Grace Jones

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Grace Jones (born 19 May 1948) is a Jamaican singer, lyricist, supermodel, record producer, and actress.

She was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica and raised by her grandparents. At 13 she moved with her siblings to their parents’ home in Syracuse, New York. Jones started out as a model, initially in New York state, then in Paris, working for Yves St. Laurent, Claude Montana, and Kenzo Takada, and appearing on the covers of Elle, Vogue, and Stern working with Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin, and Hans Feurer.

In 1977 Jones secured a record deal with Island Records; she moved into dance and new wave music, often collaborating with the Compass Point All Stars. She scored Top 40 entries on the UK Singles Chart with “Pull Up to the Bumper“, “I’ve Seen That Face Before“, “Private Life“, “Slave to the Rhythm” and “I’m Not Perfect“. Her most popular albums include Warm Leatherette (1980), Nightclubbing (1981), and Slave to the Rhythm (1985).

She appeared in some low-budget films in the U.S. during the 1970s and early 1980s. Her first mainstream film was the 1984 fantasy-action film Conan the Destroyer alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sarah Douglas, and the 1985 James Bond movie A View to a Kill. In 1986 she played a vampire in Vamp, and acted in and contributed a song to the 1992 Eddie Murphy film Boomerang. She appeared alongside Tim Curry in the 2001 film Wolf Girl.

In 1983, Jones’s One Man Show was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Long-Form Music Video. For her work in Conan the Destroyer, A View to a Kill, and Vamp, she was nominated Saturn Awards for Best Supporting Actress. In 1999, Jones ranked 82nd on VH1‘s 100 Greatest Women of Rock and Roll, and in 2008, she was honored with a Q Idol Award. Jones influenced the cross-dressing movement of the 1980s and has been an inspiration for artists including Annie Lennox, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Björk, Madonna, Róisín Murphy, Brazilian Girls, Nile Rodgers, Santigold, and Basement Jaxx.

Biography and career

1948–73: Early life, and modelling career

Grace Jones was born in 1948 in Spanish Town, Jamaica, the daughter of Marjorie (née Williams) and Robert W. Jones, who was a local politician and Apostolic clergyman. Jones and her siblings were raised by grandparents, as her parents were working in the United States. Jones had a strict upbringing under the influence of Jamaica’s Pentecostal church and went to church three times a week. Both sides of her family were religious; there were many bishops in her family, including her grandfather, stepfather, and Noel, her brother.

As a child, shy Jones had only one schoolfriend and was teased by classmates for her “skinny frame”, but she excelled at sports and found solace in the nature of Jamaica.

When she was 13, she and her siblings moved to Syracuse, New York to join her parents. Jones continued her schooling and after she graduated, enrolled at Onondaga Community College majoring in Spanish. Halfway through college, Jones was approached by a drama professor who proposed that she work with him in a play he was putting on in Philadelphia; Jones left with him. She moved back to New York at 18 and signed on as a model with Wilhelmina Modelling agency. She moved to Paris in 1970. The Parisian fashion scene was receptive to Jones’ unusual, androgynous, bold, dark-skinned appearance. Yves St. Laurent, Claude Montana, and Kenzo Takada hired her for runway modelling, and she appeared on the covers of Elle, Vogue, and Stern working with Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin, and Hans Feurer. Jones also modelled for Azzedine Alaia, and was frequently photographed promoting their line. While modelling in Paris, she shared an apartment with Jerry Hall and Jessica Lange. Hall and Jones frequented Club Sept, one of Paris’s most popular gay clubs of the 1970s and ’80s, and socialised with Giorgio Armani and Karl Lagerfeld.

1974–79: Transition to music, and early releases

Jones was signed by Island Records, who put her in the studio with disco record producer, Tom Moulton. Moulton worked at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, and Portfolio, was released in 1977. The album featured three songs from Broadway musicals, “Send in the Clowns” by Stephen Sondheim from A Little Night Music, “What I Did for Love” from A Chorus Line and “Tomorrow” from Annie. The second side of the album opens up with a seven-minute reinterpretation of Édith Piaf‘s “La Vie en rose” followed by three new recordings, two of which were co-written by Jones, “Sorry”, and “That’s the Trouble”, The album finished with “I Need a Man“, Jones’ first club hit. The artwork to the album was designed by Richard Bernstein, an artist for Interview.

