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One of two solo stars to spring from the ashes of the '70s all-girl hard rock band the Runaways, Lita Ford has long been a more frustrating, contradictory proposition for critics than former colleague Joan Jett. Ford is subtly feminist in her musical approach, displaying guitar heroics on the level of any male metal hero; the mere fact of her existence in the otherwise testosterone-driven heavy metal genre has made her a hero to some, but her persona has often been criticized as calculated to appeal to male adolescent sexual fantasies, simply embodying the standard wild-girl stereotypes of many male metal artists' lyrics. When she has the material to back her up, though, Ford is inarguably capable of rocking out aggressively and assertively.
Ford was born on September 19, 1958, in London, emigrating to the U.S. as a young child. She began playing the guitar at age 11; just five years later, she joined the Kim Fowley-produced Runaways, an all-female project designed to mix the aggression of simple, punky hard rock with teenage bad-girl sex appeal. When the band dissolved, Ford took voice lessons and embarked on a solo career, supporting herself through a variety of jobs (gas station attendant, perfume salesperson, fitness instructor, hairdresser, etc.). She released her debut album, Out for Blood, in 1983; it was followed the next year by Dancin' on the Edge.
Nothing was heard from Ford for the next four years; the follow-up to Dancin' on the Edge, titled The Bride Wore Black, was abandoned and never released, as Ford switched from Mercury to RCA. By the time Ford returned, the lighter pop-metal she had long favored had broken through to mainstream audiences, which set the stage for her most successful album, 1988's Lita. Slickly produced by Mike Chapman, the album featured Ford's first hit, the number 12 "Kiss Me Deadly"; its follow-up, a duet with Ozzy Osbourne entitled "Close My Eyes Forever," provided both artists with their first Top Ten single.
Ford celebrated her newfound success with a marriage to W.A.S.P. guitarist Chris Holmes, but unfortunately, this, like her commercial success, would be short-lived. Follow-up efforts like 1990's Stiletto and 1991's Dangerous Curves failed to match the popcraft of Lita, and Ford found herself without a label after alternative's explosion in the early '90s. She married Jim Gillette, former vocalist with hair metal kings Nitro, had two children and moved to the Caribbean. She eventually re-emerged on the scene in the 21st century with the uncharacteristically heavy Wicked Wonderland in 2009. The album was released on her own label, JLRG Entertainment; the set was co-produced by Greg Hampton, Ford, and Gillette. In the years that followed Ford went through a particularly messy divorce with Gillette, and resurfaced in 2012 with eighth solo album Living Like a Runaway, a cathartic break up album with themes of divorce, betrayal and estrangement throughout. The album was co-produced by Gary Hoey and represented a return to the more tuneful pop metal Ford had enjoyed the most success with in the early 90's.
Lita Rossana Ford (born September 19, 1958) is a British-American rock guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter, who was the lead guitarist for The Runaways in the late 1970s before embarking on a solo career in the 1980s."Lita Ford Biography". Biography.com. Retrieved 2014-05-18. "Lita Ford." Contemporary Musicians. Vol. 9. Detroit: Gale, 1993. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 24 August 2011. "Lita Ford." Almanac of Famous People. Gale, 2011. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 24 August 2011.
Ford was born to a British father and an Italian mother in London, England. At the age of four she moved with her family to the United States, eventually settling in the Los Angeles area by the time she was in the second grade. Inspired by Ritchie Blackmore's work with Deep Purple, she began playing the guitar at the age of 11. Her vocal range is mezzo-soprano.Ramirez, Carlos (April 25, 2012). "Lita Ford on Her Wild Teenage Days in '70s Southern California". Noisecreep. AOL Inc. Retrieved June 10, 2012. Martin, Bill (2002). Pro Secrets Of Heavy Rock Singing. Sanctuary Publishing. p. 9. ISBN 1-86074-437-0.
ContentsMusic career1.1 The Runaways1.2 Solo career1.3 Hiatus and return to stage
In 1975, at the age of 16, Ford was recruited by recording impresario Kim Fowley to join the all-female rock band he was assembling called The Runaways. The band soon secured a recording contract and released their first album in 1976. The band's "jailbait on the run" gimmick garnered significant media attention and The Runaways became a successful recording and touring act during their late 1970s heyday. Ford's lead-guitar playing became an integral element of the band's sound until their eventual break-up in April 1979.
