Grace Jones has spent a lifetime turning her pain into our pleasure.
Growing up in Jamaica, known then by her middle name, Bev, she was raised by her grandmother and an abusive step grandfather. Her parents had gone to live in the States and left their children in the care of a family gone wrong. But from that experience sprang a talent that has spanned the decades, from modeling to singing and acting. At 60 something years old, she is still going strong.
Grace has been a trend setter since she arrived in Syracuse as a teenager in the early 1960s: she was among the first to sport an Afro, she had no fear of experimenting with mind-altering drugs, and she was willing to bare all for a modeling session. (One of her first professional photographs graces the cover of Black Beauty by Ben Arogundade.) Soon the modeling took her to Paris, where she lived with Jerry Hall and Jessica Lange and spent the night clubbing with gay men, long before that was socially acceptable, and dabbling in song.
At first, she was Grace, Queen of the Disco, both on stage and off. In fact, if it weren’t for Ms. Jones, Nile Rodgers would never have recorded the hit “Le Freak.” As disco morphed into something more mainstream, Grace lost interest and realized her talent was more theatrical. Some might say she was among the first performance artists, though she never calls herself that. She also got in touch with her own voice. Enter “Warm Leatherette” and “Pull Up to the Bumper” and the punkier, sexier version (is that even possible?) of Grace. And that Grace brought her to film, where she played May Day in the Bond movie A View To A Kill. But the machine of Hollywood, the mainstreamness of it, did not hold much appeal to Grace and since then, she’s focused on her one-womanish show.
I’ll Never Write My Memoirs is co-written by Paul Morley but it certainly seems like the “voice” belongs to Grace. She is not shy about sharing her views on sex, drugs and rock n roll. No one could ever accuse Grace Jones of being shy about anything, right? Wrongish. Yes, there is the no-holds-barred Grace — the one who got into a bit of a physical tiff with a BBC interviewer years ago on air — but there’s also the private Grace — mother, grandmother, lover of tennis and her homeland –– the one I think of as Bev. And that’s what makes this a fascinating read. It’s not just the juicy details about life in the fast lane that keep the reader engaged; it’s also the quieter, private moments.
Go to You Tube and watch Grace’s 1970s-era performance of Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose” and then fast forward to September of this year to a live performance of “Slave to the Rhythm” — the dichotomy of Grace will be revealed. What an intriguing personality.