Put some black frosting on a cupcake and wear your jeans a little extra low in honor of Joan Jett, who celebrates her birthday today. Though her first band the Runaways were essentially a prefabricated collective (though to be fair, so were the Sex Pistols), Jett's fingerprints are all over the history of punk rock. The Runaways produced incredible, volatile music that introduced the world to Jett's gritty, muscular guitar work. Later, she produced the first (and only) album by fascinating Los Angeles punk band the Germs and collaborated with Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook on her early solo work.
And then, something crazy happened. Unable to find a label, Jett established Blackheart Records and released a self-titled solo album in 1980 (an album that contained songs that would later become seminal in Jett's catalog, including "Bad Reputation" and her cover of "Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)"). A year later, she formed a band called the Blackhearts and dropped I Love Rock n' Roll, whose title track shot to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and turned Jett into a mainstream rock star. The video picked up a ton of airplay on the just-born MTV network, and the album went on to sell millions of copies.
While Jett would never get back to the plateau of having a number one single in the country, she has continued to churn out excellent music. Her combination of savage originals and playful takes on covers kept her well anchored in the rock world, and she eventually became a hero for female guitar players (her chops are exceptional) as well as girls who want to express themselves loudly (as she has regularly lent her voice to progressive social causes).
Though Jett was thrust back into the spotlight with the release of the biopic "The Runaways" earlier this year (which saw "Twilight" star Kristen Stewart play Jett), the rocker hasn't put out any new music since 2006, when she dropped Sinner (which, in truth, was mostly a re-released of a Japan-only release from 2004 called Naked). It has some killer songs, including a cover of Sweet's "A.C.D.C.," which contains everything that makes Jett stellar: A killer riff, a playful look at sexuality and Jett's sharp vocal chops.