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As frontwoman for The Runaways, Joan Jett became a female pioneer in the male-dominated world of rock music. She is also a songwriter and producer.
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She also tried acting, appearing in a film based on the story of the Runaways entitled We're All Crazy Now. Around this time, Jett met producer Kenny Laguna and songwriter Ritchie Cordell. Both men helped her with her first solo album.
Jett tried to get a record label to distribute her new album, but she was rejected by 23 different companies. Out of frustration, she and Laguna founded Blackheart Records in 1980,
making Jett the first female artist to own and have direct control over an independent record company. In making the record, she got help from an unlikely source -- rock supergroup the Who. Laguna was friends with the band members and their manager, and they let Jett use their recording facilities. She later told Rolling Stone magazine that "We wouldn't have been able to make the record if they hadn't helped us. They basically let us record what became Bad Reputation and [said], 'Pay us when you can.'"
At first, Jett and Laguna printed and distributed the record themselves, selling copies at Jett's shows. The record then was picked up by Boardwalk Records and re-released as Bad Reputation. Her rock-pop sound, however, didn't quite catch on. Not one to give up, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts put together another album. I Love Rock 'n' Roll became a huge hit, driven in large part to the title track, which hit the top of the pop charts in early 1982. She had two more hit singles that year with her version of Tommy James' "Crimson and Clover" and Gary Glitter's "Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)."
Building on her newfound fame, Jett released Album in 1983, but it failed to match her earlier success. It featured the top 40 single, "Fake Friends," and a cover of Sly and the Family Stones' hit "Everyday People." Her next effort, 1984's Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth, offered listeners her remake of "Cherry Bomb," but it did not fare well on the charts.
Jett again tried acting with a role in Light of Day with Michael J. Fox. The film failed with critics and at the box office, but she had a minor hit with the theme song, a Bruce Springsteen cover. Just when it looked like her career was in decline, Jett returned to the charts in 1988 with two hits, "I Hate Myself for Loving You" and "Little Liar" from her Up Your Alley album.
In 1990, Jett released a collection of cover songs, The Hit List, which included the minor hit "Dirty Deeds," originally performed by AC/DC. Two more albums followed with little commercial success. She did, however, receive a lot of positive reviews for 1994's Pure and Simple. The title came from her style of music. "Our music is still pure and simple basic rock," she told Guitar Player. "We never stopped playing three-chord rock and roll."
Outside of her own music, Jett worked as a producer for groups such as Bikini Kill and L7, along with several other female-led rock bands that drew inspiration from Jett and the punk-glam rock sound of the Runaways. She also recorded with the surviving members of the Seattle punk band the Gits as Evil Stig.
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