You know that raspy voice. You know that tiny figure, dressed in bad-girl black. You know that flawless face with the heavy eyeliner. You know that black hair. You know that big-guitar sound punching out the three-chord rock ’n’ roll. Of course you know all that: Joan Jett is an institution. And as with all institutions, it’s easy to take Jett for granted. She hasn’t had a major hit since “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” in 1981, and neither her look nor her sound has changed much since then — give or take a song or haircut (or two).
It seems a new generation will be discovering Jett soon. Kristen Stewart, of the Twilight movies, will play Jett in a forthcoming movie about the Runaways, the all-female band Jett founded when she was just 15. (A documentary called Edgeplay - A Film About The Runaways came out in 2004. Jett has, in her characteristically polite and professional manner, denounced it.) The gossip blogs went nuts when Stewart was photographed sporting her version of Jett’s famous mullet. The movie isn’t set for release until next year, but already fashion magazine Nylon has hyped it by publishing an article about how to borrow Jett’s look.
I hope that this next generation of fans will learn something else from Jett. She’s built a career largely on her own terms, staying true to herself and her music in a way that few rockers have. She now has her own record label, Blackheart, and is helping give a boost to young bands like Girl in a Coma. An institution? Yes, and the best kind.
JOAN JETT: Del Mar Fairgrounds, Friday, July 3, 8 p.m. 858-755-1161.