Rickie Lee Jones
This article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2017)
Rickie Lee Jones
|Born||November 8, 1954|
Chicago, Illinois, United States
|Genres||Rock, R&B, pop|
|Labels||Warner Bros., Geffen, Reprise, Artemis, V2, New West, Fantasy, OSOD/Thirty Tigers|
Rickie Lee Jones (born November 8, 1954) is an American singer, musician, songwriter, artist, and author. Over the course of a career that spans five decades, Jones has recorded in various musical styles including rock, R&B, pop, soul, and jazz.
Jones is a two-time Grammy Award winner and was listed at number 30 on VH1's 100 Greatest Women in Rock & Roll in 1999. Her album Pirates was number 49 on NPR's list of the 150 Greatest Albums Made by Women.
This section needs additional citations for verification. (July 2018)
Jones was born the third of four children to Richard and Bettye Jones, on the north side of Chicago, Illinois, on November 8, 1954. She was named after her father, who was a singer, songwriter, painter, and trumpet player. Her mother, Bettye, was raised in orphanages around Mansfield, Ohio. She has a brother Daniel, and two sisters, Janet Adele and Pamela Jo.
Her paternal grandfather, Frank "Peg Leg" Jones, and her grandmother, Myrtle Lee, were vaudevillians based in Chicago. A singer, dancer and comedian, Peg Leg Jones' routine consisted of singing and accompanying himself on ukulele, soft shoe dance, acrobatics, and comedy.
Career start: 1975–1979
At age 21, she began singing traditional jazz and original compositions in bars and coffee houses in Venice, California. There she met Alfred Johnson, a piano player and songwriter. Together they wrote "Weasel and the White Boys Cool", and "Company" which would later appear on Jones's debut album.
Early years: 1979–82
Rickie Lee Jones was released in March 1979 and became a hit, buoyed by the success of the jazz-flavored single "Chuck E.'s in Love", which hit No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and featured an accompanying music video. The song was occasioned by her friend, Chuck E. Weiss, telephoning her and Tom Waits, all three of them close friends at the time, in the Fall of 1977 to tell them that he had fallen in love. The album, which included guest appearances by Dr. John, Randy Newman, and Michael McDonald, went to No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and produced another top 40 hit with "Young Blood" (No. 40) in late 1979. Her appearance – as an unknown (one month after her debut record had been released) – on Saturday Night Live on April 7, 1979, sparked an overnight sensation. She performed "Chuck E.'s in Love" and "Coolsville". Jones was covered by Time magazine on her very first professional show, in Boston, and they dubbed her "The Duchess of Coolsville". Touring after the album's release, she played Carnegie Hall on July 22, 1979. Members of her group included native New York guitarist Buzz Feiten, who was featured on the album and would appear in her recorded works for over a decade.
Following her first ever performances in the spring/summer of 1979, Jones appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Photographed by Annie Leibovitz, the cover image showed Jones posing in a crouched stance, wearing a black bra and a white beret. The announcement of Lowell George's death appeared in the same issue, the largest selling issue in the magazine's history up to that time. Her record was the first music 'video' used to launch an artist. Warner Brothers financed not only the film of the charismatic beginner but paid to install monitors in record stores to promote her image and music. Eighteen months later MTV hit the airwaves. Jones's success proved video was the most effective marketing tool in decades.
She secured four nominations at the 22nd Annual Grammy Awards: Grammy Award for Song of the Year and Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Chuck E.'s in Love"; Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for "The Last Chance Texaco"; and Grammy Award for Best New Artist, which she won. The album went platinum within a year.
In 1980, Francis Ford Coppola asked Jones to collaborate with Waits on his upcoming film One from the Heart, but she balked, citing their recent breakup in late 1979). Coppola argued that the duet would be perfect for the film, since the two main characters in the film are separated, and he asked her to reconsider. Waits ultimately sang with country pop star Crystal Gayle.
Pirates, her second LP, received high marks from critics, going gold pretty quickly. Rolling Stone remained a fervent supporter of Jones, with a second cover feature in 1981; the magazine also included a glowing five-star review of Pirates, which became a commercially successful follow-up, reaching No. 5 on the Billboard 200. The single "A Lucky Guy" became the only Billboard Hot 100 hit from the album, peaking at No. 64, but "Pirates (So Long Lonely Avenue)" and "Woody and Dutch on the Slow Train to Peking" became minor Top 40 hits on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. In America, "Woody and Dutch..." soundalikes appeared in advertisements for McDonald's, Dr. Pepper, and others.
