The Truth About Johnette Napolitano

Concrete Blonde burst onto the alternative rock music scene in 1986 with its well-received if modest eponymous debut, according to U Discover Music. Anyone who heard that album was likely blown away by bassist and lead singer Johnette Napolitano's powerhouse vocals. While the band had some traction on that album with the college radio hit "Still In Hollywood," it wasn't until 1990's Bloodletting, featuring their now-signature song, "Joey," that the band finally achieved some commercial success.

But just four years later, as the Los Angeles Times reported, Napolitano decided she and Concrete Blonde needed to part ways (at least for a time). While the singer went on to do solo work and front side project bands like Pretty & Twisted and The Heads (itself a side project of the Talking Heads — again, per the LA Times), Napolitano has remained largely under the radar. After achieving success in the notoriously insular world of modern rock in the genre's heyday, what became of the woman who decided to walk away from it all?

The truth about what led Johnette Napolitano to call it quits

Born in Hollywood — described by Napolitano as "the belly of the beast" — the now-63-year-old bassist and singer was the oldest of five siblings, though her family was quick to recognize her musical ear and nurtured her interest. According to a 2015 interview with the Coachella Valley Weekly, as a child, her parents were astounded when, after watching The Wizard of Oz on TV, she "walked over to an upright piano someone had given my father because they'd owed him money, and played 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' note for note."

Napolitano penned her first song at age 12 and began a band, Dream 6, that would become Concrete Blonde a little more than a decade later. Immediately recognizable thanks to Napolitano's distinctive, low purr and growl of a singing voice, the band went on to appear on the Pump Up the Volume soundtrack and earn raves for songs like "Tomorrow, Wendy," "God Is a Bullet," and "Ghost of a Texas Ladies' Man."

A lot of travel, a little bit of trouble

Concrete Blonde released a total of eight studio albums (with additional compilations and live albums), toured the world for years, and as Billboard reports, enjoyed a top-20 hit with "Joey," but, as with many other bands, the success took its toll. Over the years, the group broke up (first in 1994) and reunited several times, relates All Music, often in between Napolitano's solo efforts and dalliances with other bands. Though Napolitano and Concrete Blonde seem to once again be on good terms, Napolitano spent much of the '90s and '00s on an earnest mission, needing time to explore and to find herself.

From crafting in her backyard shed to bumming around Paris for a summer, Napolitano tried a bit of everything, and sometimes indulged in more than a "bit." Her disastrous 2016 solo show in Fort Worth became the stuff of legend, as the Dallas Observer reported,  but it doesn't seem to reflect who she's become in the years since.

The real truth about Johnette Napolitano? She's living her best life in the desert

According to a 2014 posting by the Narrows Center of Fall River, Massachusetts, Napolitano has kept busy, though even that is a bit of an understatement. She has been an "artist and art gallery owner, conducted psychic readings, keeps horses, studied pottery with a master in Mexico as well as flamenco dance and song in Spain and is now a practicing tattooist." All that, and Napolitano still regularly writes and performs music for her fans.

She now lives in the desert in Joshua Tree, California, and has become so taken with the place, she's been inspired to become a bit of a conservationist as well, bequeathing her five-acre spread to the Mojave Desert Land Trust. As part of her donation, she has asked that four of the acres remain wholly undeveloped. The Trust is part of a "larger goal of preserving land to connect Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojave National Preserve and Death Valley National Park," reports the Desert Sun of Palm Springs, California. Generous and still living life on her own terms, Napolitano seems very comfortable in her truth.