Matriarchs of Music | Joan Jett


Nicole Damron, Writer/Volunteer

When you think of women in rock and roll, you think of Joan Jett. You think of her signature haircut, affinity for leather and raspy rock tone that make her “The Queen of Rock and Roll.” This and much more make Jett one of my personal idols; her take-no-shit demeanor, guitar finesse and distinct rocker style inspires me every day to be my authentic self, which draws heavy influence from her, right down to my haircut. Joan Jett’s career has been, and continues to be, one of the most impressive in the world of rock music, and her staying power has made her a feminist icon that I admire greatly. 

The first song I ever heard by Jett was “Bad Reputation,” and I’m not ashamed to say it was in the Shrek movie franchise (those movies had killer soundtracks, and that’s just a fact), and as I grew into my love for rock and roll, I continued to venture into her discography. 



Songs like “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)” quickly became some of my favorite anti-love songs, and covers of “Crimson and Clover” and “I Love Rock ‘N Roll” continue to be anthems I go back to. 



Joan Jett’s career began as a member of The Runaways in the 70s, founding the band with drummer Sandy West. Bassist Jackie Fox, guitarist Lita Ford and lead singer Cherie Currie soon made up the rest of the group, and The Runaways went on to have a short but successful career that laid the foundations for the future solo success many members of the band found, specifically Jett. 

After limited success as a true solo artist, Jett formed Joan Jett and the Blackhearts with producer Jeff Laguna, whom she met while filming a movie about The Runaways in LA. In spring of 1981, a show at The Palladium in New York City skyrocketed the band’s following, so much that within a year Joan Jett and The Blackhearts were touring and releasing their chart-topping album I Love Rock ‘n Roll

From there the band only saw more and more success, scoring multiple Top 40 hits and touring with some of the biggest names in rock and roll. Jett and The Blackhearts are still together and recording music, with their last record Unvarnished  in 2013 reaching Billboard’s Top 50, and their touring schedule including future gigs with bands like Poison and Def Leppard.

In addition to being a treasured rock musician, Joan Jett’s style, attitude, and aesthetics paved the way for those of the “Riot Grrrl” movement of the 90s. Her strong and outspoken feminism, along with her characteristic jet black mullet and heavy eyeliner, were huge influences on groups like Bikini Kill—THE “Riot Grrrl” band of that era. Jett brought feminism to rock and roll where it had previously been lacking, and pioneered a subculture where female empowerment and power-chord punk provided the soundtrack for a counter-culture movement. 

Jett continues to be an industry mainstay, and has continued recording and touring with The Blackhearts as well as lending her talents to other artists and projects. Over the last decade, songs like “Bad Reputation” and “I Hate Myself For Loving You” have been featured in a handful of different sporting events, including the more well-known reworking of the latter for the “Sunday Night Football” theme. Most recently, Jett lent her vocals to Miley Cyrus’s “Bad Karma” off of her 2020 Plastic Hearts album. The track could not have been a more perfect collaboration, with Cyrus’s and Jett’s raspy tones and equally punchy delivery complementing each other perfectly. It doesn’t look like she plans on slowing down any time soon, with the band already planning  to tour in late 2021.



“I don’t give a damn ‘bout my reputation/

Living in the past, it’s a new generation/

A girl can do what she wants to do, and that’s what I’m gonna do/

And I don’t give a damn ‘bout my bad reputation/

Oh no, not me”


Joan Jett and her outspoken defiance of the status quo and gender roles make her a true feminist icon, and this Women’s History Month I wanted to show my appreciation for her, her music, and everything she stands for. I’m inspired by her every day in my musical influences, style and fierce support of feminist ideologies. I may have never picked up a guitar if it weren’t for Jett, and my affinity for leather and eyeliner can be entirely attributed to her. I am so excited to see what the future holds for one of my favorite artists, and I’m sure it will be nothing less than legendary.