10 Best Joan Jett Songs – Pioneering Woman of Rock

Joan Jett is a visionary force in the music world. Heading up punk rock’s first mainstream all-girl group, The Runaways, she soon found herself touring Japan and Europe with the success of their debut single, the fiery underground hit ‘Cherry Bomb.’ The breakup of her first group didn’t slow her down for long. She wasted no time striking it out on her own, laying down recordings with fellow punk rockers the Sex Pistols, and forming the band that would back her up, The Blackhearts. In the ’80s, Jett produced hit after hit, solidifying her place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.

From ‘Crimson and Clover’ to ‘I Love Rock ‘n Roll,’ here is a jam-packed list of the best Joan Jett songs.

10. School Days

Before Joan Jett reached international fame as a headlining act with her band The Blackhearts, she headed up pioneering all-girl punk-rock group, The Runaways. Among longtime fans of the fearless band, it’s a definite favorite. Even though it wasn’t a hit it plays like one, with clean, driving electric guitar work at the hands of both Jett and fellow bandmate Lita Ford. The powerful drum beat is held down by Runaways founding member Sandy West, and Jett’s in-your-face but somehow graceful vocals make you want to put the track on repeat.

9. Dirty Deeds

In 1990, the punk rocker released an album different than any she’d recorded before, The Hit List. Tracks featured on the project were all covers of both Jett’s favorite fellow rockers and some of rock’s most notorious tunes. She covered the Sex Pistol’s cult classic ‘Pretty Vacant’ and ZZ Top’s legendary ‘Tush.’ She also released a cover of AC/DC’s song ‘Dirty Deeds’ as a single. It’s a high-powered tune that rocks from beginning to end, with booming guitar solos and backing vocals by her band pumping throughout. The music video to the single is unapologetically ’80s, and Jett is so glamoured up you can hardly recognize her. A definite break from her usual “riot grrrl” persona. Make sure to check it out.

Recommended: Stomp over to our list of best punk songs.

8. Cherry Bomb

The Runaways’ most popular track and biggest hit sported a double entendre about a fast-moving young girl who didn’t mind giving her pearl-clutching parents a scare or two. Though The Runaways never reached mainstream success in the states, Jett and her all-girl rock group struck it big with Japanese audiences and toured extensively in Europe with A-list acts like Cheap Trick and The Ramones. At a time when rock was dominated by macho male groups, The Runaways proved girls could rock as hard as boys and paved the way for female-focused punk trends like the ’90s riot grrrl movement. In just a few years, the band parted ways and Jett took her act on the road solo. But ‘Cherry Bomb’ is a time-tested masterpiece that is still a setlist favorite.

Recommended: Check out our list of the best female rock singers.

7. Little Drummer Boy

Joan rocks out to a Christmas carol classic with ‘Little Drummer Boy,’ a story about a young child who visits Jesus on the day of his birth and plays for him. The tender story gets the Blackhearts treatment, with power chords, plenty of amp gain, and Jett’s assertive vocals retelling the story. The electrified twist on the vintage holiday classic is a welcomed reinvention and is every bit as joyful as the original. Though the group first released it on their debut album I Love Rock ‘n Roll, modern covers of historic Christmas songs tend to do well, so this one has stuck around.

Recommended: Get in the festive spirit with our pick of the best Xmas songs.

6. Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)

One of Joan Jett’s most famous quotes is, “In pop music, you say, ‘You can do what you want to me.’ Rock ‘n’ roll says, ‘I’m gonna do what I want to you.” Her single ‘Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)’ is in perfect alignment with her philosophy of rock and roll and its ability to empower the listener. Sexual undertones have long been associated with male acts of rock, from The Rolling Stones to Elvis Presley, and Jett was one of the champions for female acts embracing their physical prowess on stage. Her confidence has always been a bedrock for her ability to have staying power in an industry that’s constantly in search of the next big thing. A bit controversial at the time of its release, it didn’t take long for the minimalist punk rock song to catch on, with her fans loving its envelope-pushing statements. After all, that’s a big reason why punk rock fans get turned on to the genre in the first place.

