EDMONDS — Rocker Joan Jett says she declined appearances on “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol.” When she received a letter asking her to speak to students at Scriber Lake High School in Edmonds, Jett accepted.
” ‘American Idol’ and ‘Dancing with the Stars’ aren’t rock and roll — you guys are,” Jett told a gym packed with students Monday.
She and Blackheart Records partner Kenny Laguna stayed for hours at an assembly and then after school to field questions (“How much do you like rock and roll?” one student asked), mingle and accept artwork from some of the students.
She was invited to speak before the school by Scriber Lake teacher Greg Lange, who works with kids at risk of dropping out. He wrote to Jett after he watched the 2010 film, “The Runaways.” In the film, Jett is portrayed as a young woman with a vision which she wouldn’t let die, Lange said.
“Thirty five years ago, she easily could’ve sat in my classroom,” he said.
Scriber Lake student Abby Boese, 16, said everyone knows Jett’s music. Despite her fame, Jett could probably understand this generation of youth.
“She really can relate to us,” Abby said.
At the assembly, Jett and Laguna encouraged the students to earn their high school diplomas and find something they love to do.
“Find that thing that gets you going and makes you smile,” she said.
Jett dropped out of high school during the 1970s to tour with her first band, The Runaways. Later, she returned to her studies to earn a GED.
“I’m really proud I did it,” she said. “It’s important for life because you never know what’ll happen.”
Laguna advised students to set attainable goals, such as aiming to make a living off what they like to do. If they love music, they could become a music teacher rather than aim to become Elvis.
“Set your goals at a place that’s reasonable,” he said.
Her rebellion was never about school or her parents, Jett said.
“I wanted to be a lot of different things,” she said. “I happened to be playing guitar and it made sense to follow that path.”
She encouraged students to try what may be difficult because even if they fail it’ll make them stronger.
“We need more self expression in this world,” Jett said. “Not every day is going to be a good day.”
While touring with The Runaways during the ’70s, crowds weren’t enthusiastic about women playing rock and roll.
“In 1979, it was offensive for her to do rock and roll and do what the guys were doing,” Laguna said.
After the band broke up, Jett met Laguna. Together they wrote songs for a project The Runaways committed to before breaking up. They formed their record label after meeting resistance about a rock-and-roll band with a female lead singer.
“Blackheart means you go your own way,” Laguna said. “If you do it like Joan Jett, that’s a good way. She did something positive.”
“It was about keeping your desire to do it and finding someone who understands you, Kenny is that for me. He believed in me,” Jett said.