In 1978, Jones and Moulton made Fame, an immediate follow-up to Portfolio, also recorded at Sigma Sound Studios. The album featured another reinterpretation of a French classic, “Autumn Leaves” by Jacques Prévert. The Canadian edition of the vinyl album included another French language track, “Comme un oiseau qui s’envole”, which replaced “All on a Summers Night”; in most locations this song served as the B-side of the single “Do or Die“.

In the North American club scene, Fame was a hit album and the “Do or Die”/”Pride”/”Fame” side reached top 10 on both the US Hot Dance Club Play and Canadian Dance/Urban charts. The album was released on compact disc in the early 1990s, but soon went out of print. In 2011, it was released and remastered by Gold Legion, a record company that specialises in reissuing classic disco albums on CD.

Muse was the last of Jones’ disco albums. The album features a re-recorded version “I’ll Find My Way to You”, which Jones released three years prior to Muse. Originally appearing on the 1976 Italian film, Colt 38 Special Squad) in which Jones had a role as a club singer, Jones also recorded a song called “Again and Again” which was featured on the film. Both songs were produced by composer Stelvio Cipriani. Icelandic keyboardist Thor Baldursson who arranged most of the album and also sang duet with Jones on the track “Suffer” had previously worked in Munich, with disco stars such as Silver Convention, Boney M., Donna Summer, Amanda Lear and Giorgio Moroder. Like the last two albums, the cover art is by Richard Bernstein. Like Fame, Muse was later released by Gold Legion.

1980–85: International breakthrough, Nightclubbing, and movie career

With anti-disco sentiment spreading, and with the aid of the Compass Point All Stars, Jones transitioned into new wave music with the 1980 release of Warm Leatherette. The album included covers of songs by The Normal (“Warm Leatherette“), The Pretenders (“Private Life“), Roxy Music (“Love is the Drug“), Smokey Robinson (“The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game“), Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (“Breakdown”) and Jacques Higelin (“Pars”). Sly Dunbar revealed that the title track was also the first to be recorded with Jones. Tom Petty wrote the lyrics to “Breakdown”, and he also wrote the third verse of Jones’ reinterpretation. The album included one song co-written by Jones, “A Rolling Stone”. Originally, “Pull Up to the Bumper” was to be included on the album, but its R&B sound did not fit with the rest of the material.

The 1981 release of Nightclubbing included Jones’ covers of songs by Flash and the Pan (“Walking in the Rain“), Bill Withers (“Use Me“), Iggy Pop/David Bowie (“Nightclubbing“) and Ástor Piazzolla (“I’ve Seen That Face Before“). Three songs were co-written by Jones: “Feel Up”, “Art Groupie” and “Pull Up to the Bumper“. Sting wrote “Demolition Man“; he later recorded it with The Police on the album Ghost in the Machine. “I’ve Done It Again” was written by Marianne Faithfull. The strong rhythm featured on Nightclubbing was produced by Compass Point All Stars, including Sly and Robbie, Wally Badarou, Mikey Chung, Uziah “Sticky” Thompson and Barry Reynolds. The album entered in the Top 5 in four countries, and became Jones’ highest-ranking record on the US Billboard mainstream albums and R&B charts.

Nightclubbing claimed the #1 slot on NME’s Album of the Year list. Slant Magazine listed the album at No. 40 on its list of Best Albums of the 1980s.Nightclubbing is now widely considered Jones’ best studio album. The album’s cover art is a painting of Jones by Jean-Paul Goude. Jones is presented as a man wearing an Armani suit jacket, with a cigarette in her mouth and a flattop haircut. To promote the album, Jones slapped chat-show host Russell Harty live on air after he had turned to interview other guests, making Jones feel she was being ignored.

