Joan Jett defied stereotype. First as a member of the 1970s all-girl punk group the Runaways, and then as the savage leader of the Blackhearts, Jett broke new ground, wedging herself into the male-dominated world of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. And she did it better and harder than the rest.
Yet after three decades and a roller coaster career, Jett has been pigeonholed: The rock icon will forever be a badass 16-year-old guitar-playing girl in black leather.
But it’s a role she created for herself. And it still works.
At age 51, Jett still tours and sings about a boy “who must have been about 17.” Her bandmates, the Blackhearts, look and dress like punks. In their mid- 20s. they grew up decades after Jett came out as the unpredictable, hard-rocking teenager.
“I started playing with the Runaways when I was 16,” she told The Tonight Show in 2010. “But people have a problem with girls playing instruments, especially in an aggressive medium like rock ‘n’ roll. At the time I figured it was a liberal world, they’re not going to have an issue with it, but that wasn’t the case.”
Jett’s history and spotlight into fame was rehashed last year with the release of a Greatest Hits album and a movie, The Runaways, which recounts the history of the group Jett formed with Lita Ford and Cherie Currie.
“It’s a movie but it’s based on the factual story,” she told The Tonight Show. “There are a few embellishments but I think they did a great job.”
The movie was widely praised and served as the ultimate tribute to Jett’s unapologetic lifestyle and career — one that’s earned her both platinum and gold records and nine top-40 singles, including “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Crimson and Clover” and “I Hate Myself for Loving You.”
Even after 30 years, her controversial reputation remains intact. The openly gay performer is still a badass in black. She manages her own independent label (Blackheart Records), acts as a spokesperson for PETA and supports American troops (she’s played in several combat zones, including in Pakistan and Afghanistan).
Her music is forever stuck in the youth angst and rebellion of her former years — but it doesn’t feel washed-out or tired. Jett is authentic. The music and persona she’s created is still uniquely hers.
“I’ve had a blessed career,” she says on her website. “I consider myself so lucky to have been able to do things my own way.”
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts • Sat, Jan. 15, at 8:30 pm • Northern Quest Casino • $40 -$50 • 18 • (800) 325-SEAT