Deborah Ann Harry (born July 1, 1945, in Miami, Florida) is a singer/songwriter and actress most famous for being the lead singer for the punk rock/new wave band, Blondie. Following her success, she went on to moderate success as a solo artist.
Harry was adopted when she was three months old by a family from Hawthorne, New Jersey, and attended Hawthorne High School, where she graduated in 1963. Prior to starting her singing career she moved to New York in the late ‘60s and worked as a secretary at the BBC Radio New York office for one year. Later, she was a waitress, a dancer in Union City, and a Playboy Bunny.
She began her musical career with a folk rock group, the Wind in the Willows. Harry then joined a girl-group trio, The Stilettos, in the early 1970s. The Stilettos’ backup band included her eventual boyfriend and Blondie guitarist, Chris Stein. Harry and Stein formed Blondie in the mid ‘70s, naming it for the wolf whistle men who often yelled at Harry from passing cars. Blondie quickly became regulars at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s in New York City. After a debut album in 1976, commercial success followed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, first in Australia and Europe, then in the United States.
With her two-tone bottle-blonde hair, Debbie Harry quickly became a recognizable icon of punk style. Her look was further popularized by the band’s early presence in the music video revolution of the era. The clip for “Rapture” appeared within the first 24 hours of MTV’s launch. Harry’s strong stage persona of cool sexuality and streetwise style became so closely associated with the group’s name that many came to believe the singer’s name to be “Blondie”. 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.
Through 1976 and 1977, Blondie released its first two LPs to a little success outside the US. However, 1978’s Parallel Lines shot the group to huge international success, led on by the single “Heart of Glass”. Several singles followed from the album as did the release of Eat to the Beat in 1979 and Autoamerican in 1980. Along the way came several more important singles of the band’s career, including “Atomic”, “The Tide Is High”, “Rapture” and a non LP, Number-One single “Call Me”.
In 1982 Blondie regrouped and released their sixth studio album, The Hunter, which featured the U.S. and UK hit single “Island of Lost Souls” and the minor UK hit “War Child”. Blondie launched a North American tour to support the release, but it was cut short when Stein fell ill with the rare genetic disease, pemphigus. Immediately afterwards, the band called it quits and announced their split.
The mid 1990s saw the release of Blondie remix albums, Beautiful (in Europe) and Remixed Remade Remodeled (in the U.S.). New mixes of “Heart of Glass”, “Atomic”, and “Union City Blue” were released as singles and all made the UK Top 40, while remixes of “Atomic”, “Rapture”, and “Heart of Glass” had major success on the U.S. dance charts. Then in 1997 Blondie began working together again for the first time in fifteen years. Two tracks recorded with TV. Mania (the production duo of Duran Duran members Nick Rhodes and Warren Cuccurullo), “Studio 54” and “Pop Trash Movie” were scheduled to be released on a Blondie compilation entitled This Is Blondie. However, the project and the tracks were shelved as the four original members (Harry, Stein, Clem Burke and Jimmy Destri) embarked on sessions for what would become Blondie’s seventh studio album. During this period they released a cover of Iggy Pop’s “Ordinary Bummer” on the tribute album, We Will Fall (1997).
After a final tour of Europe with The Jazz Passengers in the summer of 1998, Deborah Harry resumed duties as lead vocalist of Blondie. Prior to the release of No Exit, the band completed a sold out tour of Europe. Dates at London’s Lyceum Theatre were recorded by the BBC and aired on national BBC Radio 1. A week prior to the release of No Exit, the lead single, “Maria”, debuted at number one in the UK, making Harry the oldest female singer to reach Number One in the UK, a record she still holds. “Maria” hit Number One in fourteen different countries, the Top Ten on the US Dance Charts, and Top Fifteen on the US Adult Top 40 Charts. No Exit debuted at Number Three in the UK and Number 17 in the US, where it is very close to gold certification, and Blondie announced dates for a major arena tour that summer during which they played the Glastonbury Festival and Party in the Park in London. “Nothing is Real But the Girl” was another UK Top 30 hit, while the title track was released as a single to coincide with further arena dates in November that year.
Tracks culled from dates throughout the 1999 world tour were released as a live album, titled Live in the U.S. and Livid in the UK, and released in late 1999 and early 2000 respectively. A Blondie Live companion DVD was also released, as recorded at a show in NYC Town Hall.
Although Blondie commenced recording tracks for the follow-up to No Exit in 2001, the sessions were besieged with problems including the loss of master tapes after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In the winter of 2002 Blondie burst back into life with a full scale UK tour. This preceded the release of a new single in summer of 2003 entitled “Good Boys” (a hit across the UK and Europe that autumn, and Top Ten on the US Dance Charts the following spring) and the release of Blondie’s eighth studio album, the critically acclaimed The Curse of Blondie. Blondie toured throughout 2003 and 2004 completing two further full scale tours of the UK.
A second live album, entitled Live by Request, was released in 2005 along with a companion DVD set. The mash-up “Rapture Riders” (2005) combined their 1981 hit “Rapture” with The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm”. This track was taken from a Blondie Greatest Hits compilation entitled Sound and Vision (first issued in the UK as Sight + Sound) - released with a companion DVD disk and new mixes of “In the Flesh” and “Good Boys”.
