By Brian Ives
On Thursday night at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, Joan Jett was the subject of one pretty rocking tribute concert. Little Kids Rock — an organization dedicated to maintaing music education programs in disadvantaged public schools – had their annual fundraiser, and the theme of the night was Jett’s songbook. (Read our review of the show, and see photos, here).
A cross-generational, multi-genre lineup got together to perform songs either written, or made famous, by Jett: the bill included Cheap Trick, Gary U.S. Bonds, Brody Dalle, Jesse Malin, Kathleen Hanna with Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys, Darlene Love, Mike Ness of Social Distortion, Tommy James, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day and Alice Cooper. Most of them played while Jett watched, although she joined Tommy James (for the duo’s first ever performance of “Crimson and Clover”), Armstrong and Cooper.
On Friday afternoon, she called to talk to Radio.com about the process of being paid tribute to, her new acting role and her next album.
Radio.com: So, what was going through your mind as you were seeing all of these artists perform your songs?
Joan Jett: It was surreal, I had to keep pinching myself. I couldn’t believe those people were there for me. Some of these artists who I grew up with, or who are peers of mine. They were all there: they were all doing my music. It was crazy! It’s hard to put into its proper context. I haven’t quite found the right words to describe it, if there are any words to describe it. The word “surreal” doesn’t really cut it, now that I’ve heard myself say it a bunch of times. It was beautiful, I felt the love in the room. It was great.
Earlier this year, you were honored at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards [she was the first woman to win the “Golden God” award]. You’re accepted and loved in metal, in punk, in Steven Van Zandt‘s Underground Garage rock scene, and by straight up classic rock fans. But all of those crowds don’t always mix, it must feel cool that you can roll with all of those crowds.
It’s very gratifying, because I am part of all of those things. Some songs are more punk, some songs are more metal. To me, it’s all rock and roll.
Last night during your speech, you said you learned music in school, but you didn’t learn rock and roll.
At my school, we had band class, and I played clarinet for a few semesters. I couldn’t play clarinet today to save my life! And I don’t know how to read music. I think what I learned there was that I love to play music, but maybe the clarinet just wasn’t my instrument. It took me a little bit longer to latch onto the guitar. I learned so much about Little Kids Rock, it’s an incredible organization. What Steven and Maureen [Van Zandt] has done for it, also [Little Kids Rock CEO] David Wish, and even Hot Topic who has been involved for years raising money… I think that it’s incredible and so important. Because the kids do need these programs in school: art and music.
Little Kids Rock, to some degree, focuses on contemporary music, giving kids guitars and basses and drum sets. What I meant in my speech was that in my music classes, we didn’t get those options: you’d play violin or you’d play clarinet or something like that. They certainly didn’t have drum sets, they may have had cymbals or a marching snare. But kids hear a lot of music from a young age, and if they have the inclination to want to try playing, they should have the option. I want to get more involved with them in the future, and do whatever I can to help.
One of the most moving parts of the evening was Kathleeen Hanna’s speech about you before her performance. She talked about how you helped her during a difficult part in her life. She also told a story about you getting knocked out cold when someone threw a bottle at you during a concert and it hit you in the head. Do you remember that incident and did you actually get knocked out?
Yes I do remember it. I don’t think I was knocked out cold, but I was knocked to the ground and I was in a daze. But during Kathleen’s speech, I was on the verge of tears. I guess I just didn’t realize how much I meant to Kathleen, and what our experience meant to her. To me, it was just two musicians, and two girls from slightly different generations, relating but having the same experiences. It was really moving. To tell you the truth, I’m still processing it. I don’t know what to say.
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