Maria McKee grew up in southern California, attending Beverly Hills High. She showed an early ability to perform, beating out classmate Nicolas Cage for leading roles in school plays. Musically, her interests turned towards country and rockabilly and her capabilities as a songwriter were demonstrated through her penning Feargal Sharkey’s worldwide hit A Good Heart at nineteen.
McKee co-founded Lone Justice in the early 80s, a group central to the emerging cowpunk scene. The band attracted considerable attention, drawing Tom Petty and Dolly Parton to their club shows. Parton described McKee as “the greatest girl singer a band could ever have”.
Bob Dylan wrote a song for Lone Justice, and they opened shows for U2, Tom Petty and other big name bands of the era. Their first album featured a hit with the Petty and Mike Campbell pinned Ways to be Wicked and was a critic’s favorite – but it did not connect with either a country or rock audience. After some band reshuffling and an album featuring a more pop sound, Lone Justice was gone for good in 1987.
In 1989 Maria McKee launched her solo career and had a song place at number 1 in the UK in 1990. Show Me Heaven was recorded for the Days of Thunder soundtrack but never appeared on any of her thirteen solo records. Through her first four records, McKee looked poised to be the next big thing.
1996’s Life is Sweet took the singer in a different direction with a guitar heavy sound inspired by Bowie and punk and left her foundation as a queen of Americana behind. The album failed to gain traction, although one song was the only original material used in the soundtrack for the movie Pulp Fiction.
McKee continued to record and tour for another decade before largely removing herself from the public eye. Only last year did McKee return with new material, releasing La Vita Nuova, her first new record in thirteen years.