete a film—loosely based on the band's career—called We're All Crazee Now! Three actresses required to stand in for her departed band members included Rainbeaux Smith, who was also a rock drummer. While working on the project, Jett met songwriter and producer Kenny Laguna, who was hired by Toby Mamis to help Jett with writing some tracks for the film. They became friends and decided to work together and she relocated to Long Beach, New York where Kenny Laguna was based. The plug was pulled on the project halfway through shooting with Jett being ill, but in 1984, after Jett had become a star, producers looked for a way to make use of the footage from the incomplete film. Bits of the original footage of Jett were used in a completely different project, an underground movie called DuBeat-Eo, never commercially released, produced by Alan Sacks.
Jett and Laguna entered The Who's Ramport Studios with the latter at the helm. Jett's self-titled solo debut was released in Europe on May 17, 1980. In the US, after the album was rejected by 23 major labels, Jett and Laguna released it independently on their new Blackheart Records label, which they started with Laguna's daughter's college savings. Laguna remembers, "We couldn't think of anything else to do, but print up records ourselves", and that's how Blackheart Records started.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
With Laguna's assistance, Jett formed the Blackhearts. She placed an ad in the L.A. Weekly "looking for three good men." John Doe of X sat in on bass for the auditions held at S.I.R. studios in Los Angeles. He mentioned a local bass player, Gary Ryan, who had recently been crashing on his couch. Ryan was part of the L.A. punk scene and had played bass with local artists Top Jimmy and Rik L. Rik. He had been a fan of the Runaways and Jett for years. Jett recognized him at the audition and he was in. Ryan in turn recommended guitarist Eric Ambel, who was also at the time part of Rik L. Rik. The final addition to the original Blackhearts was drummer Danny "Furious" O'Brien, formerly of the infamous San Francisco band The Avengers. This line-up played several gigs at the Golden Bear, in Huntington Beach, California and The Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood before embarking on their first European tour which consisted of an extensive tour of the Netherlands, and a few key shows in England including the Marquee in London.
Upon returning to the States, Jett, Ryan, and Ambel moved to Long Beach, New York. O'Brien stayed behind in England to pursue other interests. Auditions were set up and Lee Crystal, formerly of The Boyfriends and Sylvain Sylvain, became the new drummer. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts then toured throughout the US and built quite a following in New York. Jett and Laguna used their personal savings to press copies of the Joan Jett album and set up their own system of distribution, sometimes selling the albums out of the trunk of Laguna's Cadillac at the end of each concert. Laguna was unable to keep up with demand for her album. Eventually, old friend and founder of Casablanca Records, Neil Bogart, made a joint venture with Laguna and signed Jett to his new label, Boardwalk Records and re-released the Joan Jett album as Bad Reputation. After a year of touring and recording, The Blackhearts recorded a new album entitled I Love Rock 'n' Roll for the label. Ambel was replaced by local guitarist Ricky Byrd during the recording.
With Byrd on guitar, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts recorded their hit album. The new single was a re-recording of the title track, "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" originally written and recorded by Arrows, which in the first half of 1982 was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks in a row. It is Billboard’s No. 56 song of all time.
Jett released Album (1983) and Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth (1984). A string of Top 40 hits followed, as well as sellout tours with The Police, Queen, and Aerosmith, among others. She was among the first English-speaking rock acts to appear in Panama and the Dominican Republic.
After receiving her own MTV New Year's Eve special, Jett beat out a number of contenders to appear in the movie Light of Day with Michael J. Fox. Bruce Springsteen wrote the song "Light of Day" especially for the movie, and her performance was critically acclaimed. It was about this time that Ryan and Crystal left the Blackhearts. They were soon replaced by the powerful rhythm section of Thommy Price and Kasim Sulton. Later that year, Jett released Good Music, which featured appearances by The Beach Boys, The Sugarhill Gang and singer Darlene Love.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts became the first rock band to perform a series of shows at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway, breaking the record at the time for the fastest ticket sell-out. Her next release, Up Your Alley, went multi-platinum and was followed by The Hit List, which was an album consisting of cover songs. During this time, Jett co-wrote the song "House of Fire", which appeared on Alice Cooper's 1989 album Trash.
In 1990 the Band would be featured on the Days of Thunder Soundtrack with their song "Long Live the Night" penned by Jett along with Randy Cantor and Michael Caruso.