Jones left New York for San Francisco where she befriended Robin Williams. In Los Angeles, she recorded the EP Girl at Her Volcano, producing the record herself and drawing the cover art. It was released as a 10" record in 1983, featuring a mix of live and studio cover versions of jazz and pop standards, as well as one Jones original, "Hey, Bub", which was originally written for Pirates. Jones then relocated to Paris.
Period of transition: 1983–89
In 1983, Jones lived in Paris for four months, writing new material for her third full-length solo album, The Magazine, released in September 1984. The Magazine was produced by Jones and James Newton Howard and included a three-song suite, subtitled "Rorschachs", which featured multi-tracked vocals and minimalist synth patterns. One song, "The Real End" made it into the Billboard Hot 100 in 1984, peaking at No. 82.
A collaboration with Rob Wasserman "Autumn Leaves" in 1985 for his album Duets earned a Grammy nod for Best Jazz Vocal by a Female. Jones took a four-year break from her recording schedule, largely attributed to the deaths of her mentor Bob Regher as well as her father, Richard Loris Jones, that same year.
After a successful tour of Norway and Sweden, and then opening for Ray Charles in Israel with Michal Lang (Woodstock) managing her, she returned to the USA, signed to Geffen Records by Gary Gersh who teamed her with Steely Dan's Walter Becker for her long awaited fourth and a half record. In September 1988 the two of them began work on Flying Cowboys, which was probably the best pop album of her career. The album was released in September 1989, and produced two hits: Satellites, which hit #1 on the new Adult radio format; and "The Horses", co-written with Becker, was covered by Kenny Loggins, and also featured in the movie Jerry Maguire. "The Horses" also became an Australian No. 1 hit single for Daryl Braithwaite when he covered it in 1991. Flying Cowboys made the US Top 40, reaching No. 39 on the Billboard 200, with the college radio hit "Satellites" making it to No. 23 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.
Experimentation and change: 1990–2001
Following a tour with Lyle Lovett, Jones enlisted David Was to helm her first album of jazz covers - a direction she had forged for rock artists but had never recorded. Many singers had followed her lead and for those who did not realize her devotion to jazz in her performances on stage they would have thought her just another rock pop singer doing jazz. Her producer chose an innovative approach and she agreed, thus the Argentinian flavored Pop Pop, set the pace for what would become a habit with Miss Jones - innovation, defiance, mixing styles of jazz and pop and not staying in one genre for a whole recording. Tin Pan Alley to Jimi Hendrix's "Up from the Skies". The album, released in September 1991, was a hit on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Albums, peaking at No. 8, but became her least commercially successful record yet, reaching No. 121 on the Billboard 200.
Soon after, The Orb issued "Little Fluffy Clouds", featuring a sampled Jones interview. However, Jones' record company objected to the unauthorized use of her voice and pursued the issue in the court system. In 1992 she toured extensively with Rob Wasserman, with whom she had collaborated in the mid-1980s.
Her swan song for Geffen Records was Traffic From Paradise, released in September 1993. The album was slightly more successful than its predecessor, reaching No. 111 on the Billboard 200, and was notable for its collaboration with Leo Kottke, its musical diversity, and a cover of David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel", which was originally planned to be the title track for the Oscar-winning film Boys Don't Cry. Before his death David Bowie was quoted as saying that this version was his favorite cover of his work.
Throughout this period, her songs were featured in a number of films and television series, including House M.D., Thirty Something, Frankie and Johnny, When a Man Loves a Woman, Jerry Maguire, Friends with Money and the French film Subway. Jones sang a duet with Lyle Lovett on "North Dakota" for his 1992 album Joshua Judges Ruth and has also sung on albums by Leo Kottke and Arlo Guthrie.
Jones' first solo shows in 1994 paved the way for her acoustic album Naked Songs, released in September 1995 through a one-off deal with Reprise Records. The album, which reached No. 121 on the Billboard 200, featured acoustic re-workings of Jones classics and album material, but no new songs.
Emphasizing her experimentation and change, Jones embraced electronic music for Ghostyhead, released on Reprise Records in June 1997. The album, a collaboration with Rick Boston (both are credited with production and with twenty-one instruments in common), found Jones employing beats, loops, and electronic rhythms, and also showcased Jones' connection with the trip hop movement of the mid-to-late 1990s. Despite critical acclaim, it did not meet with commercial success, peaking at No. 159 on the Billboard 200.
