Joan Jett
Joan Jett, performing on May 2, 2002
Joan Jett, performing on May 2, 2002
Background information
Birth name Joan Marie Larkin
Also known as Joan Jett
Born September 22, 1958 (1958-09-22) (age 62)
Origin Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Genres Rock, hard rock, punk rock
Occupations Singer-songwriter, musician
Instruments Vocals, guitar, bass guitar
Years active 1975 - present
Labels Blackheart Records
Epic Records
Associated acts The Runaways, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Website Joan Jett Official Site
Notable instruments
Gibson Melody Maker

Joan Jett (born Joan Marie Larkin September 22, 1958) is an American rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and actress.

She is best known for her work with Joan Jett & the Blackhearts including their hit cover "I Love Rock & Roll", which was #1 on the Billboard charts 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", "Bad Reputation" and "Little Liar." Jett has a mezzo-soprano vocal range. Her musical and song-writing approach is heavily influenced by the hard-edged, hard beat-driven rhythms common to many rock bands of her native Philadelphia, often featuring lyrics surrounding themes of lost love, criticisms of insincerity, the struggles and resolution of the American working class, and the quest for authenticity.[1]

Career and biography[edit | edit source]

Joan Jett was born at Lankenau Hospital in Wynnewood, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She moved to Wheaton, Maryland in 1967 and attended high school there. She moved to Los Angeles, California[2]

The Runaways[edit | edit source]

Joan Jett is a founding member of The Runaways along with drummer Sandy West. Micki Steele (who was later replaced), 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 some of their opening acts included Cheap Trick, Van Halen and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. They found success abroad, especially in Japan.

While The Runaways were popular in Europe, Asia, Australia, Canada and South America, they could not garner the same success in the U.S. After Currie and Fox left the band (to be replaced by bassist Vicki Blue and later, Laurie McAllister), the band released two more albums: Waitin' for the Night and And Now... The Runaways. Altogether they produced five albums from 1975 until they disbanded in spring of 1979.[2]

Soon after, Jett produced The Germs' first and only album GI.

Solo[edit | edit source]

In the spring of 1975, Jett was in England pursuing a solo career. While there, she cut three songs with ex-Sex Pistols Paul Cook and Steve Jones (one of which was an early version of a cover song called "I Love Rock N' Roll," originally written and performed by The Arrows).

Later that year, she moved to Long Beach, New York and ultimately, Los Angeles, where she reluctantly began fulfilling an obligation of the Runaways to complete a film loosely based on the band's career called We're All Crazee Now!, with three actresses standing in for her departed band members. While working on the project in 1979, Jett met songwriter and producer Kenny Laguna, who came in to help Jett with writing some tracks for the film. They became friends and decided to work together. The plug was pulled on the project halfway through shooting, but in 1984, after Jett had become a major star, producers were looking 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 new project never commercially released, an underground movie called DuBeat-Eo, 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 United States, the album was rejected by 23 major labels.[3] 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[edit | edit source]

File:Jett Rocks.jpg

Joan Jett, performing in a Joe Namath New York Jets jersey, in Norway, 1980s

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, that 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. Gary 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 and 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, N.Y. 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 States and built quite a following in New York. Jett and Laguna soon used their personal savings to press up copies of the Joan Jett album and set up their own system of independent 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. During the recording process, Ambel was replaced by local guitarist Ricky Byrd. Eric went on to a career as a founding member of the Del-Lords, and later worked as a producer of a wide variety of bands. He currently plays with his band, The Yayhoos, and was a member of The Dukes, Steve Earle's band from 2000 to 2005.

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", which in the first half of 1982 was number one on the Billboard charts for seven weeks in a row. It is now Billboard’s #28 song of all time.

A string of Top 40 hits followed, as well as sellout tours with The Police, Queen, and Aerosmith, among others. Jett was the second American act of any kind to perform behind the Iron Curtain, the first one being Blood, Sweat & Tears in Romania in 1969. 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 title song" especially for her, 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.

Her 1991 release, Notorious (which featured The Replacements' Paul Westerberg) 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 rock 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 Kat Bjelland (Babes in Toyland), Donita Sparks (L7) and Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill).

Other work[edit | edit source]

Jett, a sports fan, remained actively involved in the sports world. Her cover of “Love is All Around” (the theme song of The Mary Tyler Moore Show) became an anthem in women’s sports and 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 a number one requested song without an existing support CD. Jett supplied theme songs for the premiere ESPN X-Games and has contributed music to all the games since. At Cal Ripken Jr.'s request, she sang the national anthem, at the Baltimore Orioles game in which he tied[1] Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played.

Film, Broadway and television appearances[edit | edit source]

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.

During the 1990s, she appeared on the sitcom Ellen, performing the title song. She was the guest star on an episode of TV's Highlander: The Series.

In 2000, Jett appeared in the Broadway production of The Rocky Horror Show in the role of Columbia.

In 2001 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 butch lesbian film "By Hook or by Crook" in the role of News Interviewee.

From 2000 to 2003, to support work by first time filmmakers and the indie film business, Jett hosted a showcase of new film and video shorts, Independent Eye,[4] for Maryland Public Television.

In 2008, Jett made a cameo appearance in Darren Lynn Bousman's Repo! The Genetic Opera.[5]

In February 2008, she made a cameo appearance in Jimmy Kimmel's video, "I'm Fucking Ben Affleck."

On July 13, 2008, she appeared in the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "Reunion".

Later music career[edit | edit source]


Joan Jett live in Sydney Australia - May 1995

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. Another Riot Grrrl band, Bratmobile, covered the song "Cherry Bomb" as a tribute to her.

Near the end of the 1990s she 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 together 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 performed "I Love Rock N' Roll" with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra at Madison Square Garden in New York City on December 19, 2005.

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."

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 discovered Cleveland punk rockers The Vacancies. She and Laguna signed the band 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.

In 2005, 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, which featured their groups The Eyeliners and The Vacancies as openers to the headlining act, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

In 2008, Jett was the guitarist (appearing on the stage in Shilo's room) in the piece "Seventeen" in the rock opera film Repo! The Genetic Opera.

Current projects[edit | edit source]

File:Joan Jett NEC.JPG

Joan Jett live at NEC, Birmingham, England, in November 2007

In June 2006, Joan Jett released a new album, Sinner, on Blackheart Records, her own label. To support the album, the band appeared on the 2006 Warped Tour, and embarked 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.

In 1997 Joan 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").

A Joan Jett video with Paul, Paul Jr. and Mikey Teutul of the Learning Channel show American Chopper aired on January 14, 2007. The making of that video was presented in a segment of the show that aired on The Learning Channel on February 22, 2007.

Jett sang a duet with Chase Noles on "Tearstained Letters," a song on the Heart Attacks' 2006 album, Hellbound and Heartless.

In late June 2007, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts performed at Dolphin Stadium in Miami, following a Florida Marlins baseball game.

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, 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.[6] in the summer of 2008. She opened for Def Leppard in August

Jett is to executive produce the 2009 upcoming film The Runaways, which chronicles the Runaways' career. Floria Sigismondi, who has also directed videos for Marilyn Manson, the White Stripes and David Bowie, is to write and direct. Production of the movie will begin filming around Twilight's Kristen Stewart schedule of filming the sequel "New Moon" then "Eclipse". Stewart is set to play Joan Jett. In order to prepare for the role, Stewart met up with Jett around the 08/09 New Year. In a recent interview Stewart revealed that she hopes to be able to sing some of the songs in the film[7]. The film will explore the friendship and falling out between Jett and Runaways lead singer Cherie Currie, played by Dakota Fanning.

In an interview, Jett told that a greatest hits album with two new tracks was set for release in 2009.[8]

Accolades and awards[edit | edit source]

  • In 2003, Jett was named in the Rolling Stone greatest 100 guitarists of all time at number 87.[10] She was one of only two women in this list. The other was Joni Mitchell at number 72.
  • Jett is listed as one of Blender's "hottest women of rock" 21 years after she started The Runaways.[11]
  • Joan Jett is honored by Gibson with a signature model of her Melody Maker, which is a white double cutaway with one zebra humbucker and "kill" toggle switch. [2]. Jett bought her actual guitar from Eric Carmen, following the breakup of The Raspberries.[12]

Activism[edit | edit source]

  • She has been a consistent supporter of the US Armed Forces, has toured for the USO for over 20 years, and even played West Point. On May 15, 2006, Jett visited the Pentagon, and many photographs were taken with personnel.[14]
  • Jett played at a rally in Pittsburgh supporting clean, green jobs.

Discography[edit | edit source]

Main article: Joan Jett discography

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Martin, Bill (2002). Information.svg Hello. In case you didn't know, when you add the title of a book, film, album, magazine, or TV series to an article, it should be italicized by adding two single apostrophes on either side ('' ''). Titles of television episodes, short stories and songs should be placed within quotation marks. More detail can be found in the Wikipedia Manual of Style. Pro Secrets Of Heavy Rock Singing. Sanctuary Publishing. pp. 9. ISBN 1-86074-437-0. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 and spent time on the Southern Oregon Coast.VH1 Joan Jett bio Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "autogenerated1" defined multiple times with different content
  3. :Joan Jett and the Blackhearts:
  4. Independent Eye
  6. True Colors | | Line Up
  7. "Kristen Stewart: Jett-ing Through A Twilight Adventureland". 1 April 2009. Retrieved on 2009-04-01. .
  8. Allen, Jim (17 December 2008). "Q&A: Joan Jett on Her Big Hits and Runaways Drama". RollingStone. Archived from the original. Error: You must specify the date the archive was made using the |archivedate= parameter. Retrieved on 2009-01-20. 
  9. Notes of praise for LI musicians at Hall induction
  10. 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time
  11. "
  12. Gibson Les-Paul Forum. Also confirmed on Eric Carmen's and Joan Jett's web-sites
  13. Interview on The Henry Rollins Show, June 1, 2007.

External links[edit | edit source]

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