As a producer, she has overseen albums by Bikini Kill, Circus Lupus, and the Vacancies, as well as the Germs' LA punk masterpiece, GI. Jett was even one of only two women named to Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest guitar players of all time.
In the end, though, Joan Jett's life has been dedicated to one goal and one goal only - rocking the hell out of every listener she can reach. "I remember times when I was at shows and the person onstage locked eyes with me," she recently told Esquire magazine. "And in that moment, everything was right with the world. I think that's part of my job, to create these thousands of moments every night."
Since co-founding the Runaways, the pioneering all-girl punk quintet, at age 15, Jett's determination and drive have kept her in the public eye. This year, however, her profile will skyrocket yet again, with the release of both a long-awaited feature film telling the story of the Runaways and a new, two-disc Greatest Hits collection.
The Runaways is based on lead singer Cherie Currie's book Neon Angel. Kristen Stewart, star of the Twilight series films, plays Jett, and her fellow A-Lister Dakota Fanning portrays Currie. The movie chronicles the band's early years; formed by teenage girls living near Hollywood, CA., the Runaways became the first all-girl band to break into the world of arena-filling hard rock acts.
After the success of their first single, "Cherry Bomb," the Runaways toured with such acts as the Ramones, Cheap Trick, and Tom Petty. But in Japan, the band became huge stars - their arrival for a set of shows in 1977 was like Beatlemania all over again. During the Japanese tour, Currie began to struggle, and she left the band when they returned home - but Jett decided to keep fighting the rock & roll fight, with the Runaways and then on her own.
Jett has been close to the project: She serves as an executive producer on the film, and she has described Kristen Stewart as being "like a little sister." For her part, the young actress has said of Jett that "her story's important - it's an incredibly triumphant feminist story, really."
The two discs of the Greatest Hits set, meanwhile, present twenty blazing tracks from Jett's three-decade-plus career. From "Cherry Bomb" through her smashes in the '80s and '90s, all the way up to the recent favorite "A.C.D.C.," it's a comprehensive look at one of rock's most iconic figures.
In addition, the compilation will feature eco-friendly packaging (100% recycled paper and biodegradable trays). Jett, who has been dedicated to protecting the environment for most of her life, couldn't be more thrilled to be offering a "green" effort.
"I've always appreciated nature," she says, "trees, grass, birds, sun, and even insects. I obsessively recycle. I almost never turn on lights; I pretty much live in the dark. I don't use a lot of water. I'm a vegetarian, so I avoid contributing to the major environmental damage that the meat industry creates. I hope that soon we can make sure that everything we do is earth-friendly."
Of course, the hits collection will be released through Jett's own Blackheart Records, a label she founded in 1980 - which made her the first female artist to own and operate an independent record company. She and her longtime songwriting partner/producer Kenny Laguna created Blackheart after being rejected by 23 different labels when she was trying to release "I Love Rock n Roll," after she parted ways with the Runaways. (The song went on to spend eight weeks at Number One in 1982, and remains one of Billboard magazine's top thirty songs of all time.)
Blackheart Records is currently home to such up-and-coming groups as San Antonio-based female threesome Girl In A Coma (Both Before I'm Gone) and Los Angeles' pop-punk trio the Dollyrots (Because I'm Awesome). The label continues to add new artists to its roster.
"I keep my eyes open [for new acts to sign] all the time when I'm on the road," says Jett. "We made Blackheart Records what we wanted it to be. It's a place where musicians can feel comfortable, both in a work environment and on an artistic level."
Since the release of Sinner in 2006, Jett has continuously toured across the globe, including a summer as a headliner on the Vans Warped Tour and stints alongside such bands as Aerosmith. Her music has become a permanent force in mainstream culture. Faith Hill sings "I Hate Myself for Loving You" as the theme for NBC's Sunday Night Football, and "Bad Reputation" is the theme for the hit show American Chopper.
Jett's version of "Love is All Around," the theme from the Mary Tyler Moore Show, became a popular anthem for women's sports. Her songs have also been featured in countless films, including Shrek, Charlie's Angels, and Monster.
Joan Jett has spent her lifetime breaking barriers and challenging expectations. She's fought hard for all of her historic accomplishments, yet she remains humble and appreciative.
"I've had a blessed career," she says. "I consider myself so lucky to have been able to do things my own way."
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