Rickie Lee Jones
Ever since her eponymous debut album took the world by storm in 1979, Rickie Lee Jones has been a model of artistic restlessness, a visionary songwriter who’s only followed her own idiosyncratic muse. Born in Chicago into a musical family, she revealed her peripatetic nature early on, running away and landing in Los Angeles in the mid-1970s. She met and dated Tom Waits not long after arriving—that’s her on the back of his album Blue Valentine—but once her debut album dropped, propelled by the irresistibly jazzy “Chuck E.’s in Love” and flush from a star-making turn as a then-unknown guest on Saturday Night Live, she’s never stood in anyone’s shadow. She traces her fascinating history, warts and all, in her acclaimed 2021 memoir Last Chance Texaco: Chronicles of An American Troubadour.
In the decades since her debut album she’s made a collection of recordings in fits and starts, taking long breaks from the business only to return refreshed and reinvigorated. She’s returning once again with a forthcoming jazz album produced by Russ Titelman, who worked on her first two albums. Jazz has always been a crucial influence in her own hyper-literate pop-rock, and over the years she’s moved easily but unpredictably between solo acoustic music, electronic sounds, Celtic folk, gospel, and more. She’s a true musical vagabond, but one who has routinely made every stop along her winding trajectory feel like home.
Her 2019 album Kicks was a collection of pop standards spanning several decades of American music, and the typically disparate selection—whether “Bad Company,” the early Steve Miller classic “Quicksilver Girl,” “Mack the Knife,” or the Skeeter Davis gem “End of the World”—was secondary to the astonishing imprint Jones left on each rendition. Naturally, even though she has a new album coming, she doesn’t play by the rules of the music industry, and only she knows what her Big Ears set will entail. No matter what style or repertoire she embraces, though, it will be pure Rickie Lee Jones.