Her 1991 release Notorious, which featured The Replacements' Paul Westerberg and former Billy Idol bassist Phil Feit, was the last with Sony/CBS as Jett switched to Warner Brothers. A CD single of "Let's Do It" featuring Jett and Westerberg was also released during this time and appeared in the song credits for the movie Tank Girl. In 1993, Jett and Laguna released Flashback, a compilation of various songs on their own Blackheart Records.
Jett produced several bands prior to releasing her debut and her label Blackheart Records released recordings from varied artists such as thrash metal band Metal Church and rapper Big Daddy Kane.
The press touted Jett as the "Godmother of Punk" and the "Original Riot Grrrl." In 1994, the Blackhearts released the well-received Pure and Simple, which featured tracks written with Babes in Toyland's Kat Bjelland, L7's Donita Sparks and Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna.
Jett returned to producing for the band Circus Lupus in 1992 and again, in 1994, for Bikini Kill. This recording was the New Radio EP for which she also played and sang back-up vocals. The Riot Grrrl movement started in the 1990s, with Bikini Kill as a representative band, and many of these women credited Jett as a role model and inspiration.
In 1997 Jett was featured on the We Will Fall: The Iggy Pop Tribute record. She performed a cover of the Johnny O'Keefe song "Wild One" (or "Real Wild Child"). Jett worked with members of the punk band The Gits, whose lead singer and lyricist, Mia Zapata, had been raped and murdered in 1993. The results of their collaboration was a live LP, Evil Stig and a single, "Bob", whose earnings were contributed to the investigation of Zapata's murder. To this end, the band and Jett appeared on the TV show America's Most Wanted, appealing to the public for information. The case was solved in 2004, when Zapata's murderer, Jesus Mezquia, was brought to trial and convicted.
Jett is a guest artist on Marky Ramone's solo album Start of the Century on the track "Don't Blame Me". She is a guest vocalist on Peaches' album Impeach My Bush on the tracks "Boys Want to Be Her" and "You Love It".
At an October 2001 9/11 benefit in Red Bank, New Jersey, Jett and Springsteen appeared together on stage for the first time and played "Light Of Day".
In 2004, Jett and Laguna produced "No Apologies" by Warped Tour favorite The Eyeliners, after signing them. Jett also guested on the track "Destroy" and made a cameo appearance in the music video.
In 2005, Jett and Laguna signed punk rockers The Vacancies and produced their second album, A Beat Missing or a Silence Added (reaching the top 20 in CMJ Music Charts) and their third album in 2007, Tantrum. That same year she was recruited by Steven Van Zandt to host her own radio show on Van Zandt's Underground Garage radio channel on Sirius Satellite Radio. She hosted a four-hour show titled Joan Jett's Radio Revolution, broadcast every Saturday and Sunday. The program moved from Sirius 25 to Sirius 28 shortly before being canceled in June 2008.
In 2005, Jett and Laguna celebrated the 25th anniversary of Blackheart Records with a sellout show at Manhattan's Webster Hall.
In June 2006, Jett released her album, Sinner, on her own label, Blackheart Records. To support the album, the band appeared on the 2006 Warped Tour and on a fall 2006 tour with Eagles of Death Metal. Various other bands like Antigone Rising, Valient Thorr, The Vacancies, Throw Rag and Riverboat Gamblers were to have joined the tour for a handful of dates each.
Jett sang a duet with Chase Noles on "Tearstained Letters", a song on the Heart Attacks' 2006 album, Hellbound and Heartless.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts headlined the Albuquerque, New Mexico Freedom Fourth celebration on July 4, 2007, with an estimated crowd of 65,000 in attendance at the annual outdoor event.
In November 2007, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts appeared with Motörhead and Alice Cooper in a UK arena tour; Jett opened eight American shows on Aerosmith's 2007 World Tour.
Following The Dave Clark Five's induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, on March 10, 2008, Jett, as part of the ceremony, closed the program with a performance of the DC5's 1964 hit "Bits and Pieces." She was introduced by actor Tom Hanks, who said, "Ladies and gentlemen – at one time, if I had been lucky, one of the most beautiful 'Mrs. Tom Hanks' you can imagine, but I'm not complainin' — Joan Jett!"
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts appeared on several dates of the True Colors Tour 2008. in the summer of 2008. She opened for Def Leppard in August.
In June 2010, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts opened for Green Day on their UK tour alongside acts such as Frank Turner and Paramore.
The group was the opening act for Aerosmith's September 2010 Canadian tour.
Joan Jett and The Blackhearts were part of the lineup for Australia's The Falls Music & Arts Festival, December 29 through January 1, 2010, in Australia.
