March 20

This Day in History

Music

Mar 20, 1982:

Joan Jett tops the pop charts with "I Love Rock 'n' Roll"

With her smoldering looks and guitar hooks, Joan Jett had rock-star charisma to rival any man's. Jett burst onto the scene as a solo artist with "I Love Rock 'n' Roll," the three-chord anthem that topped the Billboard pop chart on March 20, 1982.

"I Love Rock 'n' Roll" was originally written and recorded in 1975 by a British group called the Arrows, who never made an impact on this side of the Atlantic. Joan Jett heard the song in 1977 while touring the U.K. with the Runaways, the teenage hard-rock girl group that also launched the career of hair-metal diva Lita Ford. Following the demise of the Runaways, Jett kicked off her solo career with a roughed-up version of Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me" in 1979 and a debut album called Bad Reputation in 1980. While that album's title track has since become regarded as a classic, it was not until 1982's "I Love Rock 'n' Roll," from the album of the same name, that Joan Jett truly became a household name.

As big as she became, however, it was always clear that Joan Jett could have been bigger if she made the necessary compromises. With much of the population of America's young men already eating out of her hand, all she needed to do was soften her image just the tiniest bit, and she may just have been able to rule the music world. But by refusing to bend to commercial convention and adopt a more feminized persona, Joan Jett did more than just leave room for the future career of Courtney Love. She also proved that she loved rock and roll more than she loved being a pop star, and she cemented a reputation for integrity that will likely stand intact long after most of her followers have been forgotten.

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