Deborah Harry




Back before anyone had heard of Madonna, blonde ambition had another face. And the original Queen of Pop was arguably a tougher, more street-wise bombshell than her successor.

The inimitable Deborah Harry was born in 1945 in Miami and was faced with the first of her life's many difficulties straight away. Her mother was a respected concert pianist, but the musician did not feel ready to bring up a child and so a home and family had to be found for the future star. She was adopted by a New Jersey couple but insists that she inherited her biological mother's musical talent.

"It's genetic - I was always going to be an artist, in one field or another, come hell or high water." And it would seem that both hell and high water were lying in wait. Asked about the difficult times in her past, she jokes: "Which bad period? I've had quite a few."

Deborah grew up with her adoptive family in New York but when the swinging Sixties arrived, she found herself a job as a Playboy Bunny. She ventured into singing with folk band Wind In The Willows in "68, but it was meeting - and falling in love with guitarist Chris Stein that would change her life forever.

In 1974 the two formed Blondie and, after a lengthy struggle to break into the mainstream, the band became one of the biggest pop acts of its generation. Singles like Heart Of Glass and French Kissing In The USA would make Blondie and in particular its singer huge stars on both sides of the Atlantic.

Unlike other blonde starlets, Deborah also earned a reputation as a wild rock'n'roller. Her hellraising adventures brought her no small amount of media attention. "Absolutely we were smashing dressing rooms, hotels, bashing each other," she admits. "Why? I don't know. Zeal?"

The band's wild partying was sustained by several years of chart-topping success. They were riding the crest of a wave, but it all came to an abrupt end in 1982. Their sixth album, The Hunter was a commercial flop and Chris became seriously ill with the genetic disease pemphigus. Blondie collapsed and Deborah split her time between caring for her partner and developing a solo career. He eventually recovered but their relationship was suffering and the singer suffered yet another blow when their long-running romance fell apart.

She then seemed to disappear from view for a period, in the mid-Eighties. Reportedly suffering from depression, Deborah put on weight and, from being so recently been the world's most famous sex symbol, became the butt of endless tabloid jibes.

Deborah Harry does not possess the "heart of glass" described in her famous single, however, and she set her sights on realising a childhood dream of becoming an actress. While she never reached the heights of stardom that she found with Blondie, she has proven herself with solid performances in films like Videodrome, Hairspray and more recently Deuces Wild. She appeared in a steady stream of movie productions through the Nineties, and released three solo albums, most notably Deaf, Dumb and Blonde.

She had proven herself as an artist in her own right, but it was perhaps inevitable that Blondie would re-form. One last tour and, of course, one last album followed in 1999 when die-hard fans were treated to No Exit, the final release. These days Deborah's more focussed on modern jazz outfit The Jazz Passengers, however. The group may not be selling millions of records, but they have gained a committed following and the respect of their musical peers. Even London's Barbican Centre admits that the one-time "Princess of Punk" is rapidly becoming a 21st-century diva.

'That Blondie stuff's been told a million times - it's history," she says. "What I'm doing now is hot." The critics seem to agree, though many would argue that everything Deborah Harry does is hot purely by virtue of the fact that the original "rock chick" is doing it.
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