Born Grace Mendoza on May 19, 1952 in Spanishtown, Jamaica, West Indies. Grace and her twin brother Christian grew up in a large family of established politicians and preachers. Her grand-uncle was a Bishop and her father was a Preacher, who left the island for America while Grace was still a baby. The twins grew up loved and protected, and yet outsiders, in a melange of aunts, uncles, siblings, and cousins. It was a lonely experience.
When Christian and Grace were teenagers they moved to America, joining their father who was then preaching in Syracuse, New York. Grace who had grown up a virtual ‘wild child’, free to do as she pleased, found herself in a middle-class world of shopping centers and drive-ins, of schools and rules.
I never understood the rules,” she said. “I can’t behave. I don’t know how to.” She fought the system. She rebelled. She cursed. She wore Afros before they became fashionable, and she displayed her breasts long before nudity was acceptable undress. The locals regarded her as “a crazy girl.” Her report cards described her as “socially sick.”
“I WAS THE ONLY BLACK GIRL AT MY JUNIOR-HIGH SCHOOL. I HAD AN AFRO, A JAMAICAN ACCENT, I LOOKED REALLY OLD. I WAS ORIGINALLY TRAINING TO BE A TEACHER OF LANGUAGES. I SPEAK FRENCH, SPANISH, JAPANESE, ITALIAN AND GERMAN. WHEN I RAN INTO MY DRAMA TEACHER ALL THAT CHANGED.”
College couldn’t hold her for long and soon she ran off to Philadelphia where she studied in drama workshops. Then she ran off to New York and landed a spot with the renowned Wilhelmina Modeling Agency, and was soon modeling in Paris for Vogue and Elle.
In 1973 Grace got her first taste of acting when she landed the part of “Mary” in the Ossie Davis directed, “Gordon’s War.” While in Paris modeling, she landed another role as “Cuidy” in the 1975 french comedy “Let’s Make A Dirty Movie” (the American title).
Grace had been an underground, uncrowned “queen” for years before the “straight” world discovered her, she was the darling of the gay disco crowd. She haunted New York City’s day world of dance studios, salons, fashion shows, photo studios, and openings, and the night world of polysex bathhouses, private clubs and discos.
In the days when “Le Jardin” was the disco that ruled Manhattan, Grace Jones was it’s acknowledged queen. Night after night she ruled the dance floor, moving, dancing, creating. And every move she made, every step she took, was watched and studied, and copied a hundred times over.
By late 1976 Grace found that modeling no longer satisfied her, and since singing had always been one of her primary obsessions and with the emergence of discos and disco music, she decided on a career in music. She acquired a manager and press agent, and Tom Moulton, the acknowledged “master of the disco mix,” was hired to produce her first album. Tom brought in top notch people to help, “The Sweethearts Of Sigma Sound” did the backgrounds, while Vince Montana did vibes, conducting and arranging, the albums line-up also include Ron Kersey and Bobby Eli among it’s credits.
The first 12″ single released from the album “Portfolio,” raced up the club charts and immediately established Grace as a musical force to be reckoned with. “I Need A Man” dominated dance floors across the country in the summer of 1977. Her second 12″ single, the double-sided hit, “Sorry” and “That’s The Trouble,” which Grace co-wrote, helped cement her status in the disco community and propelled the sales of her album.
“I MADE MY DEBUT AT STUDIO FIFTY-FOUR, AT THEIR NEW YEARS EVE PARTY. I WAS THE FIRST ARTIST TO SING LIVE THERE.”
By 1978 Grace had met French artist Jean Paul Goude whom she would later marry and who would father Grace’s only child, a son. Goude an avant-garde artist would also be instrumental in guiding Grace through a number of career transitions. For her second album, “Fame,” Tom Moulton once again assembled the cream of the crop. This time John Davis (of Monster Orchestra fame) was brought in for arrangements. The first 12″ single was “Do Or Die” and once again Grace was in the Top Ten on club playlists. The second 12″ was “Fame” backed with the haunting “Am I Ever Gonna Fall In Love In New York City.” This album put Grace in a modern dance sound and introduced her to a much larger audience than her freshman effort. By this time Grace was a permanent fixture at Studio 54 when not touring or recording. She was often photographed frolicking with other celebs at New York’s most infamous disco.
1979 saw Grace in the movie “Army Of Lovers” (or a.k.a. “Revoulution Of The Perverts”). In this personal diary-style documentary of German Gay rights activist Von Praunheim’s sojourn in the U.S. Grace is seen writhing her way through “I Need A Man” at a rally and is sharply criticized for doing so by a Lesbian feminist.