In 1977, internal conflicts were erupting within The Runaways, who had by that time already parted ways with producer Fowley, lead singer Cherie Currie, and bassist Jackie Fox. Vocalist/guitarist Joan Jett wanted the band to shift to a more Ramones-influenced punk rock sound, while Ford and drummer Sandy West wanted to continue playing the hard rock-oriented songs the band had become known for. With neither faction willing to compromise, the band finally broke up in April 1979.
Following the breakup of The Runaways, Ford set about launching a solo career. Her debut solo album, entitled Out for Blood, was released in 1983 and was a commercial disappointment. Her next release, 1984's Dancin' on the Edge achieved moderate success and Ford's popularity began to rise, due largely to her sex appeal with the largely male heavy metal audience. Dancin' on the Edge included the single "Fire in My Heart", which reached the Top 10 in several countries outside the US. The follow-up single, "Gotta Let Go", performed better, reaching number one on the Mainstream Rock charts.
Ford toured extensively for the next four years while not releasing any new music. A follow-up to Dancin' on the Edge, entitled The Bride Wore Black, was recorded with Tony Iommi serving as producer, but never released. Ford claims this was because the new Mercury Records president "was a country fan and he didn't have a clue as what to do with me". The status of those recordings remains unclear; Ford has alternately stated that the unfinished album remains "sitting in my closet" and may still be released one day or is "in (record) label hell! Who knows what shelf that is sitting on!"
Following the failure to have her third solo album released, Ford signed with RCA Records, hired Sharon Osbourne Management, and re-emerged with a more radio-friendly pop-metal sound. In 1988 she released her most commercially successful album, the self-produced Lita. The album featured several singles including "Kiss Me Deadly", "Back to the Cave", "Close My Eyes Forever", and "Falling In and Out of Love", a song co-written by Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe. The ballad "Close My Eyes Forever", a duet with Ozzy Osbourne, remains her most successful song, reaching No. 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Ford followed up the success of Lita with the 1990 album Stiletto. Stiletto featured the singles "Hungry" and "Lisa" (a song dedicated to her mother). However, the album failed to match the success of her previous release. Ford's next release was 1991's Dangerous Curves on Spitfire Records, which featured her last charting single to date, "Shot of Poison". Ford's final album prior to a lengthy recording hiatus was Black on the German ZYX Records.
Hiatus and return to stage
By the mid-1990s, Ford placed a reduced priority on her music career as she turned her attention towards raising her two young sons. Following the release of Black in 1995, Ford did not release new material until the Wicked Wonderland album almost fifteen years later.
In June 2008, Ford re-emerged with a new band, playing several warm-up gigs under the moniker Kiss Me Deadly prior to Rocklahoma in the New York City area. In June 2009, she began touring the United States and Europe with a new line-up consisting of current Guns N' Roses guitarist Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal, Bumblefoot drummer Dennis Leeflang, and Deepfield bassist PJ Farley.
After a long recording hiatus, Ford released the new album Wicked Wonderland on October 6, 2009, on the JLRG Entertainment label. In an interview with ExclusiveMagazine.com, Ford spoke about her new material: "I just wanted to kick ass! I don't know what's popular, or the flavor of the day. I just wanted the music to rock! The lyrics are very personal and that's it. I wasn't going to come out in sandals with hairy armpits!".
In May 2011, Ford promised to release a "real comeback album" later in the year, saying that 2009's nu metal-inspired Wicked Wonderland, was too much of a collective project with ex-husband Jim Gillette. "A lot of people have told me that they want a real Lita Ford album, and I know what they mean. They are going to get it," she was quoted as saying at the time. The album Living Like a Runaway was released in June 2012 on SPV/Steamhammer Records. True to her word, the album was much more in line with her earlier work. The title is also celebratory, as Ford had recently settled differences with her former Runaways' bandmates."The Runaways - Television Tropes & Idioms". Tvtropes.org. Retrieved 2012-12-28. Sherman, Dale. 20th Century Rock And Roll : Women In Rock. Collector's Guide Publishing, inc, p53 "Lita Ford Interview". Sleaze Roxx. 2009-11-24. Retrieved 2012-12-28. "Exclusive Magazine". Anne Carlini. Retrieved 2012-12-28. "Eddie Trunk". Eddie Trunk. Retrieved 2011-10-09. Price, Jason (2008-11-12). "Lita Ford: The Next Chapter In Her Rockin' History". Live-Metal.net. Retrieved 2010-03-14. Russell A. Trunk. "Lita Ford - 'Desert Island Diva!'". Exclusive Magazine. Retrieved 2010-09-05. "Blabbermouth.net - Lita Ford: New Video Interview Posted Online". Roadrunnerrecords.com. Retrieved 2012-12-28. Greg Prato (2012-06-18). "Album Premiere: Lita Ford, 'Living Like a Runaway' | Music News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-12-28.
