Deborah Ann "Debbie" Harry (born July 1, 1945) is an American singer-songwriter and actress, best known as the lead singer of the new wave and punk rock band Blondie. She recorded several worldwide number one singles with Blondie during the 1970s and 1980s. She is sometimes considered the first rapper to chart at number one in the United States due to her work on "Rapture". She has also had success (mainly in Europe) as a solo artist before reforming Blondie in the late 1990s. Her acting career spans over 60 film roles and numerous television appearances.
Personal life and career beginnings
Harry was born in Miami, Florida, and adopted at three months by Catherine (Peters) and Richard Smith Harry, gift shop proprietors in Hawthorne, New Jersey. She attended Hawthorne High School, where she graduated in 1963. She graduated from Centenary College in Hackettstown, New Jersey, with an Associate of Arts degree in 1965. Before starting her singing career she moved to New York City in the late 1960s and worked as a secretary at BBC Radio's office there for one year. Later, she was a waitress at Max's Kansas City, a go-go dancer in a Union City, New Jersey, discothèque, and a Playboy Bunny.
In the late 1960s, Deborah Harry began her musical career as a backing singer for the folk rock group, the Wind in the Willows, which released one self-titled album in 1968 on Capitol Records. The group also recorded a second album, which was never released and the studio tapes remain lost.
After leaving the Stilettoes, Harry and Stein formed Angel and the Snake with Tish Bellomo and Snooky Bellomo. Shortly thereafter, Harry and Stein formed Blondie, naming it after the term of address men often called her when she bleached her hair blonde. Blondie quickly became regulars at Max's Kansas City and CBGB in New York City. After a debut album in 1976, commercial success followed in the late 1970s to the early 1980s, first in Australia and Europe, then in the United States.
In 1989 and 2010 interviews, Harry claimed that she had been lured into a car driven by serial killer Ted Bundy while in New York City during the early 1970s, but said that she luckily escaped. While Harry has claimed to identify the driver as Bundy from TV news reports, the fact-checking website Snopes.com says the driver was probably not Bundy because there is no known record that Bundy was in New York at that time. Snopes.com noted that Ann Rule, an author of a book on Bundy, says false claims of Bundy abductions are not uncommon.
While leading Blondie, Harry and Stein became life as well as musical partners. In the mid-1980s, she took a few years off to care for Stein while he suffered with pemphigus, a rare autoimmune disease that affects the skin and mucous membranes. Stein and Harry broke up in the 1980s, but continued to work together.
In 1999, Harry was deemed the 12th greatest woman of rock and roll by VH1's 100 Greatest Women of Rock & Roll and in 2002, she was called the 18th sexiest artist of all time by VH1's 100 Sexiest Artists.
With her distinctive photogenic features and two-tone bleached-blonde hair, Harry quickly became a punk icon. Her look was further popularized by the band's early presence in the music video revolution of the era. She was a regular at Studio 54. In June 1979, Blondie was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone. Harry's persona, combining cool sexuality with streetwise style, became so closely associated with the group's name that many came to believe "Blondie" was the singer's name. The difference between the individual Harry and the band Blondie was famously highlighted with a "Blondie is a group" button campaign by the band in 1979. In 1981, Harry issued a press release to clarify that her name was not "Debbie Blondie" or "Debbie Harry", but Deborah Harry, though Harry later described her character in the band as being named "Blondie", as in this quote from the No Exit tour book:
Hi, it's Deb. You know, when I woke up this morning I had a realization about myself. I was always Blondie. People always called me Blondie, ever since I was a little kid. What I realized is that at some point I became Dirty Harry. I couldn't be Blondie anymore, so I became Dirty Harry.
Blondie released their debut album in 1976, it peaked at No. 14 in Australia and No. 75 in the UK. Their second album, Plastic Letters, garnered some success outside the United States, but their third album, Parallel Lines (1978) was a worldwide smash and shot the group to international success. It included the global hit single "Heart of Glass". Riding the crest of disco's domination, the infectious track hit No.1 in the US and sold nearly two million copies. It also reached No.1 in the UK and was the second highest selling single of 1979.
The band's success continued with the release of the platinum-selling Eat to the Beat album (UK No.1, US No.17) in 1979 and Autoamerican (UK No.3, US No.7) in 1980. Blondie had further No.1 hits with "Call Me", "The Tide Is High", "Atomic" (UK #1) and "Rapture" (US #1).
After a year-long hiatus in 1981, during which Harry released her first solo album (see below), Blondie regrouped and released their sixth studio album The Hunter in 1982. The album was not as successful as their previous works and a world tour was cut short due to slow ticket sales. It was around this time that Stein also fell seriously ill with the rare autoimmune disease, pemphigus. Coupled with declining record sales and internal struggles, the band split up.
