Hoopla

Joan Jett rockin' stage & screen

PMK-BNC

Rock innovator and icon Joan Jett will perform with her longtime band, The Blackhearts, on Wednesday (8/8) at the McGrath Amphitheatre in Cedar Rapids. Born Joan Larkin in the Philadelphia metro area, she changed her name to Jett, a name she made up in her youth. “I got very protective of my own self,” she said, “because people would try to diminish The Runaways for who we were, what we did, including making fun of my name, so I just made up a story.”
PMK-BNC Rock innovator and icon Joan Jett will perform with her longtime band, The Blackhearts, on Wednesday (8/8) at the McGrath Amphitheatre in Cedar Rapids. Born Joan Larkin in the Philadelphia metro area, she changed her name to Jett, a name she made up in her youth. “I got very protective of my own self,” she said, “because people would try to diminish The Runaways for who we were, what we did, including making fun of my name, so I just made up a story.”
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Put another dime in the jukebox, baby. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts are bringing back to Cedar Rapids the rock ’n’ roll we’ve loved for more than four decades.

The innovator and icon who helped blaze a trail for women in rock will bring her endless energy and hit list to the McGrath Amphitheatre on Wednesday night (8/8). She’ll also bring a few new tunes, including several from “Bad Reputation,” a documentary of her life, which drew rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival in January and is moving into theatrical release in September.

“It takes you along the whole journey of the joy and the elation of actually forming our all-girl band, being out there and doing what you were born to do,” Jett said by phone Tuesday in New York City, en route from her home to the recording studio. “Then it all comes crashing down, and the depression of that.”

Seeing it at Sundance, she found herself immersed in the story. “I went back on that emotional ride. It took me through that, and some other people felt that as well. (You) see the humanity in the whole project, and it’s sort of a dream that came true.”

Jett burst onto the scene in 1976 when the hard-rocking girl group The Runaways dropped “Cherry Bomb” in the middle of a male-dominated field. She was just 15. The band dissolved in 1979, and the following year, Jett released her self-titled studio album, re-released in 1981 as “Bad Reputation.” Also that year, she gathered a new band, The Blackhearts, and topped the charts with “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll.” It was the title cut off the group’s debut album, which went platinum in the United States and double-platinum in Canada.

Hits and accolades started piling up for the punk rocker who initially was turned down by 23 record labels. So she did the unthinkable and formed her own label, Blackheart Records, in 1980.

She’s been doing her own thing ever since, branching out into television, film and even Broadway, taking a turn as Columbia in the Tony-nominated 2000 revival of “The Rocky Horror Show.”

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“It was so much fun,” she said of the cult-classic musical based on the cult-classic movie. “I grew up on it in a lot of ways. (The movie) ‘Rocky Horror’ came out in ’75 and was really big for me.” Fast-forward to her turn in the play version, and she said: “I didn’t have to look at the script too much — for the words for the acting, I did — but the songs I still remembered from being a kid.

“It was so much fun,” she said of the cult-classic musical based on the cult-classic movie. “I grew up on it in a lot of ways. (The movie) ‘Rocky Horror’ came out in ’75 and was really big for me.” Fast-forward to her turn in the play version, and she said: “I didn’t have to look at the script too much — for the words for the acting, I did — but the songs I still remembered from being a kid.”

She wanted to act before blazing a trail with her guitar.

“I was in drama class in school, and things like that,” she said. “Seeing ‘Cabaret’ was a big one for me. The combination of the campiness, the beautiful, beautiful songs in that movie — Liza Minnelli was just magic and Joel Grey — it just hit me at a certain time in life, and I just thought, ‘I want to do that,’ to combine acting and singing. As I did that in school, eventually I heard guitars on the radio and wanted to make those sounds.”

Now on the verge of turning 60, she said her music has evolved, too.

“I’m a better singer for sure. I’ve learned how to sing over the years,” she said. “When I started, I was doing a combination of singing and attempting to sing, but I’ve learned over the years.”

She gathered tips from people she’s encountered along the way, including her work on Broadway.

“I’ve become a better singer technically — using my breath, knowing certain vocal exercises to do if I’m in trouble. I’m just lucky that I was born with pretty good pitch. That’s sort of an innate thing — you can’t really learn how to sing on tune. So I’ve just become a better singer to be able to control it, and know how not to reach for things when I can’t do that.

“As far as songwriting goes — just growing up. Hopefully, your songwriting evolves to show that. Maybe you still write about love and sex and all those things you wrote about when you were younger. But the world is changing and evolving, and you want to reflect what you’re seeing at the time, and I’m not really sure what that is now.

“It’s kind of scary, each time you attempt to write. ‘Can I do this? What have I got to say now?’ And you forget that it really is work. It’s a process — it’s not like everything pops out at once. Maybe once or twice, maybe three times in my whole life that a song has just come out with a lot of the music and the theme and the words kinda there. Most of the time it’s just a lot of work, and going over it and writing down the stupidest ideas that you think are just stupid, but you just hone them, and you forget each time that it’s what you’ve got to do. ...

“Trust the process and you’ll be OK instead of overthinking everything.”

GET OUT!

WHAT: Joan Jett with opener Dorothy

WHERE: McGrath Amphitheatre, 475 First St. SW, Cedar Rapids

WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday (8/8)

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TICKETS: $35 to $82.50, U.S. Cellular Center Box Office, 1-(800) 745-3000 or Mcgrathamphitheatre.com/event/joan-jett/

SEATING: Chairs provided for the Orchestra, Terrace and Lawn sections; only lawn chairs allowed for General Admission

ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Joanjett.com

l Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

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