Sarah (Sass) Jordan, singer, songwriter, actor (born 23 December 1962 in Birmingham, England). A dynamic singer with a sultry, prototypical blues-rock rasp, Sass Jordan had a string of hit songs and platinum-selling albums in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Juno Award-winner was a critical darling for her gritty, soul- and blues-infused rock ‘n’ roll — often drawing comparisons to Janis Joplin and Tina Turner. But waning commercial success brought about an image change that did not play to her strengths. She regained prominence in Canada as a judge on the popular CTV series “Canadian Idol” (2003–08).
The daughter of a French university professor and an English actress, Sass Jordan moved from England to Westmount, Québec as a child. She set out on her own at age 14 when her parents separated, and first gained notice as the bass player in The Pinups when she was still in her mid-teens. She later worked as a backup singer in the Montréal pop group The Box before releasing her debut solo album Tell Somebody on Atlantic records in 1988.
Tell Somebody was certified platinum in Canada and included the hit singles “Tell Somebody,” “Double Trouble,” and “Stranger Than Paradise.” Her cover of the R&B classic “Rescue Me,” featured in the Canadian film American Boyfriends, was a minor hit in 1989. That same year, she won the Juno Award for Most Promising Female Vocalist.
She relocated to Los Angeles in 1990 and in 1992 released Racine on MCA/Impact. The album yielded four Top 20 Canadian singles — “Make You a Believer,” “I Want to Believe,” “You Don’t Have to Remind Me,” and “Goin’ Back Again” — and sold more than 100,000 copies in Canada. Billboard magazine named her Female Rock Artist of the Year in 1992. She also performed a duet that year with Joe Cocker for the soundtrack of the hit movie The Bodyguard, which sold more than 27 million copies worldwide.
Change in Sound
Her third album, Rats (1994), won universal critical acclaim and produced two Top 10 singles in Canada — “High Road Easy” and “Sun’s Gonna Rise” — but underperformed commercially, only achieving gold status. She returned to Canada in 1996 and, at the behest of Aquarius Records, abandoned her gritty rock sound in favour of glossy pop on Present (1997) and Hot Gossip (2000), neither of which fared well critically or commercially.
Jordan then changed tracks professionally, winning praise as an actress in the role of Janis Joplin in the off-Broadway play Love, Janis in 2001. She played herself in an episode of the hit CTV series “Corner Gas” (2004–09) and co-starred in the Toronto and Winnipeg stage productions of The Vagina Monologues.
Canadian Idol and Renewed Solo Career
Jordan returned to the Canadian spotlight in 2003 as one of the judges on the popular “American Idol” spinoff, “Canadian Idol.” That summer, she shared the stage with the Rolling Stones, AC/DC, and others at the SARS benefit concert in Toronto. Later that year, Aquarius released the greatest hits compilation Sass... Best of Sass Jordan, which featured two new songs, including the single “Brand New Day.”
Former Tragically Hip manager and Jordan’s fellow “Canadian Idol” judge Jake Gold took over as her manager, and in 2006 she released the laid-back Get What You Give, produced by Colin Linden. She wrote and recorded her next album, From Dusk ‘Til Dawn (2009), with her husband, the multi-instrumental session musician Derek Sharp (Alannah Myles, Red Rider, Jeff Healey).
Honorary Colonel and S.U.N.
In 2012, the Royal Canadian Air Force named Jordan the honorary colonel of 417 Combat Support Squadron in Cold Lake, Alberta. That year she also formed the rock outfit S.U.N. (Something Unto Nothing) with former Whitesnake, Billy Idol, and Ozzy Osbourne drummer Brian Tichy. They soon began recording and touring with their own material.
Most Promising Female Vocalist of the Year, Juno Awards (1989)
A version of this entry originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.