After nearly 35 years of slinging a guitar over her left shoulder — first as a teenager with the allfemale band the Runaways and since 1979 as a solo artist — Joan Jett still loves rock ‘n’ roll.
And the Arts, Beats & Eats headliner says that’s the main message she tries to impart on her fans when she performs these days.
“The fun part for me is actually being on stage,” says Jett, 50, who was born Joan Larkin and is best-known for hits such as “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll,” “Bad Reputation,” “I Hate Myself For Loving You” and covers of Gary Glitter’s “Do You Want to Touch Me (Oh Yeah)” and Tommy James’ “Crimson and Clover.”
“I think part of it is just being a fan
when I was a kid, and I
went to see bands and the connection that I felt. I’d look at the band and I’d be smiling and I’d hear my favorite song and they’d be looking in my general direction and I’d feel like I was actually locking eyes with someone like (the New York Dolls’)
David Johansen or Ozzy Osbourne. That feeling’s a really special one.
“And I do get fans who come up to me all the time and say, ‘I was at your show’ and they recite a date and they say, ‘You looked at me and we smiled’ or ‘You dropped sweat on me.’ It’s all those thousands of connections. That’s the special part for me, what makes it fun and wanting to continue to do it.”
Jett, in fact, maintains her career as more than just someone who writes and records songs and plays shows. Her Blackheart Records, launched in 1980 with longtime creative partner Kenny Laguna, ranks as one of the oldest independent record companies in the U.S. and now has a roster that includes Girl in a Coma and the Dollyrots. Jett also is credited as a fashion pioneer with her leather-and-studs look, and she has her own signature guitar model.
She’s done some acting as well — in 1987’s “Light of Day” and the upcoming surfer film spoof “National Lampoon presents Endless Bummer.” But more recently, Jett has stepped into the role of executive producer for “The Runaways,” a film about her ’70s band that’s based partly on singer Cherie Currie’s 1989 memoir “Neon Angel” and features “Twilight” star Kristen Stewart as Jett and Dakota Fanning as Currie. The film is due out in 2010, and Jett was on the set every day, often coaching Stewart through her portrayal.
“It’s absolutely not a bio-pic,” explains Jett, who’s planning a greatest hits set, possibly with some new songs, for 2010, too. “It’s not fact-for- fact. What they did was basically take elements from the Runaways story and created a parallel narrative.
“It was very surreal and hard to put a word on. It definitely made me smile. It reinforces my love for the band and the fact I think it was an extremely important band, regardless of our level of success in America. It just reinforces my love of the whole time and of the band and what we did.”
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts perform at 9 p.m. Sept. 5 on the Michigan Lottery Stage at Arts, Beats & Eats in downtown Pontiac. Admission is $2. Visit www.artsbeatseats.com or call (248) 334-4600.
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