Having already recorded two reggae-oriented albums under the production of Compass Point All Stars, Jones went to Nassau, Bahamas in 1982 and recorded Living My Life (album); the album resulted in Jones’ final contribution to the Compass Point trilogy, with only one cover, Melvin Van Peebles‘s “The Apple Stretching“. The rest were original songs; “Nipple to the Bottle” was co-written with Sly Dunbar, and, apart from “My Jamaican Guy“, the other tracks were collaborations with Barry Reynolds. Despite receiving a limited single release, the title track was left off the album. Further session outtakes included “Man Around the House” (Jones, Reynolds) and a cover of “Ring of Fire“, written by June Carter Cash and Merle Kilgore and popularized by Johnny Cash, both of which were included in the 1998 compilation Private Life: The Compass Point Sessions. The album’s cover art resulted from another Jones/Goude collaboration; the artwork has been described as being as famous as the music on the record. It features Jones’ disembodied head cut out from a photograph and pasted onto a white background. Jones’ head is sharpened, giving her head and face an angular shape. A piece of plaster is pasted over her left eyebrow, and her forehead is covered with drops of sweat.

Jones’ three albums under the production of the Compass Point All Stars resulted in Jones’ One Man Show, a performance art/pop theatre presentation devised by Goude and Jones in which she also performed tracks from the albums Portfolio (“La Vie en rose“), Warm Leatherette, (“Private Life“, “Warm Leatherette“), Nightclubbing (“Walking in the Rain”, “Feel Up”, “Demolition Man”, “Pull Up to the Bumper” and “I’ve Seen That Face Before (Libertango))” and from Living My Life, “My Jamaican Guy” and the album’s title track. Jones dressed in elaborate costumes and masks (in the opening sequence as a gorilla) and alongside a series of Grace Jones lookalikes. A video version, filmed live in London and New York City and completed with some studio footage, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Long-Form Music Video next year.

After the release of Living My Life, Jones took on the role of Zula the Amazonian in Conan the Destroyer (1984) and was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress. In 1985, Jones starred as May Day, henchman to main antagonist Max Zorin in the 14th James Bond film A View to a Kill; Jones was also nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress. That same year, she was featured on the Arcadia song “Election Day“. Jones was among the many stars to promote the Honda Scooter; other artists included Lou Reed, Adam Ant, and Miles Davis. Jones also, with her boyfriend Dolph Lundgren posed nude for Playboy.

After Jones’ success as a mainstream actress, she returned to the studio to work on Slave to the Rhythm, the last of her recordings for Island. Bruce Woolley, Simon Darlow, Stephen Lipson and Trevor Horn wrote the material, and it was produced by Horn and Lipson. It was a concept album that featured several interpretations of the title track. The project was originally intended for Frankie Goes to Hollywood as a follow-up to “Relax“, but was given to Jones. All eight tracks on the album featured excerpts from a conversation with Jones, speaking about many aspects of her life. The interview was conducted by journalist Paul Morley. The album features voice-overs from actor Ian McShane reciting passages from Jean-Paul Goude‘s biography Jungle Fever. Slave to the Rhythm was successful in German-speaking countries and in the Netherlands, where it secured Top 10 placings. It reached #12 on the UK Albums Chart in November 1985 and became the second-highest-ranking album released by Jones. Jones earned an MTV Video Music Award nomination for the title track’s music video.

After her success with Slave to the Rhythm, Island released Island Life, Jones’ first best-of compilation, which featured songs from most of her releases with Island (Portfolio, Fame, Warm Leatherette, Nightclubbing, Living My Life and Slave to the Rhythm). American writer and journalist Glenn O’Brien wrote the essay for the inlay booklet. The compilation charted in the UK, New Zealand and the United States. The artwork on the cover of the compilation was of another (Jones/Goude) collaboration; it featured Jones’ celestial body in a montage of separate images, following Goude’s ideas on creating credible illusions with his cut-and-paint technique. The body position is anatomically impossible.