In the mid-1980s, Ford was briefly engaged to guitarist Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. Iommi co-produced her album The Bride Wore Black, an album which was never released. Ford said in a 1989 interview with Kerrang! magazine that "there's a certain amount of bad blood between Tony (Iommi) and I". Ford was married to W.A.S.P. guitarist Chris Holmes in the early 1990s for a short time; the pair divorced and Ford began dating former Nitro vocalist Jim Gillette in 1994. The couple were married after knowing each other for only two weeks. They have two sons, James and Rocco Gillette. The family moved to Turks and Caicos, where Gillette operated a small building and real estate developing business.
In a February 2011 radio interview, Ford acknowledged that she and Gillette were divorcing. The family were in negotiations for a reality TV show, tentatively titled "The Gillettes: An Extreme American Family" on TLC. The couple's impending divorce ended any plans for the television show. In a March, 2011, interview on the Classic Rock Revisited website, Ford claimed that she had taken a business trip to Los Angeles to discuss the reality show with TLC executives, and returned home to find her husband and sons not speaking to her. She also claimed that her sons physically attacked her, encouraged by Gillette, after which she decided to divorce him. In 2013, Ford referred to her ex-husband as a "control freak" and commented that Gillette had turned the children against her because she had taken a trip to speak to TLC executives about the impending reality TV show deal. She stated that because she had taken control of the show, Gillette turned the couple's children against her, threatening that Ford was going to do harm to the children. Due to this, Ford has become an advocate for the awareness of Parental alienation."IMDB Page- Tony Iommi". Retrieved 2011-07-26. "Lita Ford History: Sleaze Roxx". Retrieved 2011-07-26. "Colonies and Territories". Outpostmagazine.com. 2009-03-20. Retrieved 2011-10-09. "Lita Ford interview". Ultimate-guitar.com. 2011-01-26. Retrieved 2011-10-09. "Lita Ford interview". Classicrockrevisited.com. Retrieved 2011-10-09. "Lita Ford Plays Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction? - Runaways, Family + More". Loudwire.com. 2013-11-05. Retrieved 2014-05-18.
During her solo career, Ford endorsed musical instrument manufacturer B.C. Rich and exclusively used several of the brand's guitars, most notably the Warlock.
Ford had a small role in the 1992 horror/comedy film Highway to Hell playing a character called "The Hitchhiker". Ford was also asked by VH-1 to join the cast of the seventh season of the reality television program The Surreal Life in 2007. She declined.
Ford contributed her likeness and voice to the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC video game Brütal Legend. She appears as the character Rima, alongside Jack Black, Tim Curry, Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Halford, and Lemmy Kilmister. Her song "Betrayal" is also one of the 100+ songs that appear in the game.
In 2010, a major Hollywood motion picture chronicling the career of Ford's first band, The Runaways, was produced. Ford was portrayed by actress Scout Taylor-Compton in the movie, entitled The Runaways.
Ford is featured extensively in the 2005 documentary film Edgeplay: A film about The Runaways, in which she spoke candidly about her time in the all-girl band. Among other things, she alludes to verbal and sexual abuse endured by the band members at the hands of their management, specifically Kim Fowley.
In 2013, Ford re-united with former Runaways band mate Cherie Currie to record a Christmas single. The single ties into work Currie and Ford are both doing on behalf of Toys For Tots, a charity run by the U.S. Marine Corps, which gives holiday toys to poor children.Lita Ford & Cherie Currie - 2013 Christmas single