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Deborah Ann "Debbie" Harry (born July 1, 1945) is an American singer-songwriter and actress best known for being the lead singer of the punk rock and New Wave band Blondie. She has also had success as a solo artist, and in the mid-1990s, recorded and performed with The Jazz Passengers. Her acting career spans over thirty film roles and numerous television appearances.
Life and early career
Harry was born in Miami, Florida, and adopted by Catherine Harry and Richard Smith, 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 Union City, New Jersey, discothèque, and a Playboy Bunny.
In the late 1960s, Deborah Harry began her musical career as a background vocalist for the folk rock group, The Wind in the Willows, releasing one self-titled album in 1968 on Capitol Records. The group also recorded a second album which was never released and whose studio tapes remain lost to this day.
After leaving The Stilettos, Harry and Stein formed Angel and the Snake with Tish 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 during the early 1970s but stated that she luckily escaped. While Harry has identified 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 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, though they never married. Harry has no children. 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 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:
During 1976 and 1977, Blondie released their first two albums. The second experienced some marginal success outside the United States. However, 1978's Parallel Lines (US No. 6, UK No. 1) shot the group to international success and included the global smash 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. The follow-up single "One Way Or Another" reached No. 24 on Billboard's Hot 100. The album was the band's biggest success. Although it has sold over 4 million copies in the United States alone, it has never been certified above the Platinum level. It was also the biggest selling album of 1979 in the United Kingdom.
The release of the platinum-selling Eat to the Beat album (US No. 17, UK No. 1) in 1979 and Autoamerican (US No. 7, UK No. 3) in 1980 continued the band's run of hits, including "Dreaming", "Atomic" and three more US No. 1 singles: "The Tide Is High", "Rapture" and "Call Me" from the soundtrack to the film American Gigolo, which became Billboard's No. 1 song of 1980.
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 (US No. 33, UK No. 9). The album met with a disastrous reception, peaking at No. 33 in the US and falling rapidly off the charts. The single "Island of Lost Souls" briefly cracked the US Top 40 though narrowly missed the top ten in the UK, where the album had been a top ten entry but sold far less than their previous albums. Blondie launched a worldwide tour to support the release, but it was cut short due to slow ticket sales. Stein also fell seriously ill with the rare autoimmune disease, pemphigus. Coupled with declining record sales and internal struggles, the band split up.
Later in the 1980s, the remix album Once More Into The Bleach was released, featuring remixes of tracks by Blondie and from Harry's solo career. The mid-1990s saw the release of further Blondie remix albums Beautiful in Europe and Remixed Remade Remodeled in the US. 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 US dance charts.
In 1997, Blondie began working together again for the first time in 15 years. Two tracks were recorded with TV Mania, the production trio of two Duran Duran members, Nick Rhodes and Warren Cuccurullo, and producer Anthony J. Resta. "Studio 54" and "Pop Trash Movie" were scheduled for release 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 before the release of No Exit, the lead single "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 15 on the US Adult Top 40 Charts. No Exit debuted at No.3 in the UK and No. 17 in the US 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 limited-edition single to coincide with further arena dates in November of that year.
Tracks culled from dates throughout the 1999 world tour were released as a live album, titled Live in the US and Livid in the UK and were released in late 1999 and early 2000, respectively. A Blondie Live companion DVD was also released, recorded at a show in New York City's The 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 returned with a full-scale UK tour. This preceded the release of a new single in 2003 entitled "Good Boys" (a hit across the UK and Europe that autumn, and top 10 on the US Dance Charts the following spring) and the release of Blondie's eighth studio album, The Curse of Blondie. The band 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. In that year, the band also released the mash-up "Rapture Riders," which combined their 1981 hit "Rapture" with The Doors' "Riders on the Storm". This track was taken from a greatest hits compilation entitled Sound and Vision (first issued in the UK as Sight + Sound), released with a companion DVD 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 Roxy Music's 1982 hit "More Than This". This was to promote their "Road Rage" tour and the single was made available for free download.