The artwork, a piece called “Nigger Arabesque” was originally published in the New York magazine in 1978, and was used as a backdrop for the music video of Jones’ hit single “La Vie en rose“. The artwork has been described as “one of pop culture’s most famous photographs”. The image was also parodied in Nicki Minaj‘s 2011 music video for “Stupid Hoe“, in which Minaj mimicked the pose.

1986–89: Slave to the Rhythm, Island Life, and continued acting roles

After Slave to the Rhythm and Island Life, Jones started to record again under a new contract with Manhattan Records, which resulted in Inside Story, Jones teamed up with music producer Nile Rodgers of Chic, whom Jones had previously tried to work with during the disco era. The album was recorded at Skyline Studios in New York and post-produced at Atlantic Studios and Sterling Sound. Inside Story was the first album Jones produced, which resulted in heated disputes with Rodgers. Musically, the album was more accessible than her previous albums with the Compass Point All Stars, and explored different styles of pop music, with undertones of jazz, gospel, and Caribbean sounds. All songs on the album were written by Jones and Bruce Woolley. Richard Bernstein teamed up with Jones again to provide the album’s artwork. Inside Story made the top 40 in several European countries. The album was Jones’ last entry to date on US Billboard 200 albums chart. The same year, Jones starred as Katrina, an Egyptian queen vampire in the vampire film Vamp. For her work in the film, Jones was awarded a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress. The following year, Jones appeared in two films, Straight to Hell, and Mary Lambert‘s Siesta, for which Jones was nominated for Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress. Bulletproof Heart was released in 1989, produced by Chris Stanley, who co-wrote, and co-produced the majority of the songs, and was featured as a guest vocalist on “Don’t Cry Freedom”. Robert Clivillés and David Cole of C+C Music Factory produced some tracks on the album.

1990–2004: Boomerang, movie soundtrack recordings, and artist collaborations

In 1990, Jones appeared as herself in the documentary, Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol. 1992 saw Jones starring as Helen Strangé, in the Eddie Murphy film Boomerang, for which she also contributed the song “7 Day Weekend” to its soundtrack. Jones released two more soundtrack songs in 1992; “Evilmainya“, recorded for the film Freddie as F.R.O.7, and “Let Joy and Innocence Prevail” for the film Toys. In 1994, she was due to release an electro album titled Black Marilyn with artwork featuring the singer as Marilyn Monroe. “Sex Drive” was released as the first single in September 1993, but due to unknown reasons the record was eventually shelved. The track “Volunteer”, recorded during the same sessions, leaked in 2009.

1996 Saw Jones releasing “Love Bites“, an up-tempo electronic track to promote the Sci-Fi Channel’s Vampire Week, which consisted of a series of vampire-themed films aired on the channel in early November 1996. The track features Jones singing from the perspective of a vampire. The track was released as a non-label promo-only single. To this day, it has not been made commercially available. In June 1998, she was scheduled to release an album entitled Force of Nature, on which she worked with trip hop musician Tricky. The release of Force of Nature was cancelled due to a disagreement between the two, and only a white label 12″ single featuring two dance mixes of “Hurricane” was issued at the time; a slowed-down version of this song became the title track of her comeback album released ten years later while another unreleased track from the album, “Clandestine Affair” (recycling the chorus from her unreleased 1993 track “Volunteer”), appeared on a bootleg 12″ in 2004. Jones recorded the track “Storm” in 1998 for the movie The Avengers, and in 1999, appeared in an episode of the Beastmaster television series as the Umpatra Warrior.

