Deborah Harry


Actor, Singer

About

Also Known As
Debbie Harry, Deborah Ann Harry
Birth Place
Miami, Florida, USA
Born
July 01, 1945

Biography

A pioneering figure in the development of women's roles in rock-n-roll, Debbie Harry was the visually and vocally striking singer for the punk-New Wave group Blondie, which rose to fame in the late 1970s and early 1980s with such sonically adventurous tunes as "Heart of Glass," "Hanging on the Telephone," "The Tide Is High," "Rapture" and many others. With longtime creative partner Chris...

Family & Companions

Chris Stein
Companion
Musician. Together from 1974 to 1987; Stein was ill from c. 1982 to 1985; Harry took time off from her career to care for him.

Biography

A pioneering figure in the development of women's roles in rock-n-roll, Debbie Harry was the visually and vocally striking singer for the punk-New Wave group Blondie, which rose to fame in the late 1970s and early 1980s with such sonically adventurous tunes as "Heart of Glass," "Hanging on the Telephone," "The Tide Is High," "Rapture" and many others. With longtime creative partner Chris Stein, Harry helped to explode the idea of a woman fronting an all-male band as a "cute" curiosity by virtue of her formidable vocals, smart and occasionally controversial lyrics, and icy stage presence. Blondie struck gold in the early '80s with experiments in dance, funk, rap and reggae, but sea changes in musical tastes and Stein's debilitating illness brought the band to a close by 1982. From then on, Harry worked primarily as an actress in films like "Videodrome" (1983) and "Hairspray" (1988) while releasing sporadic solo efforts before Blondie reunited in 1997. Her status as a powerful female foot soldier in the creation of punk rock, as well as the singer of some of the best pop music of the 1980s, preserved Debbie Harry's status as one of rock's best-loved singers.

Born July 1, 1945 in Miami, FL, Deborah Ann Harry was adopted by store proprietors Richard Smith and Catherine Harry, who raised her in suburban New Jersey. After graduating from Centenary College with an arts degree, she moved to New York City in the late 1960s, where she worked a variety of jobs, including as a secretary for BBC Radio. She made her singing debut with the folk rock group The Wind in the Willows, which released one unheralded album for Capitol Records in 1968. The band dissolved after the album flopped, and for a period, Harry worked as a Playboy Bunny. She soon landed work as a waitress at Max's Kansas City, the famed Manhattan club that counted Andy Warhol and William S. Burroughs among its habitu├ęs. Max's was also ground zero for the growing glam and punk scenes, having hosted performances by the Velvet Underground and the New York Dolls, among many other acts.

In 1973, she met Chris Stein, with whom she forged a long-running personal and professional relationship. At the time, she was performing as part of an all-female group called The Stilettos, but soon left to form Angel & The Snake with Stein. After a lengthy period of personnel turnover, the band settled into a lineup that featured Harry on vocals and Stein on guitar, who was joined by drummer Clem Burke, keyboard player Jimmy Destri and bassist Gary Valentine. In 1975, the group renamed themselves Blondie, which was inspired by the nickname bestowed upon Harry by passersby hoping to catch her attention, and not, as it was often assumed, by her own platinum locks. Blondie soon became a fixture on the New York punk scene, generating critical interest by the band's musical blend of '60s pop and chilly '70s downtown rock. For many, Harry's onstage persona and voice were the group's key attraction; a strikingly attractive woman with universally discussed messy hair, Harry toyed with accepted notions of how a "girl singer" should act by assuming a variety of identities - from icy pop queen to self-aware, girl-group bombshell and aggressive, self-confident punk. The band's early songs, primarily written by Harry with Stein and Destri or Valentine, reflected their deconstruction of pop music through subject matter ranging from illicit romance ("X-Offender," which concerned a prostitute's love for her arresting officer) to cartoonish violence ("Rip Her to Shreds").

By the late '70s and early '80s, Harry and Blondie began to experiment with a variety of sounds, from the straight-ahead rock of "Hanging On the Telephone" and "One Way or Another" to disco with "Heart of Glass," electronic pop with "Call Me" from the soundtrack for "American Gigolo" (1979), reggae with "The Tide Is High," and even proto-hip-hop with the controversial "Rapture," the first chart-topping song to include rap elements. Blondie soon vaulted from punk favorites to rock superstars, scoring four No. 1 hits on the Billboard singles charts with "Heart of Glass," "Call Me," "The Tide is High" and "Rapture." The band took a break in 1980, during which Harry recorded a solo album, Koo Koo. Released in 1981, the record blended the disco-R&B sounds of producers Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards with elements of funk and dance music. Fans of Blondie who had discovered the group during its hit-making phase found the album difficult to grasp, and it only reached No. 28 on the U.S. charts.

