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She is best known for her work with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts” including their hit coverI Love Rock ‘n’ Roll, which was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 from March 20 to May 1, 1982, as well as for their other popular recordings including “Crimson and Clove”, “I Hate Myself for Loving You”, “Do You Want to Touch Me”,Light of Day”, Sonny Curtis song “Love Is All Around”, “Bad Reputation”, and “Little Liar”.
Her musical and songwriting approach is heavily influenced by the hard-edged, hard beat-driven rhythms common to many rock bands of her native Philadelphia, often featuring lyrics surrounding themes of lost love, criticisms of insincerity, the quest for authenticity, as well as the struggles and resolutions of the American middle class. She has three albums that have been certified Platinum or RIAA certified Gold, and she has been referred to as the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll” many times during her career.
Jett is a founding member of The Runaways along with drummer Sandy West. Micki Steele (who was later replaced), Jackie Fox, Lita Ford, and Cherie Currie completed the line-up. While Currie initially fronted the band, Jett shared some lead vocals, played rhythm guitar and wrote or co-wrote a lot of the band’s material along with Ford, West and Currie. The band recorded five LPs, with Live In Japan becoming one of the biggest-selling imports in U.S. and U.K. history. The band toured around the world and some of their opening acts included Cheap Trick, Van Halen and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
In the spring of 1979, Jett was in England pursuing a solo career. She recorded three songs there with Sex Pistols Paul Cook and Steve Jones (one of which was an early version of The Arrows I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”).
Later that year, she returned to Los Angeles, where she began fulfilling an obligation of the Runaways’ to complete a film—loosely based on the band’s career—called We’re All Crazee Now! Three actresses required to stand in for her departed band members included the iconic cult star Rainbeaux Smith, who was also a rock drummer. While working on the project, Jett met songwriter and producer Kenny Laguna, who was hired by Toby Mamis to help Jett with writing some tracks for the film. They became friends and decided to work together and she relocated to Long Beach, New York where Kenny Laguna was based.
The plug was pulled on the project halfway through shooting with Jett being ill, but in 1984, after Jett had become a major star, producers looked for a way to make use of the footage from the incomplete film. Bits of the original footage of Jett were used in a completely different project, an underground movie called DuBeat-Eo, never commercially released, produced by Alan Sacks.
Jett and Laguna entered The Who’s Ramport Studios with the latter at the helm. Jett’s self-titled solo debut was released in Europe on May 17, 1980. In the US, after the album was rejected by 23 major labels, Jett and Laguna released it independently on their new Blackheart Records label, which they started with Laguna’s daughter’s college savings. Laguna remembers, “We couldn’t think of anything else to do, but print up records ourselves”, and that’s how Blackheart Records started.