Meet the bad-ass legend known as Joan Jett. There probably is no cooler chick playing the electric guitar today. She can in a few strums get an entire room howling her 1981 tune "I Love Rock & Roll". The power she has is amazing. Lets take a look back at her story.
Born Joan Larkin on Sept 22, 1958 in Philadelphia PA, she moved around a lot as a child. They never really settled and Joan learned early about life on the road. As a child she showed interest primarily in sports and the outdoors, playing anything she could with the neighborhood kids.
At the age of 12, her family moved to Los Angeles. Her parents quickly divorced and Joan changed her last name to her mothers maiden name: Jett. Having developed a heightened interest in music, Jett began teaching herself the guitar. Her main interest was rock 'n' roll of the glitter band version, especially the music from England at the time, artists like David Bowie.
While she was teaching herself to play, Jett decided there must be other girls in the LA area with similar music dreams as she and she started putting a band together. By 15, she created The Runaways with four other girls, Jett sang lead vocals, played rythm guitar and also wrote many of their songs. They were quickly signed to a deal with Mercury Records. After releasing three albums, they had trouble attracting attention in the male-dominated American music industry. That lead to an eventual split in 1980, sending the girls in different directions. Jett traveled to England to jump start her solo career.
While there, Jett collaborated with former members of the Sex Pistols to make three songs, two of which were made into singles in Holland. Finally Jett returned to LA to produce a record and star in a film about her former group The Runaways. Although the film never was released, it provided the opportunity for Jett to meet Kenny Laguna, an independent producer. She approached him to help write songs for her new solo album. After separating from her manager, Jett moved to LA to be near Laguna to record her first album. They released Joan Jett in Europe only. Why Europe? Oh because the album was rejected by 23 labels in the US.
After the rejections, the duo decided to create their own label, Blackheart Records, and released the album independently. Using their own savings, Jett and Laguna created a system of independent distributors and pressed the records themselves. Bad-ass. Although the team could not keep up with the increasing demand for the solo album, there still were no interested American record companies. It was only after the record sold well for some time, the owner of Boardwalk Records, Neil Bogart, gave Joan a record deal. Her album was re-released under the title Bad Reputation in 1981 and climbed the American record charts.
Following the moderate success of her first album Joan formed a new group, The Blackhearts, which toured for a year and then released their first record I Love Rock n Roll. Reaction to the new album was immediate and soon it broke into the Top Five of the Billboard 100. The single "I Love Rock n Roll" made it right to number 1 on March 20, 1982 and remained the number one song in America for the next seven weeks
With this album Jett had finally broken the gender barrier of the music industry and made a name for herself. During the early '90s a new generation of female rockers began to appear, claiming Joan Jett and The Runaways as influences. According to VH1 Jett had become a "figurehead for several generations of female rockers". With the public's eye on the female rock industry, Jett's next album Pure and Simple, released in 1994, received more attention and popularity than most of her albums released following the mid-80s.
To this day many women including myself still look up to this lady for never compromising who she is. Yesterday she was on Oprah looking fantastic and singing "Cherry Bomb". It was magical. Yet still when I think about Joan Jett, this song comes to mind. Why? Because its defiant, it speaks to generations and well she "don't give a damn about her bad reputation".
Keep rocking Joan.