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Remaining Vital by Staying the Same

Joan Jett has been repeatedly claimed anew by generations of music fans.
Joan Jett has been repeatedly claimed anew by generations of music fans.

It's a tough trick for any musician to successfully redefine him- or herself over the years, and it's harder still to do it by remaining exactly the same. But like the Ramones before her, Joan Jett has accomplished precisely that. Simply by staying true to what she's always done, Jett has not only survived in a hostile industry, but has also been repeatedly claimed anew by generations of music fans while retaining her air of danger and rebellion. All of which suggests that her approach was radical from the start, all the more so because almost no one noticed at the time.

Jett didn't write "A.C.D.C.," not that she wrote "I Love Rock n' Roll," either. The sexually frustrated original (by Sweet) is mostly just a nudge-nudge-wink-wink laugh, what the Brits would have called "cheeky" in the glam-friendly early 1970s. Jett's version is more of a gauntlet being thrown down, still playful but with more of a snarl as she describes her itinerant paramour. And, by singing a song originally intended for a man without apology or comment, just as she did in her most famous hit, Jett once again assumes — rather than demands — the right to satisfaction on her own terms by refusing to act as though it's even up for discussion.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Marc Hirsh
Marc Hirsh lives in the Boston area, where he indulges in the magic trinity of improv comedy, competitive adult four square and music journalism. He has won trophies for one of these, but refuses to say which.