The bloom was off the rose for Blondie when Harry reunited with the group for 1982's The Hunter. Fan response was tepid, and during a North American tour to support the record, Stein became seriously ill. He was diagnosed with pemphigus, a rare autoimmune disease that affected the skin. Blondie soon called it quits as a band, and Harry would abandon her music career for the next five years to nurse Stein back to health. During this period, she found work as an actress, primarily in offbeat, independent projects like "Downtown 81" (1980), an urban fairytale featuring such fixtures of the Manhattan underground scene as artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and hip-hop pioneer Fab Five Freddy, whom Harry mentioned in "Rapture." An arresting turn as a sadomasochistic psychiatrist in David Cronenberg's disturbing "Videodrome" (1983) boosted her screen profile, but she returned to music in 1986 for her second solo album, Rockbird. Save for a minor hit with "French Kissing in the U.S.A.," a lightweight dance number penned by future "Two and a Half Men" (CBS, 2003- ) creator Chuck Lorre, the album made little impact on the charts.

Harry soon returned to acting where, billed as Deborah Harry, she scored some of her biggest hits, including the scheming Velma Von Tussle in John Waters' "Hairspray" (1988) and a bit part in Martin Scorsese's contribution to the anthology film "New York Stories" (1989). Her third solo album, Def, Dumb and Blonde (1989) was also released during this period, where it became a Top 20 hit in the U.K. but found few admirers in the States. Frequent tours with Stein and a brace of Blondie compilations kept Harry in the public eye, allowing her to pursue her solo career as well as vocalist duty with the avant-garde jazz group The Jazz Passengers, with whom she recorded albums in 1994 and 1997. By the end of the '90s, she was also enjoying critical acclaim as a character actress, playing a hard-bitten waitress and a tough bartender in James Mangold's "Heavy" (1996) and "Cop Land" (1997), respectively, as well as an unsettling turn as the possessive mother of a hitman in training (Norman Reedus) in "Six Ways to Sunday" (1997).

In 1998, Harry and Stein reunited with Destri and Burke for No Exit, their first album of original material in 17 years. Buoyed by its lead single, "Maria," the album reached No. 18 on the U.S. album charts and spawned successful tours of America and the U.K. A follow-up was planned in 2001, but the master tapes were lost in the air transportation nightmare that followed in the wake of 9/11. The Curse of Blondie finally saw a release in 2003, though it failed to make much of an impact on the charts. In 2006, Blondie's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was upended by an ugly row between the original members and two former players, Frank Infante and Nigel Harrison, who took to the stage to protest their exclusion. In 2007, Harry released her fifth solo album, Necessary Evil, which broke the Top 40 on the Billboard Independent album chart. She promoted the record while performing with Cyndi Lauper's True Colors Tour, which benefited the Human Rights Campaign. The following year, she returned to the Blondie fold for a world tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their album Parallel Lines. The success of the jaunt inspired the band to record Panic of Girls, which eventually saw release in 2011.

By Paul Gaita

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

River of Fundament (2014)
Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (2013)
Self
Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (2013)
Herself
Rock 'N' Roll Exposed: The Photography of Bob Gruen (2012)
Herself
Burning Down the House: The Story of CBGB (2009)
Anamorph (2008)
Elegy (2008)
SqueezeBox! (2008)
Hotel Gramercy Park (2008)
Full Grown Men (2006)
Too Tough to Die (2006)
Herself
Face Addict (2005)
A Life in Suitcases (2005)
End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones (2003)
Mayor of the Sunset Strip (2003)
Herself
A Good Night to Die (2003)
My Life Without Me (2003)
The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 3 - From Sark to the Finish (2003)
Spun (2003)
The Lesbian Neighbor
Deuces Wild (2002)
The Fluffer (2001)
Downtown 81 (2000)
Bag Lady
Divine Trash (1998)
Cop Land (1997)
L.A. Johns (1997)
Madam Jacqueline
Six Ways to Sunday (1997)
Drop Dead Rock (1995)
Thor Thorvalsen
Dead Beat (1994)
Heavy (1994)
Delores
John Carpenter Presents Body Bags (1993)
Intimate Stranger (1991)
Corey Wheeler
Tales From The Darkside: The Movie (1990)
New York Stories (1989)
Satisfaction (1988)
Hairspray (1988)
Forever, Lulu (1987)
Videodrome (1983)
Nicki Brand
Roadie (1980)
Union City (1980)
Mr. Mike's Mondo Video (1979)
The Foreigner (1977)
Dee Trick

Music (Feature Film)

