Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 19 May '52, Jamaica) West Indian soul singer. Statuesque exotic beauty was raised in NYC, became successful model on European circuit before broadening career into music at height of disco boom '77. Early records prod. by Tom Moulton were fairly tame: Portfolio '77, Fame '78, Muse '79 featuring disco-diva crooning over standard dance-track backing, but went down well. Wild fashion taste and stunning looks won support of the hip set and the gay crowd. Stage act masterminded by French designer/artist and current beau Jean- Paul Goude raised eyebrows everywhere (captured on One Man Show video); this was combined with a new musical approach: she went to native West Indies for the cream of reggae musicians (e.g. Sly and Robbie) for sinuous reggae/funk backgrounds for half- spoken half-sung delivery: unlike her previous disco hits, these were distinctive, still danceable and very hip. Warm Leatherette '80 had title track cover of the Normals' depiction of car accident; also cover of the Pretenders' 'Private Life', Roxy Music's 'Love Is The Drug'. Island Records boss Chris Blackwell prod. personally. Nightclubbing '81 repeated the prescription, covering David Bowie/Iggy Pop title track, introducing Jones as writer in 'Pull Up To The Bumper' (co- credited Kookoo Baya), top five USA soul hit (and UK hit on '86 re-release). Living My Life '82 was much more relaxed and reggae-inspired, all but one song with Jones's lyrics: first top 100 USA LP. She diversified further, in Bond film A View To A Kill, visually arresting TV advert for Renault; returned to recording with ZTT label-boss/prod. Trevor Horn. 'Slave To The Rhythm', written for Frankie Goes to Hollywood, was UK hit '85 and extended (in true ZTT fashion) to an LP in various versions incl. interview with Jones, a willing accomplice. This led to more accusations of being a puppet (cf. Goude), but she maintained that she was always in control. Compilation Island Life '85 testified to eight eventful years; she left Island for the new EMI Manhattan label and Inside Story '86 was an improvement on recent work. Video of 'I'm Not Perfect (But I'm Perfect For You)' cost $250,000. On Bulletproof Heart '89 on Capitol her lust seemed to have lost its dangerous aspect; nevertheless, she will be remembered for a brutal, androgynous image as well as lugubrious vocals.