Cherie Currie met Joan Jett and Sandy West when they needed a singer for a band they were forming, and they liked Currie’s looks and her attitude. A short audition followed, and when it was over, the 15-year-old Currie was asked to join the band—The Runaways. After their debut record's release in 1976, the group's popularity began to soar, and their influence on female rockers remains evident today.
Cherie Ann Currie was born on November 30, 1959, in Los Angeles, California. A pioneering musician, Currie was the front-woman for the seminal girl band, The Runaways, whose hard-charging sound helped define rock 'n' roll in the late 1970s.
Currie's early childhood years were idyllic. With the San Fernando Valley as her backdrop, Currie was an ardent skateboarder and surfer. But things changed as a teenager, following her parents' divorce. Her mother, a former contract actor with Republic Studios, soon remarried and relocated to Indonesia with her new husband, taking her youngest child, Don, with her. Cherie and her twin sister, Marie, remained in California and moved in with an aunt, while an older sister, Sondra, struck out on her own.
Faced with this new reality, and the anger and frustration they felt toward their parents, Cherie and Marie turned to rock music and the scene around it. They found a second home of sorts at a place called the Sugar Shack, a teen-centric club in North Hollywood and landing place for a number of British bands on tour in the U.S.
From there, the story takes a seemingly improbable turn. During one visit to the Sugar Shack, Currie, as the story goes, met Kim Fowley, a record producer and band manager, and Joan Jett, a guitarist and songwriter. Jett and her fellow bandmate, drummer Sandy West, needed a singer for a band they were forming. They liked Cherie's looks and her attitude. A short audition followed, one in which Jett quickly penned "Cherry Bomb", a song that would come to define Currie and serve as an anthem for The Runaways. When it was over, the 15-year-old Currie was asked to join the band.
"I was thrust into fronting a band," she later recalled. "I'd never really sang. I'd never been on stage with a live band. It was like being in the center of a hurricane, everything was moving so fast."
She had good reason to feel that way. Just a few weeks after joining The Runaways, the band inked a deal with Mercury Records. A couple of weeks after that, they were in the studio recording tracks for their upcoming self-titled debut album.
Not long after the record's release in 1976, the group's popularity began to soar, thanks in no small part to Currie, whose rock-chick look perfectly augmented the loud, aggressive sound that roared from her fellow bandmates. In addition to Currie, Jett and West, the original band also included Lita Ford on lead guitar and Jackie Fox on bass.
Over the next year or so, the band released another studio record, Queens of Noise (1977), and a concert album, Live in Japan (1977), while also embarking on an ambitious international tour schedule. While the band's records never topped the charts in the U.S., the group's influence was evident, and in Japan especially the band found some commercial traction.
But the grinding tour schedule took its toll on Currie in particular, and after three records, she decided to leave The Runaways. She didn't, however, abandon music. In 1980 she recorded an album with her sister for Capitol Records called Messin' With the Boys.
With her new freedom and her name recognition, Currie felt liberated to try other creative endeavors. The same year she teamed up with her sister in the recording studio, Currie was cast opposite Jodie Foster in the movie Foxes. She went on to do additional acting work in movies such as Wavelength (1983) and Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), as well as appear on television shows such as Murder She Wrote and Matlock. In recent years, Currie has also become an expert chainsaw sculptor.
Currie has had her troubles as well. Alcohol and drug problems gripped her life. She eventually became clean, though, and in a revealing 1989 memoir called Neon Angel, Currie wrote candidly about her life with The Runaways and the years that followed.
In recent years, Currie and her former bandmates have enjoyed a much-deserved renaissance. Much of it was sparked by the 2010 movie about the group, The Runaways. The film tells the true and important story of how Currie and her bandmates blazed a new trail for future female rock musicians and bands like The Bangles and The Go-Gos.
Currie, who became a mother in 1990, lives in Southern California.
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