Grace Jones was one of the more unforgettable artists to emerge from New York City's hedonistic Studio 54 disco scene of the late '70s.
Born in Spanish Town, Jamaica, Jones was raised in a strict and devoutly Pentecostal household by her parents, who eventually moved to the U.S. and left Jones and her siblings in the care of their grandmother and an abusive step-grandfather. At the age of 13, the Jones children joined their parents in the States. Jones studied theater at Syracuse University before launching a career as a model, notably evident on the 1973 Philadelphia International reissue of Billy Paul's second album. Her statuesque and flamboyant look eventually proved to be a hit in Paris and subsequently New York, which led to a recording contract with Island Records. While the disco-based, Tom Moulton-produced albums Portfolio (1977), Fame (1978), and Muse (1979) didn't break the singer into the mainstream, Jones scored several Billboard club hits and amassed a substantial following with her sexually charged live show, which led to her title of "Queen of the Gay Discos."
During the early '80s, Jones switched from straightforward, R&B-rooted disco to a post-disco fusion of reggae and rock driven by Sly & Robbie and a team of studio associates dubbed the Compass Point All-Stars. The shrewd change resulted in three of her best-known and strongest releases, all of which -- Warm Leatherette (1980), Nightclubbing (1981), and Living My Life (1982) -- were recorded at Compass Point Studios in Nassau. These albums contained her strongest original material, including the provocative "Pull Up to the Bumper" and defiant "Living My Life," as well as imaginative covers of songs recorded first by the Pretenders, Roxy Music, and Iggy Pop. Jones' also adopted a singular vocal approach that sounded somewhat detached and all-powerful at once, and she had a scowling, prowling, rather inhuman stage presence to match.
The singer then took a break from recording to focus on film work and landed roles in such movies as Conan the Destroyer and the James Bond flick A View to a Kill, but she returned to her recording career and enlisted super-producer Trevor Horn (Yes, Frankie Goes to Hollywood) to oversee the lavish Slave to the Rhythm (1985), which turned out to be a somewhat autobiographical work. A ten-track compilation of highlights from her first six albums, Island Life, was issued the same year. Jones' penchant for working with big names continued on Inside Story (1986). Its production chores handled by Chic's Nile Rodgers, the album spawned one of Jones' last big singles, "I'm Not Perfect (But I'm Perfect for You)."
After the release of Bulletproof Heart (1989), Jones recorded less frequently and focused primarily on acting, including a role in Eddie Murphy's hit 1992 comedy Boomerang. Although there were anthologies, such as the double-disc set Private Life: The Compass Point Sessions (1998), Jones went nearly 20 years without recording a new album. She didn't make a full return to music until the late 2000s, when she released Hurricane (2008), a set that featured contributions from Brian Eno, Wendy & Lisa, Tricky, and others. During the 2010s, Jones' 1977-1981 studio recordings were expanded and reissued, and she published an autobiography, I'll Never Write My Memoirs. ~ Greg Prato & Andy Kellman, Rovi