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Think of what you are about to read as a documentary film of sorts, replete with close-ups and fade-outs, starring the premiere song-stylist and songwriter of her generation, Rickie Lee Jones. In this film we see: She does not wear shoes. She carries a guitar. The sky overhead is as shiny as mica. All of these people come and go, passing in front of, and behind, our primary focus: Rickie Lee Jones playing her guitar and singing any number of her award winning songs: As Rickie Lee Jones sings, we hear, in voice over: Rickie Lee Jones is the second of three daughters and one son who are of Welsh and Irish ancestry. She was born on November 8, , in Chicago, Illinois. Her mother was an orphan. She has described her family as "lower-middle-class-hillbilly-hipster. Jones was a performer who supplemented his income as a waiter, furniture mover, and gardener. Jones says of her paternal grandfather: Between jobs, Richard Jones taught his musically inclined daughter how to sing. And to honor that, Jones used to perform, in her early concerts, "The Moon is Made of Gold," a lullaby her father wrote for her. Since her family led a largely marginal existence, Jones lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Arizona, and Olympia, Washington by the time she entered high school. By all accounts, Rickie Lee Jones was an extremely solitary child who was especially close to her older brother, Danny. Nevertheless, she preferred the secret world of her imaginary friends and playmates. At the time, Rickie lived with an aunt. But she visited her brother in the hospital constantly. Jones recalls that she once ran away from her father as a result of his need to control his wildly imaginative young daughter, her burgeoning sexuality and charisma, and powerful talent. In an interview for a Rolling Stone cover story published in , Jones said: After high school in Olympia, which she had returned to in her mid-teens, Jones began singing more and more. She also wrote lyrics in a little notebook she kept. By the time she nineteen, Jones was living in Los Angeles, waiting tables and occasionally playing music in out of the way coffee houses and bars. All the while, she was developing her unique aesthetic: In her voice and songs, we saw smoky stocking seams, love being everything but requited. The song was recorded by Lowell George, the founder of the band, Little Feat. She was hailed by one critic as a "highly touted new pop-jazz-singer-songwriter" and another critic as "one of the best--if not the best--artist of her generation. She was heralded as a trendsetter in dress beret, subdresses, heels and in lifestyle, given her by then famous relationship with two boys she helped to make famous, too: We're living on the jazz side of life. It was even darker, and deeper, and richer than the first album, and included the haunting "We Belong Together," and "A Lucky Guy," which Jones has said grew out of her life with Waits. The brilliant characterizations she builds in the lyrics for "Woody and Dutch on the Slow Train to Peking," and "Traces of the Western Slope," are amplified by her voice, which, at times, has the lonesome sound of a train whistle on a wind swept prairie and, at other times, sounds like nothing so much as laughter winding down into a whisper, or a sigh. The album confounded expectations. Jones was fast becoming a poet of the disenfranchised who eschewed any purely commercial considerations when it came to making a song. Ironically, Jones has always had a strong and solid fan base that has always purchased the album Rickie Lee Jones means them to have. On Pirates--indeed, all her albums--one has to listen to what Jones has to say, which is not a hallmark of most popular music. She has always been different because she conveys meaning not solely through her well-crafted songs, but through pure sound as well. The album is emotionally risky, a walk in a mysterious emotional terrain that is alternately joyous and melancholy, peppy and spirited. On The Magazine which includes the revolutionary "Rorschachs: Theme for the Pope," which predates her innovative work on her masterpiece, Ghostyhead , Rickie Lee Jones reached the apotheosis of her art--until then. Raw and sophisticated, the album is best viewed as a suite, one which begins punctuated by a journey. On The Magazine, girls walk down to Alphabet City in Manhattan to hang and talk with the street people she is separate from and not separate from and identifies with. On The Magazine, Jones is as much inside the scene as she is reporting on it. It is the penultimate album about urban alienation, and the poeticism inherent in going your own way. Flying Cowboys, on the other hand, is the work of what initially seems like an entirely different person. On it, Jones has become wedded to the world. A sold-out world tour followed the release of Flying Cowboys. And in becoming the artist she meant to become--one who was rich in the history of show business lore, the bright lights and dark hearts of the carny world, hitting the road and not looking back--Jones paid homage to the tradition she had grown out of when she released POP POP , her long-awaited jazz album, in As Jones has written of it, the album was "a completely different treatment of jazz tunes than the usual piano, bass and drum setup," in other words, Jones was reinventing the sound of the jazz standard by de-standardizing it, and finding the emotional core at the heart of frequently heard songs, such as her definitive cover of "My Funny Valentine," and the hilarious and heartbreaking "Hi-Lily, Hi-Lo," which sounds like a direct commentary on an old form: Like any writer, any artist, Jones evolves, personally and artistically; one works in tandem with the other. Recorded over two nights at the Filmore in San Francisco, the album is comprised entirely of Jones penned-tunes, including astounding renditions of "The Magazine," and "Last Chance Texaco. Ghostyhead transgresses the idea of the artist Rickie Lee Jones was to become: As Jones has written: We give our best. Hilton Als Artistic renaissance: She spent much of her time at her home in Olympia, Washington, tending her garden and bringing up her now-teenage daughter Charlotte. The album peaked at US on the Billboard The CD helped to swing her career away from an apparent middle-of the-road perception, a posture she seemed furiously bent on avoiding. 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 Masakala 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 A lavish package, 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 , 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 , and the result was the The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard , released on the independent New West Records in February For her next project, Jones opted to finish half-written songs dating back as far as "Wild Girl" as well as include new ones the penned "The Gospel of Carlos, Norman and Smith," "Bonfires". Working closely with long-time collaborator David Kalish, with whom Jones first worked on 's Pirates, Jones released Balm in Gilead on the Fantasy label in November
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