Harry continued her solo career during the 1980s and 90s, but in 1997, Blondie began working together again for the first time in 15 years. The four original members (Harry, Stein, Clem Burke and Jimmy Destri) embarked on sessions for what would become Blondie's seventh studio album, No Exit (1999). The lead single from the album, "Maria", debuted at No.1 in the UK, giving Blondie their sixth UK No.1 hit. "Maria" also reached No.1 in 14 different countries, the top 10 on the US Dance Charts and Top 20 on the US Adult Top 40 Charts. No Exit debuted at No.3 in the UK and No.17 in the US.
The band continued to tour on an almost-annual basis for the next several years and continued to record, releasing the albums The Curse of Blondie (2003), Panic of Girls (2011), and Ghosts of Download (2014).
Harry also released her fifth solo album in 2007. During this time, she delineated the different personae (Blondie the band, her role in the band, and Deborah Harry the singer) to an interviewer who asked why she played only solo music on the 2007 True Colors Tour: "I've put together a new trio with no Blondie members in it. I really want to make a clear definition between Debbie's solo projects and Blondie, and I hope that the audience can appreciate that and also appreciate this other material." This was a longstanding issue with Harry as the band name was often misconstrued as her own name. This led the band to feature a promotional slogan, "Blondie is the name of the band."
Harry has released five solo albums. She began her solo career in 1981 with KooKoo. Produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic, the album peaked at No. 25 in the US and No. 6 in the UK; it was later certified gold in the US and Silver in the UK. The album's cover art was controversial and many stores refused to stock it. "Backfired", the first single from the album, had a video directed by H. R. Giger (who also created the album's front cover featuring Harry's face with metal skewers through it). The single reached No. 43 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 29 on the Hot Dance Club Songs and No. 32 on the UK Singles Chart. "The Jam Was Moving" was lifted as the second single and peaked at No. 82 in the US.
After Blondie split up in 1982, Harry's solo output slowed down as she cared for ailing partner Chris Stein. She released the single "Rush Rush" in 1983 (produced by Giorgio Moroder and taken from the film Scarface), but this was unsuccessful. A new single, "Feel The Spin" (taken from the film Krush Groove) was released as a limited 12" single in 1985, but again was unsuccessful.
In 1986, Harry released her second solo album called Rockbird, which peaked at No. 97 in the US and No. 31 in the UK (where it has been certified Gold for 100,000 sales by the BPI). The single "French Kissin' in the USA" gave Harry her only UK solo top 10 hit (No. 8) and became a moderate US hit (No. 57). Other singles released from the album were "Free to Fall" and "In Love with Love", which hit No. 1 on the US Dance Charts and was released with several remixes. "Liar, Liar" was recorded by Harry for the soundtrack album Married to the Mob in 1988, and produced by Mike Chapman. It was their first collaboration since the 1982 Blondie album The Hunter.
Her next solo venture was the album Def, Dumb and Blonde in 1989. At this point Harry reverted from "Debbie" to "Deborah" as her professional name. The first single "I Want That Man" was a hit in Europe, Australia, and on the US Modern Rock Charts. The success of the single propelled the album to No. 12 on the UK chart where it earned a Silver disc. However, with little promotion from her record company in the US, it peaked at No. 123. She followed this up with the ballad "Brite Side" and the club hit "Sweet and Low". "Maybe for Sure", a reworked version of "Angel's Song" she'd recorded for the Rock and Rule animated film, was the fourth single released from the album in June 1990 to coincide with a UK tour (her second in six months). The track "Kiss It Better" was also a Top 15 Modern Rock single in the US.
From 1989 to 1991, Harry toured extensively across the world with former Blondie guitarist Chris Stein, Underworld's Karl Hyde, and future Blondie bassist Leigh Foxx. In July 1991, she played Wembley Stadium supporting INXS. In 1991, Chrysalis released a new "best of" compilation in Europe entitled The Complete Picture: The Very Best of Deborah Harry and Blondie, containing hits with Blondie as well as her solo hits. The collection reached No. 3 in the UK album chart and earned a Gold disc. The album also included her duet with Iggy Pop on the Cole Porter song "Well, Did You Evah!" from the 1990 Red Hot + Blue AIDS charity album.
Harry's fourth solo album, Debravation, appeared in July 1993. The album's first single was "I Can See Clearly", which peaked at No. 23 in the UK and No. 2 on the US dance charts. This was followed by "Strike Me Pink" in September. Controversy surrounded the latter track's promotional video, which featured a man drowning in a water tank, resulting in it being banned. US editions of the album feature two additional tracks recorded with pre-recorded music by R.E.M.: "Tear Drops" and a cover of Skeeter Davis's 1961 hit "My Last Date (with You)".