In the winter of 2005 Blondie toured the UK for the fourth time in as many years. In 2006 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Around this time Blondie released a new studio track, a cover of the Roxy Music song, “More Than This”, to promote their “Road Rage” tour.
At the end of 2006 a new mix of “Heart of Glass” became a big club hit in Europe, while Harry released the single “New York New York”, a collaboration with Moby. The song debuted on YouTube some four weeks before its official release.
In June 2007, Harry delineated the different personas (Blondie, the band; her role in the band; and Deborah Harry the singer) in an interview which 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.”
To date, Harry has released five solo albums. Harry began her solo career with the album Koo Koo in 1981. The album peaked at Number 28 in the US and Number Six in the UK; it was later certified gold in the US. “Backfired”, the first single from the album, had a video directed by H.R. Giger and climbed to Number 43 on the Billboard Hot 100, Number 29 on the Hot Dance Club Play and Number 32 on the UK Singles Chart. “The Jam Was Moving” was lifted as the second single and peaked at Number 82 in the US as well as failing to chart in the UK.
In 1986, Harry released her second solo album, Rockbird, which peaked at Number 97 in the US and Number 32 in the UK. The single, “French Kissin’ in the USA”, brought her into the UK Top Ten Singles chart and became a moderate US hit. Other singles released from the album were “Free to Fall” and “In Love With Love” which hit Number One on the U.S. Dance Charts and was released with several remixes.
Her next solo venture was Def, Dumb and Blonde in 1989. At this point Harry reverted from “Debbie” to “Deborah” for her professional name. The first single, “I Want That Man”, was a big hit in Europe, Australia, and on the U.S. Modern Rock Charts. The success propelled the album to Number Twelve on the UK charts. However, the US was less receptive and it peaked at Number 123. She followed this up with the ballad, “Brite Side,” and the club hit, “Sweet and Low”. “Maybe For Sure”, a track originally recorded by Blondie for the Rock and Rule animated film, was the fourth single released from the album in June 1990 to coincide with a UK tour. “Kiss It Better” was also a Top Fifteen Modern Rock single in the U.S.
From 1989 to 1991 Deborah toured extensively across the world with former Blondie guitarist Chris Stein, Underworld’s Karl Hyde, and Blondie Mk2 bassist Leigh Foxx. In July 1991 she played Wembley Stadium with INXS. In 1991 Chrysalis released a “best of” compilation in Europe entitled The Complete Picture: The Very Best of Deborah Harry and Blondie, containing hits with Blondie as well as solo hits. The collection reached Number Three in the UK album charts. The album also included her duet with Iggy Pop on the Cole Porter song, “Well Did You Evah!” from the Red Hot + Blue AIDS charity album released at the end of 1990.
Deborah Harry’s fourth solo album, Debravation, appeared in July 1993. The album’s first single was the Baker-produced “I Can See Clearly”, which peaked in the UK at Number 23 and Number Two on the U.S. dance charts. This was followed by “Strike Me Pink” in September. Controversy surrounded the latter track’s drowning man video, which was banned and subsequent record company promo cancelled. U.S. editions of the album feature two additional tracks recorded with pre-recorded music by REM: “Tear Drops” and “My Last Date (With You)”.
In November 1993 Harry toured the UK with Stein, Peter Min, Greta Brinkman and 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 which under the moniker “Adolph’s Dog” Blondie would cover 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. At the end of 1993 Chrysalis released the Blondie rarities collection, Blonde and Beyond, which featured the previously unreleased tracks “Scenery” and “Underground Girl”. In early 1994 Harry took the Debravation tour to the U.S.
While recording her fourth album in 1992, Harry collaborated with German heavy metal 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 NYC 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 1994’s 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 “Doncha Go Way Mad”. The album also features a re-recorded version of the song “The Tide is High”. A live album entitled Live in Spain, again featuring Harry on vocals, was released in 1998.
In 2006 Deborah Harry started work in New York City on tracks for her fifth solo album, Necessary Evil (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 entitled “Dirty and Deep” in which she spoke out against rapper Lil’ Kim’s incarceration.
Throughout 2006 a number of new tracks surfaced (but then disappeared) from Harry’s MySpace page, including “Charm Alarm”, “Deep End”, “Love With Avengence”, “School for Scandal” and “Necessary Evil”, as well as duets she recorded with Miss Guy (of Toilet Boys fame). These were “God Save New York” and “New York Groove. The tracks are marked by a definite shift towards a more dance infected electro-rock style. A streaming version of the lead single, “Two Times Blue”, was added to Harry’s My Space page in May 2007. In June, an iTunes downloadable version was released via her official web site, www.deborahharry.com.
The final track listing for Necessary Evil lists 17 tracks. It was released on Eleven Seven Music after Harry completed both a solo tour of the US in June and a European tour with Blondie in July. The first single, “Two Times Blue”, has moved to Number 28 on the US Dance Chart and is currently still climbing. The album debuted at Number 86 in the UK.