St. Paul native Jan Kuehnemund, best known as the founder and lead guitarist in the Twin Cities’ first all-female rock band Vixen, passed away Thursday after what’s been described as a “fierce” battle with cancer. She was 51 years old.
Keuhnemund formed Vixen in 1980 when she was still in high school, and the band became known as St. Paul’s first all-girl rock group. By 1984 she had migrated to Los Angeles with vocalist Janet Gardner, and in 1988 the band was signed to EMI and got to work recording their debut, Vixen, teaming up with songwriter Richard Marx to pen their best-known song, “Edge of a Broken Heart.”
At the height of their popularity Vixen toured with major acts like the Scorpions, Ozzy Osbourne, KISS, and Deep Purple, and their hair metal influences led them to be described as “the female Bon Jovi.” They recorded a second album, 1990’s Rev it Up, but disbanded shortly after it was released due to creative differences.
Vixen reunited a few different times over the years, most notably for a 2004 episode of VH1’s Bands Reunited that featured Kuehnemund playing with the “classic” lineup of the band: vocalist Gardner, drummer Roxy Petrucci, and bassist Share Pedersen.
“There would be no Hole, no Alanis Morrisette, none of that if it wasn’t for Vixen,” one fan told the cameras during the Bands Reunited taping.
A statement was posted on Vixen’s Facebook page today announcing Kuehnemund’s death.
It is with profound sadness that we announce the sudden passing of Vixen founder and lead guitarist, Jan Kuehnemund, who lost a fierce battle with cancer on Thursday, October 10, 2013. Though most well known for her gifted guitar playing and other musical talents, Jan was a rare friend and beautiful in every sense of the word. Humble, thoughtful, loyal and kind, she was the most gracious of women, possessing the quiet strength of a true warrior. She genuinely loved and appreciated her friends and fans more than most could ever know. Those who were most fortunate to have known her and loved her are heartbroken at the loss of Jan, whose spirit will shine through her music eternally.
Here’s the video for their biggest hit, “Edge of a Broken Heart”: