This Saturday, April 18, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts will, at long last, be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. Among the 8 legendary groups and artists being inducted this year, Joan Jett is the only woman, which is an all too familiar spot for this fearless pioneer who has fought for everything she’s achieved over the course of her four decade plus career in the male-centric, testosterone fueled world of rock ’n’ roll.
So as she prepares to receive this long overdue honor, let’s review just how kickass Joan Jett is…
In the early 70s, when she was just 15-years-old, Joan founded the trailblazing, all-girl, punk rock fivesome… the Runaways (Joan Jett – guitar/vocals; Sandy West – drums; Cherie Currie – lead vocals; Jackie Fox – bass guitar; and Lita Ford – guitar). She also wrote most of the band’s songs, including their 1976 hit “Cherry Bomb.” The group recorded four albums between 1976 and 1978, and also went on tour. As WYSK noted in a November 2014 piece, “Their fandom was sometimes called the next Beatlemania.” Joan eventually took over as the Runaways frontwoman after Cherie and Jackie left.
“Girls see these defined roles they’re supposed to follow in life, but when I was a young child, my parents told me I could be anything.”
When the Runaways completely disbanded in 1979, Joan refocused and got to work on a solo album. But when it came time to find a distributor, she had the proverbial door slammed in her face by 23 different record labels. According to a recent Inquisitr article, “In those early days, Jett remembers having to defend her gender to everyone in the music industry and, at times, even to would-be fans. Joan recalls sending the same four songs to each of the record labels she approached (“I Love Rock ‘N Roll,” “Crimson and Clover,” “Do You Wanna Touch Me,” and “Bad Reputation”) and receiving rejections from every one of those labels.”
Totally frustrated, but driven by her never-give-up attitude, Joan took control of her own future by founding Blackheart Records with producer Kenny Laguna in 1980. This historic move made Joan Jett, “the first female artist to own and have direct control over an independent record company.” She then formed her hard-rocking Blackhearts in 1982, and her epic career has been on a non-stop trajectory of success since.
As the Blackhearts leader, Joan’s had eight platinum and gold albums and nine Top 40 singles, including… “Bad Reputation,” “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll,” “I Hate Myself For Loving You,” and “Crimson and Clover.” Yep… the very same songs that almost two dozen myopic record label heads previously rejected. Today, over three decades later, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts are still touring around the world for legions of diehard fans.
“I figured out it was a social thing, what women were allowed to do. At a very young age, I decided I was not going to follow women’s rules.”
But Joan’s success is not isolated to her being a legendary frontwoman, musician, and songwriter. As a producer, she has overseen albums by Bikini Kill, Circus Lupus, as well as the Germs. In actively signing new bands to her Blackheart Records label, she says, “It’s a place where girls can feel comfortable to be – both in a work environment and on an artistic level.”
Cementing her status as a pop culture icon, Joan has also acted in movies and television, including 1987’s Light Of Day, and the Tony-nominated Broadway musical The Rocky Horror Show, as well as on shows like Law & Order. Her music is also heard in countless films and TV shows including Kick Ass, The Runaways, Shrek, Baby Mama, to name a few. A version of “I Hate Myself for Loving You” has even been used on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.
One year ago, in April 2014, to commemorate Nirvana’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the band’s surviving members, Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) and Krist Novoselic, recruited four women rockers to front the band where Kurt Cobain once stood. Joan Jett kicked-off the four song tribute and sang Nirvana’s mega-hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Joan was followed by Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, St. Vincent’s Annie Clark, and Lorde. Check out Joan in all her badass action…
So how do you sum up a living legend like Joan Jett, a woman with an enviable sense of self, who never gave a damn about her bad reputation? Her Facebook page does it perfectly, “Joan Jett has spent her lifetime breaking barriers and challenging expectations – this is, after all, a woman who is both a spokesperson for PETA and a devoted supporter of the US Military. She’s fought hard for all of her historic accomplishments, yet she remains humble and appreciative. ‘I’ve had a blessed career,’ she says. ‘I consider myself so lucky to have been able to do things my own way.'”