Rickie Lee Jones went from the coffeehouses of Los Angeles to the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in what must have seemed like the blink of an eye to some observers.
Of course, no success story is quite that simple — and it would be a mistake to label this one as happening overnight. Yet, the singer-songwriter ‘s self-titled debut her in 1979 was certainly met with immediate and overwhelming success, thanks to in large part to the now-iconic jazz-pop single “Chuck E. ‘s in Love.”
A year after the album’s release, Jones won the trophy for best new artist at the 22nd Annual Grammy Awards.
Jones is still going strong more than four decades later, splitting her time between recording new music, playing concerts — including two shows in one night up in Wine Country — and supporting her newly released memoir “Last Chance Texaco: Chronicles of an American Troubadour. ”
I recently had the chance to chat with the star about the memoir, which has received praise from Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, NPR and other media outlets. For those who want to catch Jones in concert, she performs at 5:30 and 8:30 pm July 9 at Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena as part of the Blue Note Napa series. Tickets are $65-$95, bluenotenapa.com.
Q: Why did you want to write a memoir?
A: Because there are too many ghosts around and they are always tapping on my head and my shoulder telling me to write their story. So, I wrote their story out of respect to all the ghosts that follow me around.
Q: Which ghosts were the most persistent?
A: I kept hearing from my Aunt Bea, who is my father’s sister, who died when he was only 20 or 21. Legend had it that she was a jazz singer and a friend of Benny Goodman or the Dorseys. One of those characters would stay at her house her when they passed through town.
So, I thought, “Well, she must have really been a singer.”
Then she died an untimely death.
So, I told her story, among others — the grandfather, the grandmother, the aunt and, on other side, all of those characters.
Q: Why was it important to you to include all these family members?
A: It’s a story of a family. And I’m one of the members of the family. People buy it because I’m the famous member. But I’m just one of the members of an incredible American story that includes vaudeville and hippies and rock stars and suicides and drug addiction and incredible triumph and tragedy.
And that’s the American story. That’s the one we don’t talk about enough. That’s everybody’s story, more or less.
That average story is so not average — so sublime in it’s details.