Rickie Lee Jones - Biography


RICKIE LEE JONES has spent a life time dancing with her muse. She is the most iconic American female singer-songwriter of her time, a woman who outlasted all her adversaries–including youth and self-destruction. A seasoned humility brings her performances an authenticity that only long-enduring musicians achieve. Her artistry is brilliantly underlined with her 2019 forthcoming album KICKS. The album spans two decades (50s-70s) of pop, rock and jazz, presenting her unique and sophisticated interpretations of songs that were pivotal to her musical journey.


By the time she was 19, 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: music that was sometimes spoken, often beautifully sung, and while emotionally accessible, she was writing lyrics as taut and complex as any by the great American poet, Elizabeth Bishop. In JONES’ voice and songs, we saw smoky stocking seams, love being everything but requited. And it was during these years that RICKIE LEE’s song, “Easy Money,” caught the attention of one musician and then the music industry. The song was recorded by Lowell George, the founder of the band, Little Feat. He used it on his solo album, Thanks, I’ll Eat It Here. Shortly thereafter, Warner Brothers auditioned JONES and quickly signed her to the label.


Rickie Lee Jones – The 22nd Annual Grammy Awards on February 27, 1980, at Shrine Auditorium, LA. Ph: Ralph Dominguez/MediaPunch.


Her 1979 debut Rickie Lee Jones album (Warner Bros) won the Grammy for “Best New Artist.” 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.” In addition to the album’s brilliant songs–including the exceptional “On Saturday Afternoons in 1963,” the haunting “Last Chance Texaco,” and the popular “Chuck E’s in Love”–JONES was becoming a figure whose life was bearing a great deal of emulation by young women and men who found, in her deep and personal and idiosyncratic life and work, a model for the new generation of hipster.


The American culture was instantly intrigued. RICKIE LEE seemed as much of a hit as her song. She was the alternative to punk/new wave, representing the revitalization of the dying art of the pop song. She liked pop and said so. JONES’ work was the amalgamation of jazz and rock and pop, a percolating zygote that made itself into a brave new world called RICKIE LEE JONES. American culture was changed.


Her second release, Pirates, was instantly hailed as one of the great albums of all time, garnering the elusive 5-star review and a second cover in Rolling Stone–RICKIE LEE JONES seemed to be able to do anything the boys could do, and on her own terms. Her impact would be felt long after, even when she herself became one of the long unrecognized American treasures.



RICKIE LEE JONES was the IT girl of the 80’s, trend setter, beautiful big smile and long blonde hair, gyrating teenager in a spandex one-piece, a temptress in lacy elbow length gloves and heels–still a popular rock costume today. She abandoned the “dress like a guy to be taken seriously” maxim and she ushered in a new epoch in singer/songwriters–the pop singer. Still, she is often associated with a musical generation 10 years her senior. And it is easy to see why–RICKIE LEE was the last to be associated with the first wave of singer songwriters and the first of an amalgamation of pop/jazz/rock singer songwriter–the self-made personality-driven icon.


Before RICKIE LEE JONES, the genre of singer songwriter was derived entirely from the folk singers of the 50’s and 60’s. She brought jazz to the rock stage, a teenaged recklessness and a flair for drama. From the get-go, it was unclear which genre she was to rule. RICKIE LEE was voted best jazz singer in Playboy and Rolling Stone polls two years in a row.


RICKIE LEE JONES was the “Duchess of Coolsville” (Time magazine). But she was the Queen of Cool, an uncomfortable crown for a woman devoted to her muse.



In 1985 RICKIE abdicated her crown of cool and moved to France. She returned to music four years later, releasing 1989’s Flying Cowboys, produced by Steely Dan’s Walter Becker; the album’s first single “Satellites” was a #1 AAA radio hit.



● Ten years later, in 1999, the Grammys offered JONES another nod–for Flying Cowboys, RICKIE LEE’s gorgeous blend of trad jazz and soft rock. She had taken home a Grammy for “Best Jazz” duet with Dr. John (“Makin’ Whoopie”), as well as a nomination for “Best Jazz Singer’ for her rendition of “Autumn Leaves.”

● In 2000, RICKIE LEE JONES was honored with the Tenco Award, a prestigious Italian lifetime achievement acknowledging her contribution to music.

● Renewed interest in JONES led to the three-disc anthology Duchess of Coolsville: An Anthology, released through reissue specialists Rhino in June 2005. 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.

● The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard was released in February 2006 on the independent New West Records. It included “Circle in the Sand,” recorded for the soundtrack to the film “Friends With Money,” for which JONES also cut “Hillbilly Song.” The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard debuted at #12 on the Top Independent Albums tally. Writer Ann Powers included this on her list of Grammy-worthy CDs for 2007.



● For her next project, JONES opted to finish half-written songs dating back as far as 1986 (“Wild Girl”) as well as include new ones (the 2008-penned “The Gospel of Carlos, Norman and Smith,” “Bonfires”). Working closely with long-time collaborator David Kalish–with whom RICKIE LEE first worked on 1981’s Pirates–JONES released Balm in Gilead on the Fantasy label in November 2009. The album also included a new recording of “The Moon Is Made of Gold,” a song written by her father Richard Loris Jones in 1954. Ben Harper, Victoria Williams, Jon Brion, Alison Krauss and the late Vic Chesnutt all made contributions to the album.

● In May 2010 JONES performed at the Sydney Opera House as part of the VIVID festival.

● In September 2012, JONES released The Devil You Know, a collection of covers produced by famed musician Ben Harper, on Concord Records.

● June 2015 saw the release of The Other Side of Desire and the album garnered excellent reviews.



● June 2019 marks the release of Kicks, JONES’ newest collection of songs from the great American songbook. The album spans two decades (50s-70s) of pop, rock and jazz, presenting her unique and sophisticated interpretations of these songs. Miss Jones’ own label, OSOD (other side of desire), is releasing Kicks with Thirty Tigers distributing.