In November 1993, Harry toured the UK with Stein, guitarist Peter Min, bassist Greta Brinkman and drummer James Murphy. The set list of the Debravation Tour featured an offbeat selection of Harry material including the previously unreleased track Close Your Eyes (from 1989) and Ordinary Bummer (from the Stein-produced Iggy Pop album Zombie Birdhouse, a track that, under the moniker Adolph's Dog, Blondie covered in 1997). Tentative plans to record these shows and release them as a double live CD never came to fruition. However, a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" is available as a bootleg. In early 1994, Harry took the Debravation tour to the US. In the UK, Harry's long tenure with Chrysalis Records also came to an end after lacklustre sales of Debravation, but the label released all of Blondie's albums and Harry's KooKoo album (for the first time on CD) as remastered editions with bonus tracks.
As Blondie had reconvened in the late 1990s, it was several years before Harry resumed her solo career. In 2006, Harry started work in New York City on tracks for her fifth solo album Necessary Evil (released in 2007). Working with production duo Super Buddha (who produced the remix of Blondie's "In the Flesh" for the 2005 Sound and Vision compilation), the first music to surface in was a hip hop track titled "Dirty and Deep", in which she spoke out against rapper Lil' Kim's incarceration.
Throughout 2006, a number of new tracks surfaced on Harry's Myspace page, including "Charm Alarm", "Deep End", "Love with a Vengeance", "School for Scandal", and "Necessary Evil", as well as duets she recorded with Miss Guy (of Toilet Böys fame). These were "God Save New York" and "New York Groove". A streaming version of the lead single, "Two Times Blue", was added to Harry's Myspace page in May 2007. On June 6, 2007, an iTunes downloadable version was released via her official website.
Harry's fifth solo album, Necessary Evil, was released in 2007 on Eleven Seven Music after Harry completed both a solo tour of the US in June 2007 and a European tour with Blondie in July 2007. The first single, Two Times Blue, peaked at No. 5 on the US Dance Club Play chart. The album peaked at No. 86 in the UK and No. 37 in the US Billboard Top Independent Albums chart. To promote the album, Harry appeared on various talk shows to perform Two Times Blue. She also started a 22-date US tour on November 8, lasting until December 9, playing small venues and clubs across the country. On January 18, 2008, an official music video for If I Had You was released.
In March 2015, Harry started a residency of several weeks at the Café Carlyle in New York.
Other musical projects
While recording her fourth album in 1992, Harry collaborated with German post-punk band Die Haut on the track "Don't Cross My Mind", and released the song "Prelude to a Kiss" on the soundtrack to the film of the same name. She also released a cover of "Summertime Blues" from the soundtrack to the film That Night in Australia.
In the mid-1990s, Harry teamed up with New York avant-garde jazz ensemble the Jazz Passengers. Between 1994 and 1998 she was a permanent member of the troupe, touring North America and Europe. She was a featured vocalist on their 1994 album In Love singing the track "Dog in Sand". The follow-up album, 1997's Individually Twisted, is credited as the Jazz Passengers featuring Deborah Harry, and Harry sings vocals throughout, teaming up with guest Elvis Costello for a cover of "Don'cha Go 'Way Mad". The album also features a re-recorded version of the song "The Tide Is High". A live album titled Live in Spain, again featuring Harry on vocals, was released in 1998.
Harry collaborated on a number of other projects with other artists. She featured as vocalist on Talking Heads side project the Heads' 1996 release No Talking, Just Head, performing the title track and "Punk Lolita". She also sings on a cover of the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever" and on the song "Estrella de Mar" by Argentine band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs from their 1995 album Rey Azúcar. In 1997 she collaborated with Jazz Passengers' Bill Ware in his side project Groove Thing, singing lead vocals on the club hit "Command and Obey". Another Jazz Passengers collaboration, "The City in the Sea", appeared on the Edgar Allan Poe tribute album Closed on Account of Rabies (1997). Harry also reunited with Blondie keyboardist Jimmy Destri for a cover of Otis Blackwell's "Don't Be Cruel" for the 1995 album Brace Yourself! A Tribute to Otis Blackwell. During this period, she also recorded a duet with Robert Jacks titled "Der Einziger Weg (The Only Way) - Theme from Texas Chainsaw Massacre", which was recorded in German and in English, although these did not surface until 1999.