Jett was an executive producer for the film The Runaways, which chronicled the Runaways' career. Floria Sigismondi, who directed videos for Marilyn Manson, the White Stripes and David Bowie, wrote and directed. Production of the movie began filming around Twilight's Kristen Stewart's filming schedule, (i.e. of the sequels New Moon and Eclipse). Stewart played Jett in the film. In order to prepare for the role, Stewart met Jett around the 08/09 New Year. In an interview, Stewart revealed that she hoped to be able to sing some of the songs in the film. The film explores the friendship between Jett and Runaways' lead singer, Cherie Currie, played by Dakota Fanning, and premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival on Jan 24, 2010. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts appeared at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, at Harry-O's, for The Runaways promotion, which was also attended by Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning.
March 2010 saw the release of a 2-CD Greatest Hits album with four newly re-recorded songs. March 2010 also saw the release of a hardcover biography and picture book, spanning her career from the Runaways to the present day.
Jett, a sports fan, has remained actively involved in the sports world. "Bad Reputation" was used by UFC's, Ultimate Fighting Championship, woman's Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey as her walk out song at the pay per view event, UFC 157. Her cover of "Love is All Around" (the theme song of The Mary Tyler Moore Show) was used by the NCAA to promote the Women's Final Four, as well as the song "Unfinished Business" which was never commercially released. "Love Is All Around" went into radio play and became the number one requested song without an existing (support) CD. Jett supplied theme songs for the ESPN X-Games premiere and has contributed music to all their games since. At Cal Ripken Jr.'s request, she sang the national anthem, at the Baltimore Orioles game in which he tied Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games played. She also sang the national anthem at the final game played at Memorial Stadium. The melody for her song "I Hate Myself For Loving You" is used as the theme music for NBC Sunday Night Football with re-worked lyrics and retitled "Waiting All Day For Sunday Night". Jett has also been a consistent supporter of the US Armed Forces, has toured for the USO for over 20 years, and even played West Point.
Satire and tributes
In 1983, musical satirist "Weird Al" Yankovic released a parody of "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" entitled "I Love Rocky Road," changing the singer's passion for rock music with that for ice cream.
The comic strip Bloom County included a character named Tess Turbo; her band was The Blackheads.
Film, stage and television appearances
Jett's first appearance on film is in the 1981 live concert film Urgh! A Music War, performing "Bad Reputation" with the Blackhearts at The Ritz in New York City. She made her acting debut in 1987, co-starring with Gena Rowlands and Michael J. Fox in the Paul Schrader film Light of Day. She appeared in independent films, including The Sweet Life and Boogie Boy.
In 1997 she appeared on the sitcom Ellen, in the episode Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah, performing the title song. In 1992, she was a guest star in "Free Fall", a first season episode of TV's Highlander: The Series.
The 1999 show Freaks and Geeks used the song "Bad Reputation" as the opening theme.
In 2000, Jett appeared in the Broadway production of The Rocky Horror Show in the role of Columbia. That same year, Jett appeared on Walker, Texas Ranger as an ex-CIA agent turned assassin hired to kill Walker and Alex.
In 2002, Jett appeared in the film By Hook or by Crook in the role of News Interviewee.
From 2000 to 2003, Jett hosted a showcase of new film and video shorts, Independent Eye, for Maryland Public Television.
In 2004, Jett narrated a short film, Godly Boyish, about two teenagers who share suicidal fantasies.
In 2008, Jett made a cameo appearance in Darren Lynn Bousman's rock opera/file Repo! The Genetic Opera as the guitarist in Shilo's room during the piece "Seventeen". Also in 2008, she appeared in the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "Reunion" as a rock and roll talk show host who is murdered.
Jett supported Howard Dean in the 2004 election because of his position on the War in Iraq. She has been a vegetarian for over 20 years and supports both PETA and Farm Sanctuary.
Accolades and awards
- Jett was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in October 2006.
- In 2003, Jett was named in the Rolling Stone greatest 100 guitarists of all time at number 87. She was one of only two women in this list, the other being Joni Mitchell at number 72.
- Jett is listed as one of Blender's "hottest women of rock" 21 years after she started The Runaways.
- Gibson manufactured a signature model of her Melody Maker, a white double cutaway with a zebra humbucker and "kill" toggle switch. Jett bought her guitar from Eric Carmen, following the breakup of the Raspberries.
- On September 27, 2011, it was announced that Jett was a nominee for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's class of 2012; she was ultimately passed over.
- In November, 2012, Jett received the Nanci Alexander Activist Award for her work on behalf of animal welfare.
- In October 2012, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts were re-nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for 2013.
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Image from Discogs