The same year, Jones recorded “The Perfect Crime”, an up-tempo song for Danish TV written by the composer duo Floppy M. aka Jacob Duus and Kåre Jacobsen. Jones was also ranked 82nd place on VH1‘s “100 Greatest Women of Rock & Roll”. In 2000, Jones collaborated with rapper Lil’ Kim, appearing on the song “Revolution” from her album The Notorious K.I.M.. In 2001, Jones starred in the made-for-television film, Wolf Girl (also known as Blood Moon), as an intersex circus performer named Christoph/Christine. In 2002, Jones joined Luciano Pavarotti on stage for his annual Pavarotti and Friends fundraiser concert to support the United Nations refugee agency’s programs for Angolan refugees in Zambia. In November 2004, Jones sang “Slave to the Rhythm” at a tribute concert for record producer Trevor Horn at London’s Wembley Arena.

2008–present: Hurricane, recent endeavours, and Nightclubbing deluxe

Despite several comeback attempts throughout the 1990s, Jones’ next full-length record was released almost twenty years later, after Jones decided “never to do an album again,” changing her mind after meeting music producer Ivor Guest through a mutual friend, milliner Philip Treacy. After the two became acquainted, Guest let Jones listen to a track he had been working on, which became “Devil in My Life”, once Jones set the lyrics to the song. The lyrics to the song were written after a party in Venice. The two ended up with 23 tracks. The album included autobiographical songs, such as “This Is”, “Williams’ Blood” and “I’m Crying (Mother’s Tears)”, an ode to her mother Marjorie. “Love You to Life” was another track based on real events and “Corporate Cannibal” referred to corporate capitalism. “Well Well Well” was recorded in memory of Alex Sadkin, member of Compass Point All Stars who had died in a motor accident 1987. “Sunset Sunrise” was written by Jones’ son, Paulo; the song ponders the relationship between mankind and mother nature. Four songs were removed from the album, “The Key to Funky”, “Body Phenomenon”, “Sister Sister” and “Misery”. For the production of the album, Jones teamed up with Sly and Robbie, Wally Badarou, Barry Reynolds, Mikey Chung, and Uziah “Sticky” Thompson, of the Compass Point All Stars, with contributions from trip-hop artist Tricky, and Brian Eno.

The album was released on Wall of Sound on 3 November 2008 in the United Kingdom. PIAS, the umbrella company of Wall of Sound, distributed Hurricane worldwide excluding North America. The album scored 72 out of 100 on review aggregator Metacritic. Prior to the album’s release, Jones performed at Massive Attack‘s Meltdown festival in London on 19 June 2008, Jones performed four new songs from the album and premiered the music video which Jones and artist Nick Hooker collaborated on, which resulted in “Corporate Cannibal“. Jones promoted the album even further by appearing on talk show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, performed at several awards galas, and embarked on The Hurricane Tour. The same year, Jones was honoured with Q Idol Award. In 2009, Chris Cunningham produced a fashion shoot for Dazed & Confused using Jones as a model to create “Nubian versions” of Rubber Johnny. In an interview for BBC’s The Culture Show, it was suggested that the collaboration may expand into a video project. Jones also worked with the avant-garde poet Brigitte Fontaine on a duet named “Soufi” from Fontaine’s album Prohibition released in 2009, and produced by Ivor Guest. In March 2010 Jones performed for guests at the 18th annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Award Viewing Party. The Elton John AIDS Foundation is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organisations supporting HIV prevention programs, and works to eliminate the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS. That evening, US$3.7 million was raised. The same year, a budget DVD version of A One Man Show was released, as Grace Jones – Live in Concert. It included three bonus video clips (“Slave to the Rhythm“, “Love Is the Drug” and “Crush“. 2011 saw Jones again collaborating with Brigitte Fontaine on two tracks from her 2011 release entitled L’un n’empêche pas l’autre and performed at the opening ceremony of the 61st FIFA Congress. Jones released a dub version of the album, Hurricane – Dub, which came out on 5 September 2011. The dub versions were made by Ivor Guest, with contributions from Adam Green, Frank Byng, Robert Logan and Ben Cowan. In April 2012, Jones joined Deborah Harry, Bebel Gilberto, and Sharon Stone at the Inspiration Gala in São Paulo, Brazil, raising $1.3 Million for amfAR (the Foundation for AIDS Research). Jones closed the evening with a performance of “La Vie en Rose” and “Pull Up to the Bumper.”

