American singer-songwriter and actress
Deborah Ann Harry (born Angela Trimble; July 1, 1945) is an American singer, songwriter, model and actress, known as the lead singer of the new wave band Blondie. Her recordings with the band reached number one in the U.S. and UK charts on many occasions from 1979 to 1981.
Born in Miami, Florida, Harry was adopted as an infant and raised in Hawthorne, New Jersey. After attending college, she worked various odd jobs, including as a secretary, dancer, and Playboy Bunny, before breaking through in the music industry. Harry co-formed Blondie in 1974 in New York City. The band released their self-titled debut album in 1976, and released a further three albums between then and 1979, including Parallel Lines, which spawned six singles, including “Heart of Glass“. Their fifth record, Autoamerican (1980), afforded Harry and the band further attention, spawning such hits as a cover of “The Tide Is High“, and “Rapture“, the latter of which is considered the first rap song to chart at number one in the United States.
1966–1975: Early projects; formation of Blondie
In 1974, Harry joined the Stilettoes with Elda Gentile and Amanda Jones. Shortly thereafter, the band added guitarist Chris Stein, who became her boyfriend.In her memoir, Face It, Harry describes having been raped at knifepoint during a burglary of the home she shared with Stein.
After leaving the Stilettoes, Harry and Stein formed Angel and the Snake with Tish Bellomoand Snooky Bellomo. Shortly thereafter, Harry and Stein formed Blondie, named after the catcall men often directed at Harry after she bleached her hair blonde.The band quickly became regulars at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB in New York City.
Harry performing with Blondie in Toronto, 1977
1976–1980: Global success
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 emphasized by a “Blondie is a group” buttoncampaign by the band in 1979.
Blondie released their self-titled debut album in 1976; it peaked at No. 14 in Australia and No. 75in the United Kingdom.Their second album, Plastic Letters, garnered some success outside the United States,but their third album, Parallel Lines (1978), was a worldwide hit and catapulted the group to international success.It included the global hit single “Heart of Glass“. Riding the crest of disco‘s domination, the track made 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.
Autoamerican (UK No. 3, US No. 7) was released in 1980. Blondie had further No. 1 hits with “Call Me” (American Gigolo soundtrack) (US No. 1), “Atomic” (Eat to the Beat album) (UK No. 1), “The Tide Is High” (US No. 1), and “Rapture” (US No. 1).
During this time, both Harry and Stein befriended graffiti artist Fab Five Freddy, who introduced them to the emerging hip-hop scene in the Bronx. Freddy is mentioned in “Rapture” and also makes an appearance in the video. Through him they were also able to connect with Grandmaster Flash.
Harry was immortalized by Andy Warhol in 1980, who produced a number of artworks of her image from a single photoshoot at the Factory. The artist created a small series of four acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas portraits of the star in different colors, as well as Polaroids and a small number of rare silver gelatin prints from the shoot. Stein was also present that day to capture Warhol photographing Harry in a series of his own photographs, exhibited in 2013 in London.
Her collaboration and friendship with Warhol continued and she was his first guest on the MTV show, Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes. The first episode opened with Harry announcing the theme: “Sex, Vegetables, Brothers and Sisters”.
Harry said of her relationship with Warhol, “I think the best thing [Andy Warhol] taught me was always to be open to new things, new music, new style, new bands, new technology and just go with it. Never get mired in the past and always accept new things whatever age you are.”