Harry appears on the 2001 Bill Ware album Vibes 4 singing the track "Me and You" as well as on former Police guitarist Andy Summers's album Peggy's Blue Skylight on the track "Weird Nightmare". A techno cover of Stan Jones' "Ghost Riders in the Sky" was featured on the soundtrack to the 1998 film Three Businessmen, and was available on her website to download. Harry sings on two tracks on Andrea Griminelli's Cinema Italiano project: "You'll Come to Me" (inspired by Amarcord's main theme) and "When Love Comes By" (from Il Postino), as well as on a tribute album reinterpreting the music of Harold Arlen, on which she sings the title track "Stormy Weather". In May 2002, she accompanied the Jazz Passengers and the BBC Concert Orchestra in a performance of her jazz material at the Barbican Centre in London. In 2003, she was featured vocalist on the song "Uncontrollable Love" by DJ duo Blow-Up. She also sang on the version of " "Waltzing Matilda" recorded by Dan Zanes and Friends, released on the 2003 album House Party.
Harry is a credited co-writer on a song called "Supersensual" that appears on Australian singer Natalie Bassingthwaighte's debut album 1000 Stars—the song samples the recognizable "woo-ooo-wo-oh" refrain from "Heart of Glass"—and in duet with the French singer Etienne Daho on Les Chansons de L'Innocence Retrouvée (2013).
In a 2011 interview, Harry said that "After witnessing Elton John and his tireless efforts against HIV/AIDS", she had been inspired to put philanthropy as her top priority. She said, "These things are important to my life now. I have the privilege of being able to get involved, so I do. I applaud people like Elton John, who have used their position to do so much good." Some of Harry's preferred charities include those devoted to fighting cancer and endometriosis.
- Studio albums
- Compilations and other albums
- Once More into the Bleach (Debbie Harry and Blondie) (1988)
- The Complete Picture: The Very Best of Deborah Harry and Blondie (Deborah Harry and Blondie) (1991)
- Deborah Harry Collection (1998)
- Most of All: The Best of Deborah Harry (1999)
|1978||Foreigner, TheThe Foreigner||Dee Trik|
|1981||Downtown 81||Fairy godmother|
|1983||Rock & Rule||Angel (singing)||Voice|
|1988||Hairspray||Velma Von Tussle|
|1989||New York Stories||Girl at blind alley||Segment "Life Lessons"|
|1990||Tales from the Darkside: The Movie||Betty||Segment "The Wraparound Story"|
|1990||Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme||Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe|
|1991||Intimate Stranger||Cory Wheeler||Television film|
|1991||Real Story of O Christmas Tree, TheThe Real Story of O Christmas Tree||Anneka||Voice; direct-to-video short film|
|1993||Body Bags||The Nurse||Television film; segment "Hair"|
|1994||Dead Beat||Mrs. Kurtz|
|1996||Drop Dead Rock||Thor Sturmundrang|
|1997||L.A. Johns||Madam "Jacq" Jacqueline||Television film|
|1997||Cop Land||Delores the bartender|
|1997||Six Ways to Sunday||Kate Odum|
|1999||Zoo||Dorothy the waitress|
|2000||Red Lipstick||Ezmeralda the psychic|
|2001||Fluffer, TheThe Fluffer||Marcella|
|2002||All I Want||Ma Mabley|
|2003||My Life Without Me||Ann's mother|
|2003||Good Night to Die, AA Good Night to Die||Madison|
|2003||Tulse Luper Suitcases Part 1: The Moab Story, TheThe Tulse Luper Suitcases Part 1: The Moab Story||Fastidieux|
|2005||Honey Trap||The Lawyer||Short film|
|2005||I Remember You Now...||Margaret||Short film|
|2006||Full Grown Men||Beauty|
|2009||Mystery of Claywoman, TheThe Mystery of Claywoman||Simone||Short film|
|2011||Pipe Dreams||Norah||Short film|
|2012||Believe the Magic||N/A||Short film|
|2014||River of Fundament||Singing wake guest|
|1981||Muppet Show, TheThe Muppet Show||Herself||Episode: "Debbie Harry"|
|1987||Crime Story||Bambi||Episode: "Top of the World"|
|1987||Tales from the Darkside||Sybil||Episode: "The Moth"|
|1989||Wiseguy||Diana Price||3 episodes|
|1991||Monsters||Dr. Moss||Episode: "Desirable Alien"|
|1992||Adventures of Pete & Pete, TheThe Adventures of Pete & Pete||Neighbor||Episode: "New Year's Pete"|
|1993||TriBeCa||Cat||Episode: "The Loft"|
|1994–1995||Phantom 2040||Vaingloria||Voice; 10 episodes|
|1996||Sabrina, the Teenage Witch||Cassandra||Episode: "Pilot"|
|2002||Absolutely Fabulous||Herself||Episode: "Gay". Also sang the theme of the show, along with English comedian Adrian Edmondson for the fifth series in 2003.|
|2016||RuPaul's Drag Race||Herself||Guest Judge; Episode: "New Wave Queens"|
|2002||Grand Theft Auto: Vice City||Delores||Voice|
- Foreword to Debbie Harry and Blondie: Picture This (2011)