Rickie Lee Jones

By the time she nineteen, Jones was living in Los Angeles, waiting tables and occasionally playing music in out of the way coffee houses and bars. All the while, she was developing her unique aesthetic: music that was sometimes spoken, often beautifully sung, and while emotionally accessible, she was writing lyrics as taut and complex as any by the great American poet, Elizabeth Bishop. In her voice and songs, we saw smoky stocking seams, love being everything but requitted. And it was during these years that Jones’ song, “Easy Money,” caught the attention of one musician and then the music industry. The song was recorded by Lowell George, the founder of the band, Little Feat. He used it on his solo album, “Thanks, I’ll Eat It Here.” Warner Brothers auditioned Jones and quickly signed her to the label.

Her debut on Warners, Rickie Lee Jones, released in 1979, won the Grammy for Best New Artist. She was hailed by one critic as a “highly touted new pop-jazz-singer-songwriter” and another critic as “one of the best–if not the best–artist of her generation.” In addition to the album’s brilliant songs–including the exceptional “On Saturday Afternoons in 1963,” the haunting “Last Chance Texaco,” and the popular “Chuck E’s in Love”–Jones was becoming a figure whose life was bearing a great deal of emulation by young women and men who found, in her deep and personal and idiosyncratic life and work, a model for the new generation of hipster: She was heralded as a trendsetter in dress (beret, sub dresses, heels) and in lifestyle, given her by then famous relationship with two boys she helped to make famous, too: Chuck E. Weiss, a Los Angeles character, and the singer and songwriter Tom Waits, about whom Rickie has said: “We walk around the same streets, and I guess it’s primarily a jazz-motivated situation for both of us. We’re living on the jazz side of life.”

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