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Joan Jett: Punk Rock's First Lady

  • Craig Fitzpatrick
  • Larry London

Joan Jett has been involved in rock music for over 25 years -- especially the "punk" style that developed as an alternative to mainstream rock 'n' roll during the 1970s. She started out as lead singer of her own all-girl band ("The Runaways"), then moved on as a solo artist and co-writer, backup singer and producer for other bands. She has a new band now and has embarked on a club tour of the United States. She sat down recently with VOA's Larry London to talk about her life in rock music and her new album.

Joan Jett is a woman of many firsts. She was the first female artist to own her own record label, an early punk-rock stylist and one of the first American punk stars to perform behind the Iron Curtain in the 1980s. Her studs-and-leather punk-rock fashion style is now standard onstage gear for many heavy-metal bands. Now Joan Jett has re-invented herself once again: she has become what she always wanted to be.

“And, I just, you know, had this dream, and I figured until I really failed at it, you know I had as much right as anyone else to do that," she says.

Her biggest hit, "I Love Rock 'N' Roll," has become a frequent chant at many sporting events here in the United States. A song so 'big,' she says, that it has overshadowed her other music.

“Hey, we have other songs, you know,” says Jett. “Then you recognize the bigness of this song. And it's like, 'Look, am I going to resent this song that I'm so blessed to be involved with, and I'm so blessed to have such a big hit with it?' I'm very happy when people get so excited about it.”

Joan's band is called the Blackhearts, a name she says is a Portuguese nautical term for someone who steers her own course, someone who is a loner. The term, she says, fits her perfectly.

"I like being alone, I'm good being alone. Some people have to always be with people. Some people always have to be coupled up; you know those people. I'm good alone."

Joan says her new album, "Sinner," has taken a slightly different direction.

"You know, musically, it's what our fans would expect from us. It's straight up rock 'n' roll. I think it's melodic. It's 'hook-y' [has a good 'hook,' or catchy sound, to catch a listener's ear], it's got some good riffs in it. We still have songs in there about love, relationships, falling in and out of love, a little sex, politics, and some spirituality we've touched on this time. And I think that's a little different for me, because those are such big subjects and they're also subjects I've never written about before, so to broach those kind of subjects was kind of a scary thought."

Joan Jett -- setting a new direction with a new album, and still loving rock and roll.

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