Jones' second album of cover versions, It's Like This, was released on the independent record label Artemis Records in September 2000. The album included cover versions of material by artists including The Beatles, Steely Dan, Marvin Gaye, and the Gershwin brothers. It made it onto three Billboard charts – No.148 on the Billboard 200, No. 10 on Top Internet Albums, and No. 42 on Top Independent Albums. The album also secured Jones another Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. Her cover art design (shared with a staff artist but never credited to Jones) won numerous awards and is in the book Best Album Covers.
In November 2001, Artemis issued a release of archival material titled Live at Red Rocks with cover art by a young fan who had recently died in a swimming accident. Her parents brought her drawing of flying horses to one of Jones' shows in Oregon and Rickie used it for this live release.
Artistic renaissance: 2002–present
After Ghostyhead, Jones largely retired from public view, tending her garden and bringing up her teenage daughter Charlotte.
Released on the independent label V2 in October 2003, The Evening of My Best Day featured influences from jazz, Celtic folk, blues, R&B, rock, and gospel, and spawned a successful and lengthy spurt of touring. The album peaked at No. 189 on the Billboard 200. She invited punk bass icon Mike Watt (the Minutemen, Iggy Pop) to perform on "It Takes You There", while "Ugly Man" was a direct aim at the George Bush 'regime' evoking, with an anthem-like Hugh Masekela arrangement, what she termed "the Black Panther horns", and calling for "revolution, everywhere that you're not looking, revolution."
Renewed interest in Jones led to the three-disc anthology Duchess of Coolsville: An Anthology, released through reissue specialists Rhino in June 2005. A lavish package designed by Lee Cantelon, the alphabetically arranged release featured album songs, live material, covers, and demos, and featured essays by Jones as well as various collaborators, as well as tributes from artists including Randy Newman, Walter Becker, Quincy Jones, and Tori Amos.
Also in 2005, Jones was invited to take part in her boyfriend and collaborator Lee Cantelon's music version of his book The Words, a book of the words of Christ, set into simple chapters and themes. Cantelon's idea was to have various artists recite the text over primal rock music, but Jones elected to try something that had never been done, to improvise her own impression of the texts, melody and lyric, in stream of consciousness sessions, rather than read Jesus' words. The sessions were recorded at an artist's loft on Exposition Boulevard in Culver City. When Cantelon could no longer finish the project, Jones picked it up as her own record and hired Rob Schnaf to finish the production at Sunset Sound in 2007, and the result was The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard, released on the independent New West Records in February 2007. It included "Circle in the Sand", recorded for the soundtrack to the film Friends With Money (2006), for which Jones also cut "Hillbilly Song". The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard debuted at No. 158 on the Billboard 200 and No. 12 on the Top Independent Albums tally. Writer Ann Powers included this on her list of Grammy-worthy CDs for 2007.
For her next project, Balm in Gilead (2009), Jones opted to finish half-written songs dating back as far as 1986 ("Wild Girl") as well as include new ones (the 2008-penned "The Gospel of Carlos, Norman and Smith", "Bonfires"). The album also included a new recording of "The Moon Is Made of Gold", a song written by her father Richard Loris Jones in 1954. Ben Harper, Victoria Williams, Jon Brion, Alison Krauss and the late Vic Chesnutt all made contributions to the album.
On September 18, 2012, Jones released The Devil You Know on Fantasy/Concord Records. The Devil You Know includes a collection of covers produced by Ben Harper, including a solo version of "Sympathy for the Devil". Shortly afterwards she left Los Angeles and moved to New Orleans.
In 2015, Jones released her album The Other Side of Desire, and the single "Jimmy Choos" which references the shoe brand. A documentary film, Rickie Lee Jones: The Other Side of Desire, on the making of the album, was also released. It was her first album of all new original material in ten years.
In 2019, Jones released a single of the Paul Rodgers/Simon Kirke song, "Bad Company", followed by her album Kicks which included "Bad Company" and cover versions of many other songs.
She played at the Glastonbury Festival in June 2019.
In 2021, Jones's memoir Last Chance Texaco: Chronicles of an American Troubadour was released by Grove Press. Simon and Schuster bought the audio book rights.
