I’d always thought of Grace Jones as the kind of icon – like Jagger, Madonna, Bowie, Prince, Whitney, Jacko, Elvis - that needs no introduction. Everybody knows them, right? Wrong. With sheer bewilderment, one day in February 2017, I learned that not one but TWO interns didn’t have the slightest clue who she is. Once I’d gotten over the creeping realisation that I am definitely aging, it struck me that I just can’t let this pass. If Grace Jones has somehow (I really don’t know how) slipped through your ragged net of knowledge, let me be your guide.
Jamaican born Grace Jones has done it all and still hasn’t stopped, succeeding at everything she turns a hand to – model, actress, pop star, muse. Eccentric, elegant an iconic, she’s a true artist serving as an influence on so many artists since – Gaga, Annie Lennox, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and tons more.
Raised in New York, she signed a modeling contract with Wilhelmina Models in the 70’s and travelled to Paris to work for Yves Saint Laurent and Helmut Newton, eventually signing a contract with Island Records. She made several albums with disco producer Tom Moulter before making a splash, although her risqué performances at New York nightclubs including Studio 54 made her the queen of the city’s club scene. Often photographed with close friend Andy Warhol, she won a devoted following on the art and gay scenes – oh to have been a fly on the wall at such a fabulous time!
As the 70’s drew to a close, Jones evolved with the zeitgeist of the time, switching from disco to new wave and more experimental grounds in the '80s. Produced by Jamaican duo Sly and Robbie, her next two albums bought commercial success and still stand the test of time today. Featuring covers of songs by the likes of The Pretenders, Roxy Music, Iggy Pop and the Police, as well as her own work, including the classic ‘Pull up to the Bumper’, Warm Leatherette (1980) and Nightclubbing (1981) are some of her best known work. A slamming comeback to music after a stint as an actress, in 1985 she released albums Slave to the Rhythm and the compilation Island Life, both with now classic cover art.
On screen, she has appeared with Eddie Murphy in Boomerang opposite Halle Berry, with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Destroyer and opposite Roger Moore and Christopher Walken in the 1985 James Bond film A View to a Kill, earning Saturn Award nomination for best supporting actress for both films.
Retreating from public view somewhat in the 90’s, several compilation albums of her work have been released since, as well as the Hurricane in 2008, her first full-length album in nearly twenty years. Nowadays, she still performs live and collaborates with several artists; her latest feature is 'Original Beast', which Lorde wove into her curated Hunger Games soundtrack. In 2015, she published a memoir, ironically titled I'll Never Write My Memoirs, and in 2016 headlined a sold-out Alexandra Palace - at nearly 69-year- old, hula-hooping in high-heels, nonetheless. QUEEN!
Here’s a playlist of our favourite Grace Jones music.
Catch her performing at Dimensions Festival this year.