Lita Rossana Ford (born 19 September 1958) is an American rock guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter, who was the lead guitarist for The Runaways in the late 1970s before embarking on a solo career in the 1980s.
Ford was born to a British father and an Italian mother in London, England. At the age of four she moved with her family to the United States, eventually settling in the Los Angeles area by the time she was in the second grade. Inspired by Ritchie Blackmore's work with Deep Purple, she began playing the guitar at the age of 11. Her vocal range is mezzo-soprano.
In 1975, at the age of 16, Ford was recruited by recording impresario Kim Fowley to join the all-female rock band he was assembling called The Runaways. The band soon secured a recording contract and released their first album in 1976. The band's "jailbait on the run" gimmick garnered significant media attention and The Runaways became a successful recording and touring act during their late 1970s heyday. Ford's lead-guitar playing became an integral element of the band's sound until their eventual break-up in 1979.
In 1979, internal conflicts were erupting within The Runaways, who had by that time already parted ways with producer Fowley, lead singer Cherie Currie, and bassist Jackie Fox. Vocalist/guitarist Joan Jett wanted the band to shift to a more Ramones-influenced punk rock sound, while Ford and drummer Sandy West wanted to continue playing the hard rock-oriented songs the band had become known for. With neither faction willing to compromise, the band finally broke up in late 1979.
Following the breakup of The Runaways, Ford set about launching a solo career. Her debut solo album, entitled Out for Blood, was released in 1983 and was a commercial disappointment. Her next release, 1984's Dancin' on the Edge achieved moderate success and Ford's popularity began to rise, due largely to her sex appeal with the largely male heavy metal audience. Dancin' on the Edge included the single "Fire In My Heart", which reached the Top 10 in several countries outside the US. The follow-up single, "Gotta Let Go", was a bonafide hit for Ford, reaching Number One on the Mainstream Rock charts.
Ford toured extensively for the next four years while not releasing any new music. A follow-up to Dancin' On The Edge, entitled The Bride Wore Black, was recorded with Tony Iommi serving as producer, but never released. Ford claims this was because the new Mercury Records president "was a country fan and he didn't have a clue as what to do with me". The status of those recordings remains unclear; Ford has alternately stated that the unfinished album remains "sitting in my closet" and may still be released one day or is "in (record) label hell! Who knows what shelf that is sitting on!"
Following the failure to have her third solo album released, Ford signed with RCA Records, hired Sharon Osbourne Management, and re-emerged with a more radio-friendly pop-metal sound. In 1988 she released her most commercially successful album, the self-produced Lita. The album featured four commercial hits, including "Kiss Me Deadly", "Back To The Cave", "Close My Eyes Forever", and "Falling In And Out Of Love", a song co-written by Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe. The ballad "Close My Eyes Forever", a duet with Sharon's husband Ozzy Osbourne, remains her most successful song, reaching #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Ford followed up the success of Lita with the 1990 album Stiletto. Stiletto featured the singles "Hungry" and "Lisa" (a song dedicated to her mother). However, the album failed to match the success of her previous release. Ford's next release was 1991's Dangerous Curves on Spitfire Records, which featured her last charting single to date, "Shot Of Poison". Ford's final album prior to a lengthy recording hiatus was Black on the German ZYX label.
Hiatus and return to stage
By the mid-1990s, Ford placed a reduced priority on her music career as she turned her attention towards raising her two young sons. Following the release of Black in 1995, Ford did not release new material until the Wicked Wonderland album almost fifteen years later.
In June 2008, Ford re-emerged with a new band, playing several warm-up gigs under the moniker Kiss Me Deadly prior to Rocklahoma in the New York City area. In June 2009, she began touring the United States and Europe with a new line-up consisting of current Guns N' Roses guitarist Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal, Bumblefoot drummer Dennis Leeflang, and Deepfield bassist PJ Farley.