In 2001, Jones was the organizer of the web community "Furniture for the People", which is involved in gardening, social activism, bootleg exchange and left-wing politics. She has produced records (including Leo Kottke's Peculiaroso), and provided a voiceover for Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night, in which she played the Blue Fairy (known as the Good Fairy or Fairy Godmother in the film). Jones also enjoys gardening.
|Year||Album details||Chart positions||Certifications|
|1979||Rickie Lee Jones
|1993||Traffic from Paradise
|2000||It's Like This
|2003||The Evening of My Best Day
|2007||The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard
|2009||Balm in Gilead
|2012||The Devil You Know
|2015||The Other Side of Desire
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart|
|1995||Naked Songs: Live and Acoustic
|2001||Live at Red Rocks
|2005||Duchess of Coolsville: An Anthology|
|2010||Original Album Series
|1983||Girl at Her Volcano
|1979||"Chuck E.'s in Love"||4||15||—||18||Rickie Lee Jones|
|"Danny's All-Star Joint"||—||—||—||—|
|1981||"A Lucky Guy"||64||—||—||—||Pirates|
|"Pirates (So Long Lonely Avenue)"||—||—||40||—|
|"Woody and Dutch on the Slow Train to Peking"||—||—||31||—|
|1983||"Under the Boardwalk"||—||—||—||—||Girl At Her Volcano|
|1984||"It Must Be Love"||—||—||—||—||The Magazine|
|"The Real End"||83||90||—||—|
|"Flying Cowboys / The Horses"||—||—||—||—|
|"Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying"||—||—||—||—|
|1991||"Up from the Skies"||—||—||—||—||Pop Pop|
|1991||"Rebel Rebel"||—||—||—||—||Traffic from Paradise|
|2000||"Show Biz Kids"||—||—||—||—||It's Like That|
|2003||"Second Chance"||—||—||—||—||The Evening of My Best Day|
|2006||"Falling Up"||—||—||—||—||The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard|
|2009||"Old Enough"||—||—||—||—||Balm in Gilead|
|2015||"Jimmy Choos"||—||—||—||—||The Other Side of Desire|
- Guest vocals on "Sidekick" from Chuck E. Weiss' album The Other Side Of Town (1981)
- Guest vocals on "Between a Laugh and a Tear" from John Cougar Mellencamp's album Scarecrow (1985)
- Lead vocals on "The Moon Is Made Of Gold" and "Autumn Leaves" from Rob Wasserman's album Duets (1988)
- Duet vocals on "Makin' Whoopee!" from Dr. John's album In a Sentimental Mood (1989)
- Duet vocals on "Easter Parade" from The Blue Nile's single "Headlights On The Parade" (1989)
- Lead vocals on "O Holy Night" from The Chieftains' album The Bells Of Dublin (1991)
- Guest vocals on "North Dakota" from Lyle Lovett's album Joshua Judges Ruth (1991) and Live in Texas (1999)
- Little Fluffy Clouds (1990–93) – Spoken word sampled by British ambient-house group, The Orb, charting three times on the UK Singles Chart: No. 87 (1990), No. 95 (1991), and No. 10 (1993).
- Production and harmony vocals on Leo Kottke's album Peculiaroso (1994)
- Guest vocals on "Spirit" from Wild Colonials' album This Can't Be Life (1996)
- Duet vocals on "I Scare Myself" and "Driftin" from Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks' album Beatin' The Heat (2000)
- WFUV: City Folk Live VII (2004) – "Mink Coat at the Bus Stop"
- Duet vocals on "Comes Love" from Willie Nelson's album Outlaws And Angels (2004)
- Lead vocals on "Been On A Train" from the Laura Nyro tribute album Map To The Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro by Billy Childs. (2014)
- Spoken word on "From Space" from Anders Osborne's album Spacedust & Oceanviews (2016)
- "Dark Was The Night - Cold Was The Ground" from the Blind Willie Johnson tribute album God Don't Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson (2016)
- Guest vocals on "Roll Um Easy" from Jonah Tolchin's album Fires For The Cold (2019)
Musician Steve Adey covered The Unsigned Painting on his 2017 LP "Do Me a Kindness".
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- Jones, Rickie Lee (2021). Last Chance Texaco: Chronicles of an American Troubadour. New York: HarperCollins. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-4434-6462-8.
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- Jones, Rickie Lee (November 19, 2006). "Rickie Lee Jones: What Happens After Ugly Man?". Down With Tyranny. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
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- Rickie Lee Jones: The Other Side of Desire at IMDb
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