Suzi Quatro: “I Was Born To Do What I Do”

by Keith Valcourt

Before Joan Jett, Pat Benatar and Karen O, there was Suzi Quatro. The legendary, ground-breaking female rocker from Detroit became the ultimate rock and roll icon who literally kicked down the door for women in the music business. Quatro’s fashion and cool chick attitude inspired every single female rock star who followed. Along her fifty-year career, Suzi became a massive star around the world, selling over fifty-five million records. In the U.S., Quatro is ironically best known for playing the female rocker “Leather Tuscadero” on the classic sitcom “Happy Days.” And for the uncharacteristic top 5 hit single “Stumblin’ in” (a duet with Smokie’s Chris Norman.)

At age sixty-nine, Suzi shows no signs of slowing down, with both a recently released studio album, No Control (her 15th) and a documentary, “Suzi Q.” There is also a biopic in the works.

I caught up with Suzi Quatro at the 2020 “She Rocks” Awards in Anaheim, California where she was receiving the “Icon” award. Among other things, we discussed the documentary, whether she should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (she should), and who should play her in the upcoming biopic about her rockin’ life.

Alchemical Records: While watching your documentary, the one thing that struck me is how much you gave up. Were the sacrifices you had to make to have the career you had worth it?

A: One zillion percent. Because I was born to do what I do. I didn’t really have a choice of the path I was gonna follow. It’s in my heart and soul.

Q: When you look back on your life, do you have any regrets?

A: The only thing that I regret has nothing to do with my career. It’s a personal thing. I chose not to see my mother in the final throes of life. She was dying, and I had been back six or seven times, but at the end I chose not to see her looking like a skeleton. Everybody says I did the right thing not going. But I wished I had gone.

Q: Tonight, you are getting the “Icon” award here at the “She Rocks” Awards. What does it mean to you?

A: I’ve got awards from all over the world, and I treasure every one of them. I don’t take it for granted. 

Q: The big talk this week is Pat Benatar getting snubbed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You were before her. Should you be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

A: For me it’s a no brainer. I was the first. Years before anybody else. They should be honoring me. It’s an omission, and I think it’s not fair. If you’re gonna be the kind of organization that prides yourself on honoring the innovators and influencers to other rockers, how can I not be in there? It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t begrudge anyone who is already in there whatsoever. But really, they should correct that. 

Q: Early in your career, did you know you were a female trailblazer?

A: It’s so strange because I never really do gender. In hindsight, when I look back on my career and see what the girls like Joan Jett and Cheri Currie said in the documentary, I realize that I did in fact kick down the door for women in music. I feel very humbled in a way that I was able to do that and allow women the chance to do what they want to do because they want to do it.

Q: Did you feel discrimination because you were a woman? And how did you gain the respect of your male counterparts?

A: I believe that you get back what you put out. I always took myself seriously. I never considered myself a “Female Musician.”  I demanded respect. So, I got it. I never cared in my early bands if it was girls or guys. I just wanted to be in a band with people who could play.

Q: One of the artists you paved the way for was Joan Jett. Many people say she stole your look and your style. Any jealousy there?

A: No. None. I’ve known Joan for many years, and I just love her. She was very complimentary in my documentary. There isn’t an artist that exists that doesn’t start by loving someone else’s work and being inspired by it. I loved Elvis. He was my first touchstone. She loved me. The first thing you do is see what suits you and what you can take. Sure, she did take a lot of me. But she took it and put it in her own way.

Photo by Dave Kapp

She took that original thing I did in ‘73 and ‘74 and then she started a band and found her own way. This is how you find your way. It is the only way you can find yourself as an artist. My blueprint wasn’t female. My Blueprint was a guy. No one said, “You’re copying Elvis.” She was lucky she had a female blueprint in me. And that’s why there was so much similarity. It’s good. I don’t have any problems with that whatsoever. She was very sweet to be in the film. I am glad she made such a success out of loving me. 

Q: What advice do you have to young musicians?

A: To female musicians I say, you don’t need to lose your femininity to be one of the guys. And if you’re going to play, don’t play at it. Play it. And don’t ever give anybody the opportunity to say, “You play good for a girl.” Nobody could say that to me. To male and female, I say, make sure you have a private and public self. A normal existence off the stage. Keep your ego on the stage. And always be professional.

Q: What drew you to the bass?

A: I’m a very percussive person. I started on the bongos. Then I played classical piano. The piano is a percussive instrument. Then I played drums in the school orchestra. When I first put that Fender Precision bass on, it was a lightbulb moment. I strapped it on, started to play and said, “This is me!” It is the natural instrument for me. 

Q: You’ve just released a new CD titled No Control. What motivates you to keep making new music?

A: Because I’ve still got something to say. And it never stops.

Q: The new album is also a bit of a family affair?

A: My son wanted to write with me for a long, long time, and he came to me with the idea for the album. He was somehow able to push my Suzi Quatro buttons but in today’s climate. I don’t know how he did it. I am so damn proud of it. 

Q: What else are you working on?

A: I just did a project with KT Tunstall. There will be more on that coming soon. And I am working on the movie of my life. It’s a damn good story that deserves to be told. 

Any truth to the rumor that Miley Cyrus has been tapped to play you in the bio pic?

I know she has been approached. I haven’t talked to her, but other people have told me she was approached about doing it.

Do you think she is the right person to play you?

I don’t know if she is the right one or not. She’s very talented. A cutie pie. She can sing. The heights about the same. Whether she is the right one? I don’t know. Other people have been mentioned to me, too. I will say I am a fan of hers. 

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Keith Valcourt

Keith Valcourt is a Los Angeles based music and entertainment writer. He has interviewed thousands of celebrities in the worlds of music, film, TV and comedy for dozens of outlets including: L.A. Times, Washington Times, LFP Publishing, ChelseaCommunityNews.com, RetroRoadMap.com LaArtsOnline and more. Much More

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