The legendary rock star got her first guitar at age 14. She took lessons, but soon quit when the instructor kept trying to teach her folk songs.
She soon moved with her family to Los Angeles, where her favourite hangout was Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco. It was there where she got her first taste of glam rock.
At 15, she became a founding member of The Runaways, along with drummer Sandy West. Jackie Fox, Lita Ford, and Cherie Currie completed the lineup. The band gained massive popularity overseas, especially in Asia, but they were never able to garner the same success in the U.S. They disbanded in 1979.
After leaving The Runaways, Jeff pursued a solo career in England, recording three songs with Paul Cook and Steve Jones of Sex Pistols, including an early version of ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’.
Jett moved back to the U.S. and recorded her first solo album. The self-titled record was released in Europe in May 1980, but was rejected by 23 major U.S. labels. The rejection prompted Jett and her producer, Kenny Laguna, to release the album independently on their new Blackheart Records label.
Laguna then convinced Jett to start the Blackhearts. She placed an ad in L.A. Weekly, “looking for three good men”. Auditions were held and the Blackhearts were formed with Gary Ryan on bass, Eric Ambel on guitar, and Danny ‘Furious’ O’Brien on drums.
After some line-up changes, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts re-released her solo album as Bad Reputation. They toured for a year and recorded I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll. They later released Album and Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth. A slew of Top 40 hits and sold-out tours soon followed.
Jett received her own MTV New Year’s Eve special and beat out a number of contenders to appear in the film Light of Day with Michael J. Fox.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts were also the first rock band to play at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway, where they broke the record for fastest ticket sell-out.
In 2003, Joan Jett was named in Rolling Stone‘s greatest 100 guitarists of all time; she was one of two women listed.
Jett continues to tour and produce music. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts are set to release their tenth studio album on September 30.