After a long recording hiatus, Ford released the new album Wicked Wonderland on October 6, 2009, on the JLRG Entertainment label. In an interview with ExclusiveMagazine.com, Ford spoke about her new material: "I just wanted to kick ass! I don't know what's popular, or the flavor of the day. I just wanted the music to rock! The lyrics are very personal and that's it. I wasn't going to come out in sandals with hairy armpits!".
In May 2011, Ford promised to release a "real comeback album" later in the year, saying that 2009's nu metal-inspired Wicked Wonderland, was too much of a collective project with ex-husband Jim Gillette. "A lot of people have told me that they want a real Lita Ford album, and I know what they mean. They are going to get it," she was quoted as saying at the time. The album Living Like a Runaway was released in June 2012 on on SPV/Steamhammer Records. True to her word, the album was much more in line with her earlier work. The title is also celebratory, as Ford had recently buried the hatchet with her former Runaways' bandmates.
In the mid-1980s, Ford was briefly engaged to be married to guitarist Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. Iommi co-produced her album The Bride Wore Black, an album which was never released. Ford said in a 1989 interview with Kerrang! magazine that "there's a certain amount of bad blood between Tony (Iommi) and I". Ford was married to W.A.S.P. guitarist Chris Holmes in the early 1990s for a short time; the pair divorced and Ford began dating former Nitro vocalist Jim Gillette in 1994. The couple were married after knowing each other for only two weeks. They have two sons, James and Rocco Gillette. The family moved to Turks and Caicos, where Gillette operated a small building and real estate developing business.
In a February 2011 radio interview, Ford acknowledged that she and Gillette were divorcing. The family were in negotiations for a reality TV show, tentatively titled "The Gillettes: An Extreme American Family" on TLC. The couple's impending divorce ended any plans for the television show. In a March, 2011, interview on the Classic Rock Revisited website, Ford claimed that she had taken a business trip to Los Angeles to discuss the reality show with TLC executives, and returned home to find her husband and sons not speaking to her. She also claimed that her sons physically attacked her, encouraged by Gillette, which was when she decided to divorce him.
During her solo career, Ford was endorsed by musical instrument manufacturer B.C. Rich and exclusively used several of the brand's guitars, most notably the Warlock.
Ford had a small role in the 1992 horror/comedy film Highway to Hell playing a character called "The Hitchhiker". Ford was also asked by VH-1 to join the cast of the seventh season of the reality television program The Surreal Life in 2007. She declined.
Ford contributed her likeness and voice to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 video game Brütal Legend. She appears as the character Rima, alongside Jack Black, Tim Curry, Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Halford, and Lemmy Kilmister. Her song "Betrayal" is also one of the 100+ songs that appear in the game.
In 2010, a major Hollywood motion picture chronicling the career of Ford's first band, The Runaways, was produced. Ford was portrayed by actress Scout Taylor-Compton in the movie, entitled The Runaways.
Ford is featured extensively in the 2005 documentary film Edgeplay: A film about The Runaways, in which she spoke candidly about her time in the all-girl band. Among other things, she alludes to verbal and sexual abuse endured by the band members at the hands of their management, specifically Kim Fowley.
See also The Runaways discography.
- Greatest Hits Live! (2000)
- The Best of Lita Ford (1992)
- Greatest Hits (1999)
- Platinum and Gold Collection - The Best of Lita Ford (2004)
- Nobody's Child (2012)
- " Herman's Head Season 2 Episode 24 "Love Me Two Timer" May 2, 1993 as herself
- "I Want To Be Loved" with "LOU" on The Other Side (2005)
- "I'll Be Home for Christmas" with Twisted Sister on A Twisted Christmas (2006)
- "Brütal Legend" Video Game (2009)
- " Big Time Rush Big Time Moms Mothers Day Special 2011, appearing as herself
- Guest appearance on Geoff Tate's version of Queensrÿche's Frequency Unknown (2013)
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Image from Discogs