|Full Name||Joan Marie Larkin|
|Birthday||September 22, 1958|
Joan Jett is a singer, guitarist, producer and actress famously known for her work with the Runaways (featuring "Cherry Bomb") and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts.
Born as Joan Marie Larkin on September 22, 1958 in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, Joan got interested in rock music at a young age. She received her first guitar at age 13 and taught herself to play by listening to records from classic rock acts like the Rolling Stones, the Who, and Jimi Hendrix. Jett adopted her stage name after being inspired by a childhood nickname from her family. She started honing her musical talents by playing guitar and singing in local rock bands as a teenager.
The Runaways – Riding the Edge of Rebellion
In 1975, a young Joan Jett decided to start an all-girl rock band that would write their own songs and play their own instruments – something unheard of for women in rock at the time. Alongside drummer Sandy West and guitarist Lita Ford, she founded the pioneering group The Runaways at just 16 years old. Jett served as rhythm guitarist and sang co-lead vocals.
Though met with skepticism, The Runaways quickly silenced critics with their raw musical talent and fearless attitude. Jett‘s punk-infused guitar playing and snarlign delivery on songs like "Cherry Bomb" and "Queens of Noise" drove their hard-hitting sound. They gained a cult following through constant touring and 4 studio albums, proving women could rock just as hard as men. Though short-lived, The Runaways broke down barriers in rock and paved the way for future generations of female musicians.
Solo Success – I Love Rock ‘n Roll
After The Runaways disbanded in 1979, Joan Jett was determined to continue her musical career. She released her first solo album, Joan Jett, in 1980 showcasing her signature mix of punk aggression and glam hooks. The following year, she formed The Blackhearts and soon after released the landmark album I Love Rock ‘n Roll in 1981. The title track quickly shot to #1 on the charts and became Joan‘s enduring rock anthem for decades to come.
This mainstream success was hard-earned after years of tearing up the underground rock circuit. Throughout the 80s, Joan belted out hit after hit – "Crimson and Clover," "Do You Wanna Touch Me," "I Hate Myself For Loving You," cementing her status as the Queen of Rock ‘n Roll. She maintained her rebel edge in an era of synthesizers and pop music, inspiring fellow rockers and misfits with her powerful voice and don‘t-give-a-damn swagger.
Musical Style and Influences
Joan Jett possesses one of the most distinctive and recognizable voices in rock history. Her gritty, attitude-filled vocal delivery complements her raw, hard-hitting guitar playing. Though she started off deeply inspired by glam rock icons like David Bowie, Jett soon developed her own brand of punk-meets-hard rock. Her style pulls from influences across the spectrum – the Ramones‘ buzzsaw energy, AC/DC‘s heavy blues riffs, Gary Glitter‘s anthemic choruses – and filters it all through her fierce punk lens.
Some key components that define Joan‘s one-of-a-kind musical imprint:
- Snarling, powerful vocals with a rebel yell quality
- Face-melting guitar riffs played on her go-to Gibson Melody Maker
- Raw, singalong choruses you can instantly belt out
- Lyrics about being a tough-as-nails rocker and living life on your own terms
- Big hooks and soaring melodies underpinned by punk aggression
- A bold stage presence with plenty of swagger
Jett takes the attitude and electricity of punk music but fuses it seamlessly with big pop hooks and arena-ready hard rock. Over the decades, her signature sound never gets stale.
Activism and Advocacy
Beyond the stage, Joan has used her platform to advocate for various causes close to her heart. She has been an outspoken supporter of LGBTQ rights and animal welfare. Jett has also boosted the work of other female musicians through producing albums and highlighting women‘s issues in the industry. After her close friend and Gits singer Mia Zapata was murdered in 1993, Jett produced their seminal album Enter: The Conquering Chicken to honor Zapata‘s legacy.
In typical rock star fashion, Joan backed up her activism with actions. She rejected the overly sexualized image that record companies tried to push on The Runaways, fought against discrimination she faced early on, and proudly waved the flag of rebellion and nonconformity that inspired so many outsiders. Jett has also boosted the work of many women‘s charities over the years, using her celebrity for good.
Legacy as the Queen of Rock
Few musicians of any gender can match the astounding legacy Joan Jett has cemented over her decades-long career:
- Over 10 million albums sold worldwide
- Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2015)
- Named one of Rolling Stone‘s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time
- Inspired generations of female musicians from diverse genres
- First woman awarded Billboard‘s Golden God Award for rock music
- Has 9 Billboard Top 40 singles to her name
- Received the Icon Award at the 2021 Billboard Women in Music ceremony
But beyond the accolades and chart success, Joan‘s larger impact comes from breaking down barriers and stereotypes for women in rock. She proved that female musicians could hold their own on a male-dominated stage and inspired countless girls to start their own bands. Jett showed the world that women have just as much right to turn up amps to 11 and rock out as hard as they please. Her legacy burns bright in every girl who picks up a guitar and every band that proudly defies expectations.
5 Wild Facts Only Superfans Know
- Joan is such a diehard fan of the Dave Clark Five that she owns exclusive rights to their name and music.
- She appeared as an assassin named Gladys in the 1992 superhero film Highlander: The Series
- The classic custom Melody Maker guitar Jett has played since the 70s was originally owned by Eric Carmen of the Raspberries.
- She is a vegetarian and has worked extensively with PETA over the years for animal rights.
- Joan claims Little Richard‘s "Long Tall Sally" was the first song she ever learned to play on guitar as a teen.
Even after over 40 years rocking stages, Joan Jett continues to tour relentlessly and expand her musical legacy. She remains an inspiration to rebels, misfits, and guitar slingers across generations. There‘s only one Queen of Rock ‘n Roll – and her name is Joan Jett!