She loves rock 'n' roll - and fans love her
In case you were wondering, Joan Jett really does love rock 'n' roll.
After more than four decades in the business of creating great music, the legendary rock singer is still taking no prisoners as she adds to her "bad reputation."
When Joan Jett and the Blackhearts touch down at Chinook Winds Casino & Resort in Lincoln City for a pair of concerts March 3 and 4, the audience will get Jett's heart, but it can't touch her soul.
That's nestled deep in a rock 'n' roll career that began with the all-female Runaways at age 16 in 1975, hit gold after she formed the Blackhearts in 1979 and continues to strike a chord with fans everywhere who like a little attitude with their rock music.
The Blackhearts' biggest hit, "I Love Rock 'n' Roll," was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks in 1982 and remains an anthem played in movies and at sporting events throughout the country. Their version of Tommy James and the Shondells' "Crimson and Clover" (a personal favorite) and "Do You Want to Touch Me?" both reached the top 20 the same year. In 1988, along came "I Hate Myself for Loving You," which climbed as high as No. 8 on the charts.
Jett was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015; "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" made it into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016.
The best thing about all of this? Jett, 58, isn't slowing down for anybody.
For tickets to the Chinook Winds shows, visit www.chinookwindscasino.com.
Jett made time for her fans who read the Portland Tribune, calling while driving from Houston to Lake Charles, Louisiana, for the Blackhearts' first road show of the year:
Tribune: How is it to still be rocking after all these years?
Jett: I'm so glad I'm still able to do it. I feel good that people still care enough that I can still play, and that they show up. That's a blessing. I'd enjoy it even if that wasn't the case, but I'm just really lucky we have a lot of fans who support us.
Tribune: You've played dates in Oregon several times in the past. Any memories?
Jett: Seems like we get out there about once a year. I love Oregon. It's a beautiful state. I've always found the people to be extremely friendly. They love rock and roll. I think the first time I played in Oregon was with The Runaways. But no specific memories. You do so many shows, it's hard to single them out, unless you fall off a stage. Then you remember, "Wow, we had a great time."
Tribune: Is it still fun to do live shows?
Jett: Traveling has gotten worse over the years because of the security issues. It's changed everything. But doing the shows? Oh yeah, definitely. It's a connection with people. You see them in the crowd. You meet eyes. They smile and light up. There's that moment of one-ness. It's hard to put into words sometimes, but it's a magical thing. You create a little magic and have an experience with people of like minds — and sometimes of not like minds. But you all meet in this place of music, of rock and roll.
Our music speaks to people for different reasons. But if it connects, that's the main thing. I don't think we have one kind of fan. We have all sorts of people who love the music. I'm always pleasantly surprised that people even know who I am. I definitely enjoy it. I love what I'm doing.
Tribune: When you hear yourself referred to as "The Queen of Rock 'n' Roll," or "The Original Riot Grrrl," what do you think?
Jett: It makes me feel self-conscious. It's hard for me to think of myself in that way. I'm in a rock 'n' roll band. I play music. I don't like putting myself on that kind of pedestal. It's not necessary for me. I don't like the ego aspect of it.
Tribune: What is the most fun thing for you about the music you play?
Jett: To not have to think. It's just sort of automatic. It's relaxed, yet dynamic time you spend on a stage. It's physical. If everything's going the way you want it to go, you're not thinking; you're being. You're in the moment. It's hard to describe it, but you feel it. Once you feel it, you know it. I used to love hot, sweaty gigs. That stuff doesn't happen too much anymore, but I love every aspect of the physicality of rock 'n' roll. There's a certain sexuality about it to me. It's a full-on experience, both physically and mentally.
Tribune: Ten years ago, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the top 100 guitarists of all-time. You were No. 87, the second woman behind Joni Mitchell. You were the only two women on the list. How do you feel about the distinction? Should there be more women included?
Jett: There should absolutely be more women. They need to update their list. There are many more women who deserve to be on there, so many bands with women in them now. I'll tell you, it's great to be on the list, but I never really got into this business to win awards or be on lists. It's a great thing when it happens, but that's not the goal. It's just a nice little perk.
Tribune: How long have you been a vegetarian? How strict are you?
Jett: I'm almost a vegan. I'm not a strict vegan, but I'm close. I've been doing that for, God, maybe 20 years. What happened, we were on an eight-month bus tour. It's hard for me to eat before a show — you eat a meal, then you're pushing it out. So you wind up eating late at night, and eating meat was very heavy. I started reading "Diet for a New America" by John Robbins, about food from farms to the table.
Reading that book and about what is done to the animals — well, I was a big meat eater, but I'm an animal lover. I had never put the two together, but I started to at that point. Now, I can't be part of that. I don't begrudge other people. Everyone has to come to their own determination, but it's not part of what I want to do anymore. I like animals too much.
Tribune: Are you still a fan of baseball's Baltimore Orioles?
Jett: I'm a maniac. Pitchers report to spring training today (Feb. 17), with the full squad this weekend in Sarasota (Florida). I went to a fantasy camp in 1992. I'm a huge Orioles fan. I can't wait for the season to start.
Tribune: What do you do on an off day to relax?
Jett: I have a home in New York City, and a place in Long Beach (New York), 100 yards from the ocean. It's really great. It's like meditation. You get the craziness of the city, and then I get to clean it all out with the ocean, hanging out with my two cats. I love being with them.
When I'm not doing that, I love to go out and walk the boardwalk or ride my bike and just enjoy the weather if I can. When I'm on the road, I try to hang out, see the sights, take in all I can and enjoy the surroundings. We're going to Memphis soon, and I want to visit Graceland again. Last time, I put a pick on Elvis' grave.
Tribune: Are you still writing new songs?
Jett: The challenge is always how you do it. Love, hate, sex, breaking up — all that stuff is material I've written about in the past. But as I grow up in this, I try to think of a way to relate these subjects to growing older and still feeling rock 'n' roll. Trying to add another dimension to what life is instead of just writing rock 'n' roll as you did when you were 20 or 30 and partying. What happens when you're older? Does it change things? How do you look at life when you hopefully have more wisdom?
I'm a little stuck right now. We're in the process of loosening it up. You forget that songwriting is work. Once in awhile, you sit down and something pours out. But usually it happens a little at a time. Not that it's bad. I like working. It's like therapy.
Tribune: What can the Chinook Winds audience expect from your shows?
Jett: They'll hear a variety of songs that the fans will know from different albums — tracks on the radio. We'll be playing all the hits. We're going to have some fun. We always do.