Two months later, Jones performed Slave To The Rhythm at the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II (whilst keeping a hula hoop spinning in the air throughout), and the Lovebox Festival. On 27 October Jones performed her only North American show of 2012, a performance at New York City’s Roseland Ballroom. The same year, Jones presented Sir Tom Jones with not only the GQ Men of the Year award, but her underwear. Tom Jones accepted the gift in good humour, and replied by saying, ”I didn’t think you wore any”.

Jones is currently working on a new album with producer Ivor Guest, and on a book of memoirs, but meanwhile Universal Music Group released a deluxe edition of her Nightclubbing album as a 2 disc set and Blu-ray audio on 28 April 2014. The set contains most of the 12″ mixes of singles from that album, plus two previously unreleased tracks from the Nightclubbing sessions, including a cover of the Gary Numan track “Me! I Disconnect From You”.

In October 2014, Jones was announced as having contributed a song, “Original Beast,” to the soundtrack of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.

Jones’s memoir entitled I’ll Never Write My Memoirs, was released on 29 September 2015.

Artistry and legacy

Image

Jones’ distinctive androgynous appearance, square-cut, angular padded clothing, manner, and height of 5’10½” influenced the cross-dressing movement of the 1980s. To this day, she is known for her unique look at least as much as she is for her music and has been an inspiration for numerous artists, including Annie Lennox,Lady Gaga, Rihanna,Brazilian GirlsGrimes,Róisín Murphy,Nile Rodgers,Santigold, and Basement Jaxx. Jones was listed as one of the fifty best-dressed over 50s by the Guardian in March 2013.

Voice and music

Jones has a contralto vocal range. She sings in two modes: either in her monotone speak-sing voice as in songs such as “Private Life“, “Walking in the Rain” and “The Apple Stretching“, or in an almost-soprano mode in songs such as “La Vie en Rose“, “Slave to the Rhythm“, and “Victor Should Have Been a Jazz Musician“. Jones’ voice spans two and a half octaves.

While her early music was rooted in the disco genre, she opted for a new wave sound in 1980s. She recorded a series of albums 1980’s Warm Leatherette through 1982’s Living My Life. Backed by the Jamaica rhythm section duo Sly and Robbie, her music during this era was described as a hybrid of “rock, funk, post-punk, pop and reggae.” This hybrid influenced a variety of alternative music artists, including Massive Attack, Todd Terje, Gorillaz, Hot Chip, and LCD Soundsystem.

Personal life

Jones’s relationship with her father was strained; he was strict and felt forced to disassociate himself from her because the church refused to make him a bishop as long as he was associated with his daughter. According to the particular denomination’s beliefs, one should only use one’s singing ability to glorify God. Bishop Robert W. Jones died on 7 May 2008. Her mother, Marjorie, always supported Jones’ career (she sings on “Williams’ Blood” and “My Jamaican Guy“) but could not be publicly associated with her music. Marjorie’s father, William, was also a musician, and played with Nat King Cole.

Through her relationship with long-time collaborator Jean-Paul Goude, Jones has one son, Paulo. From Paulo, Jones has one granddaughter. Jones married Atila Altaunbay in 1996. She disputes rumors she married Chris Stanley in her 2015 memoir I’ll Never Write My Memoirs, saying, “The truth is, I only ever married one of my boyfriends, Atila Altaunbay, a Muslim from Turkey.” She spent four years with Swedish actor Dolph Lundgren, her former bodyguard; she was the one who got him a part as a KGB officer in A View to a Kill. Jones started dating Danish actor/stuntman/bodybuilder Sven-Ole Thorsen in 1990, and was in an open relationship as of 2007.

Jones’s brother is megachurch preacher Bishop Noel Jones, who starred on the 2013 reality show Preachers of LA.

Jones’s real last name is often referred to as “Mendoza”, which is actually a name she used in her 20s to fool her parents.

Artist information provided by WikiMedia

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