Happy birthday, Joan Jett, born on this day in 1958. The Queen of Rock and Roll, frontwoman for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and founding member of the all-girl hard rock band The Runaways (along with drummer Sandy West) turns 61 today.
In honor of the pivotal rocker, who was the first female artist to found her own label, Blackheart Records, and produced Riot Grrrl acts Bikini Kill and L7, we present to you some of her best hits, along with the drummers who backed her, starting with West, whose meaty riffs propelled the ferocious, punk sound of The Runaways.
When West died in 2006 of lung cancer, Jett said: “We shared the dream of girls playing rock and roll. Sandy was an exuberant and powerful drummer.”
After The Runaways, Jett formed the Blackhearts. In trying to create the record, which was rejected by 23 different labels, she decided to start her own with producer Kenny Laguna, and with help from an unlikely source—The Who.
Jett told Rolling Stone later that “We wouldn’t have been able to make the record if [The Who] hadn’t helped us. They basically let us record what became Bad Reputation and [said], ‘Pay us when you can.'”
Lee Crystal was Jett’s drummer from 1981-86, playing on the band’s most popular recordings, including “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” (above), which went number one on the Billboard charts in 1982, “Bad Reputation,” and “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah).”
“Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)”
From 1986 on, drummer Thommy Price has been at the helm for Jett, though at first only in the studio. A popular session drummer, Price has also played with Billy Idol, Scandal, and Blue Oyster Cult.
With Price, Jett had two more chart-toppers from her Up Your Alley album. “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and and “Little Liar.”
“I Hate Myself for Loving You”
Jett has continued to break rules and defy expectations throughout her successful and storied career, and for these efforts, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
Sometimes a bad reputation leads to a good place in the end.