5. Crimson and Clover

Released on Jett’s iconic debut album, I Love Rock ‘n Roll, ‘Crimson and Clover’ would go on to be one of her best charting songs and one of her signature hits to this day. Released early on in her solo career, the pensive, pop-laden track was originally written by Tommy James and Peter Lucia Jr. of The Shondells back in the ’60s. The power ballad seemed to express many of Jett’s emotions she felt at the time as she dealt with her first band, The Runaways, breaking up and having to navigate her way through fronting a whole new lineup for The Blackhearts. The release of ‘Crimson and Clover’ was surrounded by a slew of other hits for Jett, a few of which became synonymous with her brand, so this reflective single comes in on our list at number 5.

4. Bad Karma (feat. Joan Jett)

It might surprise some that Joan Jett and pop star Miley Cyrus are good friends. Cyrus even introduced Joan when she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. The punk rocker has long taken people new to the entertainment industry under her wing, especially when they struggle with confidence issues, and that’s exactly what she did for Miley. When the pop singer got back in the studio for her 10th album Plastic Hearts (can you believe she’s only 30 years old?!), she invited Joanie in for a duet on the tune ‘Bad Karma.’ Filled with plenty of sass, the moody track features Miley singing from a “heartbreaker” perspective, with Jett providing commanding harmonies. With hints of country in the melody and pop-rock production, the song really heats up about 2 minutes in.

3. Bad Reputation

MMA fans have seen Ronda Rousey come out to ‘Bad Reputation’ as her theme song during a fight or two when she was competing. Possibly Jett’s most aggressive track, defiant lyrics, and an empowering performance drive home the rocker’s resolution that she doesn’t “Give a damn about” her “bad reputation.” This single has become a girl power anthem for women in different entertainment professions who strive to break the mold. The single became the catalyst that would usher in her brand revival and set the tone for her biggest hit to date, ‘I Love Rock ‘n Roll.’ This Joan Jett original was image-defining, and comes in at number 3 on our countdown.

Recommended: Go to our list of inspirational songs for women.

2. I Hate Myself for Loving You

If you’re a football fan it’s hard not to substitute the line “I’ve been waiting all day for Sunday night,” when listening to Joan Jett’s popular release “I Hate Myself for Loving You.’ It was one of her highest-charting singles when it was released in the ’80s, and aside from countless Jett fans keeping the song’s legacy alive by singing along with it at her concerts, the NFL made sure to etch it in American pop culture history when it riffed the track and created a hype song played before each Sunday Night Football game. Jett is all-grit in the original recording, with her minimalist punk roots on full display. It’s hard not to put ‘I Hate Myself for Loving You’ in the top spot for our “best of” list, but there’s just one more track that proved itself to be a bit bigger than this rock anthem.

1. I Love Rock ‘N Roll

With a catchy opening guitar riff perfect for air guitar players and karaoke enthusiasts everywhere, Joan Jett’s ‘I Love Rock ‘n Roll’ has become her eponymous single, a hit that is inseparable from her enduring legacy. In the early ’80s, Joan Jett, or “Joanie” as her friends love to call her, was looking for a fresh start after the breakup of her first band. While in Europe, she sat down for a few sessions with Sex Pistols members Steve Jones and Paul Cook to record the track. Ironically, she had actually been waiting for her chance to pounce on the song since first hearing it while touring overseas with The Runaways, but they passed on it even though she wanted to cover it. Originally written by bandmates in The Arrows, it was a catchy song about a guy picking up a girl at a dive. But when Joanie got a hold of it, she kicked things up several notches by reversing the song’s character roles and performing the hit with plenty of attitude and swagger to spare. The release ultimately gave her the career boost she was looking for. It charted all the way to number 1 and gave her unrivaled rock goddess status. Her signature hit, covered by countless artists including pop icon Britney Spears, takes the top spot on our list of Joan Jett’s best songs.

Recommended: Check out our list of top female karaoke songs.

Photo of author

About Ged Richardson

Ged Richardson is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ZingInstruments.com. He has been featured in Entrepreneur, PremierGuitar, Hallmark, Wanderlust, CreativeLive, and other major publications. As an avid music fan, he spends his time researching and writing about new and old music, as well as testing and reviewing music-related products. He's played guitar in various bands, from rock to gypsy jazz. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel, where he geeks out about his favorite bands.

Read more