Her next album only produced one 12″ single. “On Your Knees” did receive clubplay but at this point disco and Grace seemed to be going in different directions. Sales for 1979’s “Muse” were less than spectacular even though the album contained a fabulous medley. And despite critics and sales, Grace was just being Grace! This album was to be the final collaboration with Tom Moulton. Album graphics and pictures were once again by Richard Bernstein, who had done the previous two. Arrangements were by Thor Baldursson and John Davis and the background vocals included Phil Hurtt and Ron Tyson.
By 1980 the relationship between Jones and Goude firmly intertwined, Grace and Jean Paul reinvented her image and sound. For the album “Warm Leatherette” they chose producers Alex Sadkin and Chris Blackwell. This was the beginning of the Compass Point Sessions and the new “Sly & Robbie” reggae flavored sound that Grace would become most famously linked to. Three 12″ singles were released from the album, a remake of the Motown classic “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game,” the Bryan Ferry penned “Love Is The Drug,” and the title track “Warm Leatherette.” This album marked a direct effort towards the bastardization of reggae and rock. The results were stunning! Grace now appealed to the emerging punk devotees as well as retaining her loyal gay following. The album was released with two different covers.
1981 brought Grace back to the movies with a role as “slick’s girlfriend” in “Deadly Venegance.” The movie was a financial bomb, but Grace’s biggest success was just around the corner. For her second Nassau, Bahamas recorded album, “Nightclubbing,” Grace wrote a little number that would eventually become her biggest hit ever. The first 12″ was “Pull Up To My Bumper.” That song became one of the top club hits of the year and is without a doubt her biggest to date.
The other 12″ singles from the album were: “Feel Up,” “Walking In The Rain” and a cover of Sting’s “Demolition Man.” There’s no doubt that the success of this album was propelled by the Disconet Remix of “Pull Up To The Bumper.” At this point music videos were just coming into their own with the start-up of MTV and Grace was on the cutting edge of it. She began making music videos with “Warm Leatherette” and for this album she did four of them.
1982 saw the last of The Compass Point Sessions being recorded with Sly, Robbie, Alex and Chris. For “Living My Life” Grace wrote or co-wrote all the songs save one (“The Apple Stretching”). This album was the most reggae flavored of the three she recorded with Blackwell and Sadkin. The 12″ singles from the album were: “Nipple To The Bottle” and “Cry Now, Laugh Later.” More music videos followed this release.
She received a Grammy nomination in 1983 for her video-only release “A One Man Show.” The video was a visual extravaganza encompassing all that is Grace….bizarre, eclectic, mesmerizing, hypnotic, beauty and style.
By 1984 Grace had attained enough notoriety to land a starring role in the big budget Arnold Schwarzenegger film “Conan The Destroyer” playing Zula. Her acting received unanimous praise and landed her the role of Mayday in the 1985 James Bond thriller “A View To A Kill.” Playing nemesis to Roger Moore alongside Christopher Walken.
Her album “Slave To The Rhythm” was a musical biography in 8 acts. Produced by Art Of Noise leader Trevor Horn, it took Grace in yet a whole new musical direction.The 1985 release had the title track on 12″ single and spawned the hugely successful video compilation “State Of Grace.” All videos were conceived and directed by Goude and showcase Grace’s striking visual presence. That same year a “greatest hits” of sorts was released. “Island Life” has three tracks from the Tom Moulton sessions but relies more heavily on the Blackwell/Sadkin sessions.
The momentum of the 1980’s continued with the starring role in 1986’s “Vamp” where Grace played modern day vampire Katrina. Her album that year was the Nile Rodgers produced “Inside Story.” The 12″ singles of “Crush” and “I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect For You)” did extremely well but the killer track was “Victor Should Have Been A Jazz Musician.”
Her next movie, 1987’s “Straight To Hell” gave Grace a minor role in the Courtney Love dark comedy. The remainder of the year saw Grace concentrating on her acting with appearances in “Siesta” with Jodie Foster and Martin Sheen, and the Mick Jagger video of “Running Out Of Luck” as herself.
For most of 1988 Grace took time off to relax, enjoy her son, and reformulate her career strategy. She did make an appearance on “Pee Wee Herman’s Christmas Special” as herself. She also filmed her first television commercial. The automobile commercial featured some stunning visuals of Grace tearing across the desert, putting her well manicured foot to the pedal, and driving into her mouth. Part of the shot of her driving into her mouth was also used as the cover of her 1989 album “Bulletproof Heart”.
“Bulletproof Heart” was to be Grace’s last original full length album. The album lacked a certain cohesivness, perhaps due to the abundance of producers. David Cole & Robert Clivilles (C & C Music Factory) did some of the production and the album featured such notable guests as Diva Gray, Lani Groves, Vanesse Thomas, Jocelyn Brown and Martha Wash. The album produced two 12″ singles: “Love On Top Of Love” and “Amado Mio.”
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