Jett embraces her signature hit, but she’s no one-trick pony

Brian Mackey

It’s not just a clever lyric — Joan Jett really loves rock and roll. That could be why the Arrows’ original version of “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” languished as a B-side for several years before Jett turned it into an anthem.

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, who are opening for Huey Lewis and the News on Sunday night at the Illinois State Fair, have seen nearly three decades of music-making swallowed by one hit.

“If you took away that one song and just left Joan with the rest of her career, it would be a very well-respected career,” said Kenny Laguna, Jett’s longtime producer and the Blackhearts’ keyboardist.

Asked whether Jett or the band ever tire of playing “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll,” Laguna said last week in a phone interview. “There’s some of that, but we don’t mind playing it, and we don’t run from its legacy.”

Jett’s other hits include “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” along with covers of “Crimson and Clover” and “Do You Want to Touch Me.”

“Our challenge is to let people know that it’s not one hit,” Laguna said.

Another of Jett’s classics, “Bad Reputation,” stands atop the pantheon of punk music with the likes of the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated” and “Blitzkrieg Bop.” Together, they define the punk sound: minimal instrumentation, a fast tempo and rough, loud vocals.

“Songs like ‘Bad Reputation,’ which was never even a promo, have become so major. That song is our number-one most licensed song right now,” Laguna said.

Years ago, Jett declined to allow her music to be used in commercials, but today, “with what radio’s doing to us, and everything else, that’s, like, how we promote ourselves, not to mention make some bucks,” said Laguna, who shares several songwriting credits with Jett.

He said Hewlett Packard is using “Do You Want to Touch Me” to promote a new touch-screen computer; every episode of NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” opens with Faith Hill singing a theme song set to the tune of Jett’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You.”

Jett’s latest album, “Sinner,” came out in 2006, but has not generated any hits. She and the Blackhearts still tour extensively, including a lot of work for the U.S.O. (Laguna said Jett was the first — and second — performer in Afghanistan after the U.S. invasion in 2001).

Jett will turn 50 later this year. Her energy and passion, Laguna said, have been key to her success.

“She never goes through the motions,” Laguna said. “So when she says she loves rock and roll, she loves it, and we feel that.”

Brian Mackey can be reached at (217) 747-9587 orbrian.mackey@sj-r.com.

JOAN JETT AND THE BLACKHEARTS

Opening for Huey Lewis and the News

When: 8 p.m. Sunday

Where: Illinois State Fairgrounds Grandstand

Tickets: $30 for track and best reserved seating; $25 and $20 for reserved seating; tickets are available at the Grandstand ticket office or through all Ticketmaster options — by phone at 544-9400, (800) 827-8927 and (800) 359-2525 for TTY orders, online at www.ticketmaster.com and at all physical outlets.