Joan Jett—the Blackheart of rock and roll history
Without a care for her “Bad Reputation,” the singer became the face of the genre in the ’80s.
“I Love Rock ‘N Roll” “Bad Reputation” and “I Hate Myself for Loving You” are all popular songs that have changed the rock and roll industry forever. The voice behind these songs is the rebel bad girl, Joan Jett, who created, wrote, and produced all these songs while facing the harsh reality of sexism and misogyny as a female rock musician in the ’70s and ’80s. She challenged society’s norms as she became a fighter for women’s rights.
Jett started to create music at the young age of 13. She always wanted to pursue her musical interests, which reflected on the glam rock style. She embodied the glamourous rock star life since she was a teen living in West Covina, California in Los Angeles County.
In August of 1975, at 16 years old, she formed a band called The Runaways. The classic lineup consisted of Jett (who played rhythm guitar, shared lead vocals, and wrote some original songs), Sandy West (Drummer), Lita Ford (Lead Guitarist), Cherie Currie (Lead Singer), and Jackie Fox (Bass Player). The Runaways was one of the first all-female rock bands to emerge from the male-dominant ’70s rock era.
Jett learned quickly about sexism within the rock and roll genre and lifestyle. Facing the many challenges of being a female hard rock musician, she fought for equality within the community and proved that she and her band were skilled, professional musicians. However, The Runaways struggled to gain any support. When they performed on stage, people would spit and throw garbage at them.
In seeing the injustice within the industry, she gained a bad girl image, which she played to her advantage. After The Runaways broke up, Jett started her solo career and sang about freedom, sex, and reality. She rose to fame and was able to showcase her skills as a female musician.
The rock band Joan Jett & the Blackhearts was created in 1981 but her challenges as a female rockstar did not stop, which gave her the strength to continue to change rock music forever. Jett was rejected 23 times by other record labels and judged constantly.
She ended up creating her own record label called Blackheart Label and became the first female artist to do so. This influenced other female musicians to pursue their careers within the hard rock and punk rock genres in a time when rock bands did not treat women with respect and did not think they were good enough to play.
The queen of rock and roll’s success soared in 1982 by producing the biggest songs of the ’80s. She topped Billboard charts for weeks, which helped her gain a huge fan base. From her success in Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, she was recognized for her talent and named one of the “100 Greatest Guitarists” in Rolling Stone. She was also introduced into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
Jett was not afraid to be different and challenged the double standard of women in music and society. By breaking down barriers and being a role model for strong, independent women, Jett has paved a way for women in the music industry and changed rock and roll forever.