Long Shot (2019)
Song
The Hustle (2019)
Song
Ready Player One (2018)
Song
T2 Trainspotting (2017)
Song
Pitch Perfect 3 (2017)
Song
Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)
Song
Black Mass (2015)
Song
Entourage (2015)
Song
If I Stay (2014)
Song
This Is the End (2013)
Song
CBGB (2013)
Song
One Direction: This is Us (2013)
Song
The Iceman (2012)
Song
Bridesmaids (2011)
Song
Super 8 (2011)
Song
The Spy Next Door (2010)
Song
Sex and the City 2 (2010)
Song
Jennifer's Body (2009)
Song
Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)
Song
The Heartbreak Kid (2007)
Song
We Own the Night (2007)
Song
Gracie (2007)
Song
Aquamarine (2006)
Song
Nearing Grace (2005)
Song
Mean Girls (2004)
Song
New York Minute (2004)
Song
Anger Management (2003)
Song
Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
Song
Glitter (2001)
Song
Coyote Ugly (2000)
Song
200 Cigarettes (1999)
Song
Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999)
Song
Slc Punk! (1998)
Song
54 (1998)
Song
The Last Days of Disco (1998)
Song
Very Bad Things (1998)
Song ("Karma")
The Rugrats Movie (1998)
Song
Bride of Chucky (1998)
Song
Three Businessmen (1998)
Music
Burnzy's Last Call (1997)
Music
Beverly Hills Ninja (1997)
Song
Donnie Brasco (1997)
Song
One Night Stand (1997)
Song
Carpool (1996)
Song
Trainspotting (1996)
Song ("Atomic")
That Night (1993)
Song Performer
Coneheads (1993)
Song Performer
Coneheads (1993)
Song
Prelude to a Kiss (1992)
Song Performer
My Best Friend Is a Vampire (1988)
Song
Married To The Mob (1988)
Song Performer
NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4, A: THE DREAM MASTER (1988)
Song
Summer School (1987)
Song
The Money Pit (1986)
Song Performer
The Money Pit (1986)
Song
Krush Groove (1985)
Song
Krush Groove (1985)
Song Performer
Scarface (1983)
Song
Scarface (1983)
Song Performer
Wild Style (1983)
Song
Party, Party (1982)
Song ("Heart Of Glass")
Rock & Rule (1982)
Songs
Partners (1982)
Song
The Last American Virgin (1982)
Song ("In The Flesh")
Rock & Rule (1982)
Song Performer ("Angel'S Song" "Invocation Song" "Send Love Through")
Polyester (1981)
Songs ("Polyester" "Be My Daddy Baby (Lu-Lu'S Theme)" "The Best Thing (Love Song)")
Just Before Dawn (1981)
Song ("Heart Of Glass")
Endless Love (1981)
Song ("Heart Of Glass")
Little Darlings (1980)
Song

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Too Tough to Die (2006)
Other
Mayor of the Sunset Strip (2003)
Other
Heaven (1987)
Assistance

Cast (Special)

VH1 Divas (2004)
Live by Request: Blondie (2004)
Totally Gayer (2004)
Absolutely Fabulous New York Special (2003)
100 Greatest Songs of Rock & Roll (2000)
In Bad Taste: The John Waters Story (1999)
Interviewee
Blondie's Back Live in NYC '99 (1999)
Saturday Night Live: 25th Anniversary Primetime Special (1999)
Andy Kaufman's Really Big Show (1999)
The Bunny Years (1999)
Andy Warhol: A Life at the Edge (1998)
Interviewee
Unauthorized Biography: Milo -- Death of a Supermodel (1997)
The State's 43rd Annual Halloween Special (1995)
In a New Light '94 (1994)
The Adventures of Pete and Pete: New Year's Pete (1993)
Red, Hot & Blue (1990)
Blondie (1983)
Blondie Member
Music Central (1981)

Music (Special)

Absolutely Fabulous New York Special (2003)
Song Performer
Blondie's Back Live in NYC '99 (1999)
Song Performer
Red, Hot & Blue (1990)
Song Performer

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

All I Want (2003)
Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme (1990)

Life Events

1965

Moved to NYC

1968

Began career as a back-up singer with a folk rock group, the Wind in the Willows

1974

Formed the band Blondie with Chris Stein

1976

Released debut album, Blondie

1978

Feature acting debut, "The Foreigner"

1978

Released the album, Parallel Lines that included the smash hit single "Heart of Glass"

1980

First film song credit, "One Way or Another" from the film "Little Darlings"

1980

Sang the single "Call Me" from the film "American Gigolo"; garnered a Golden Globe nomination for Original Song

1981

Began her solo career with the album Koo Koo

1981

Provided songs for John Waters' cult hit, "Polyester"

1982

The band called it quits and announced their split

1983

Appeared with Andy Kaufman in the short-lived Broadway play "Teaneck Tanzi"

1983

Made her major motion picture debut in the David Cronenberg film "Videodrome"

1986

Released her second solo album Rockbird

1986

Played the title character in "Forever, Lulu"

1988

Played the villainous Velma Von Tussle in John Waters' "Hairspray"

1989

Had a recurring role on CBS' "Wiseguy"

1991

Made TV-movie debut in Showtime's "Intimate Stranger"

1995

Offered a dramatic turn in James Mangold's "Heavy"

1998

Resumed duties as lead vocalist of Blondie; the following year released No Exit with the single "Maria"

2003

Released Blondie's eighth studio album, The Curse of Blondie

2005

Played the lead in Henry S. Miller's short film "I Remember You Now"

2006

Blondie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

2007

Joined Cyndi Lauper's True Colors Tour for the Human Rights Campaign

2007

Re-teamed with director Henry S. Miller for the psychological thriller "Anamorph"

2008

Featured in David Munro's feature film "Full Grown Men"

Family

Richard Smith Harry
Father
Adoptive father.
Catherine Harry
Mother
Adoptive mother.

Companions

Chris Stein
Companion
Musician. Together from 1974 to 1987; Stein was ill from c. 1982 to 1985; Harry took time off from her career to care for him.

Bibliography