(Originally appeared in Mutant Renegade Zine 14, Spring 2000)
I first heard the loud thunder of the drums on the song I Love Rock n Roll during my freshman year in high school. It was one of the moments that really shaped my life. It was one of those moments that a person makes by deciding to finally take the risk and take a step towards the challenges that were once only a thought and never put into action. The crunching raw energy of the guitars chimed in and then a cool and sleek voice started to sing the lyrics.
In high school, I was one of those kids that were too scared to attempt anything for the fear of success. If I succeed, I dreaded the attention I would be receiving from everyone from the faculty to my peers. I talked myself out of so many opportunities because of the anxiety of failure. The terror of being humiliated by the overly critical “I’m too cool to be friends with you” micro brained species that were referred to as my peers let alone my family.
I grew up in the late 70′s and early 80′s when there were no strong female rock singers in my opinion. I saw pictures of Patty Smith in plenty of books and read endless articles about her incredibly poetic punk noise that she made in New York City, but no radio station dared to play her music. It seemed that all the female singers were either part of a band that included stronger males in the group or they were sweet and sappy female lead singers who wore dresses that were frilly and flowery and my mom tried to bribe me to wear a dress. They always seemed to sing about love and how great their guy was. I just didn’t get it.
At that point in time, I dreamed about being the star tennis player at my high school. I dreamed about traveling the world and meeting diverse people that would push me at challenge myself and to question my beliefs. I dreamed about being a great lead singer in a rock band and writing the perfect rock anthem. I dreamed about a lot of things, but I never put any of my dreams into action because I always saw barriers and I never truly believed in myself.
The day I first heard Joan Jett and the song I Love Rock n Roll really changed my life. She was the epitome of cool dressed in black leather with just the right amount of black eye liner applied to her attitude. Joan was appealing to me because she represented a strong independent female who was living her dream despite all of the stereotypes limiting so many females during the 80′s. Joan was not only a great lead singer; she was a gifted songwriter. She was the leader of the all-male band the Blackhearts. The Blackhearts are Joan’s vision of the perfect rock band. I looked up to her as a strong woman and a confident leader that didn’t focus on being female, but being talented in the male dominated world of rock n roll. She sang about things that were real to me like freedom, rock n roll, sexuality, and rebellion. Her vision and drive helped to push me to be courageous and to challenge myself when I had been paralyzed with fear. Whenever I hear Joan sing today, I feel like the 15-year-old girl who finally told herself, “Yes, Dammit! You can to anything you set you’re mind to.”