At the end of 2006, a new mix of "Heart of Glass" became a 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 the summer of 2007, Blondie toured in the UK once again. Around this time, Harry delineated the different personas (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 itI really want to make a clear definition between Debbie's solo projects and Blondieand I hope that the audience can appreciate that and also appreciate this other material."
On July 3, 2008, Blondie commenced a world tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Parallel Lines with a sell-out concert at the amphitheatre in Ra'anana, Israel. During the tour, drummer Clem Burke stated that the tour had inspired the band to make another record, Panic of Girls, their first new album since the release of The Curse of Blondie in 2003.
In 2009, Blondie joined Pat Benatar for the Call Me Invincible tour. The majority of the shows were opened by The Donnas. In December 2009, Blondie recorded their version of the traditional song "We Three Kings" to coincide with the band's new album.
In the summer of 2010, Blondie began a UK tour, including venues in Newcastle, Manchester, Sheffield and Dublin. They also played festivals including the Isle of Wight and Rockness Festival in Inverness, Scotland. Tracks from their forthcoming album Panic of Girls were performed during their tour of the UK, notably 'D-Day' and 'What I Heard'.
The album got released first in July 2011 in the United Kingdom, with Germany, USA and Japan following. As a marketing innovation, the band made a lot of special editions with different bonus tracks and added content (extra cds, magazines, etc.). It got good reviews from the press and spotted Nº1 in Amazon. "Mother" was the first single, accompanied by a video, and "What I Heard" was the second.
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. 28 in the US and No. 6 in the UK; it was later certified gold in the US and Silver in the UK. "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) and climbed to 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 (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 on Geffen Records 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.
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 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 (her second in six months). "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 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 Red Hot + Blue AIDS charity album produced by the Red Hot Organization and released at the end of 1990.
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 "My Last Date (With You)," a remake of a 1961 Skeeter Davis hit.
In November 1993, Harry toured the UK with Stein, Peter Min, Greta Brinkman and . 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. 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 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 (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 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 6 June 2007, an iTunes downloadable version was released via her official website.
Harry joined Cyndi Lauper's True Colors Tour for the Human Rights Campaign. She is a strong advocate for gay rights and same-sex marriage. Though she has stated that she identifies as mostly heterosexual, Harry has said she has had intimate relationships with both men and women.
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.
Other musical projects
In 1983, Harry teamed up with Giorgio Moroder (with whom she had worked previously on Blondie's "Call Me") on the song "Rush Rush," which was featured in the film Scarface and in the video game Grand Theft Auto III. Rush Rush was also sampled and covered by the rapper Cam'ron (under the title "Yeo Man (Rush Rush Get The Yeo)". Harry's single "Feel the Spin", produced by John "Jellybean" Benitez, was released (as a 12" single only) in 1985. That song, along with the whole soundtrack to the film Krush Groove, peaked at No. 5 on the US Dance Charts. The song's "uno, dos, tres, quatro." intro has been sampled on a number of records, including S'Express' "Theme from S'Express".
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 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 "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.
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 "Strawberry Fields Forever" and on the song "Estrella de Mar" by Argentine band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. In 1997 she collaborated with Jazz Passenger Bill Ware in his side project Groove Thing, singing lead vocals on the club hit "Command and Obey". Another JP collaboration 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 tribute album Brace Yourself. During this period, she also recorded a duet with Robert Jacks entitled "Der Einzige Weg (The Only Way) - Theme from Texas Chainsaw Massacre," which was recorded in German and in English, although these did not surface until 1999. Likewise, at the end of 1999, Chrysalis Records released a "best of" compilation of her solo recordings entitled Most of All - The Best of Deborah Harry, and a remix of her 1989 hit "I Want That Man".
Aside from writing and recording material for Blondie, Harry pursued various other projects. She appears on the 2001 Bill Ware album Vibes 4 singing the track 'Me and You' as well as on ex-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 film, Three Business Men, 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 electro-clash dance producers 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 also contributed to Fall Out Boy's 2008 album Folie à Deux. She sings on the chorus of the album's closer "West Coast Smoker".
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".
In 1983, Harry appeared on Broadway with Andy Kaufman in the wrestling play Teaneck Tanzi. A retitled version of the British play Trafford Tanzi, the show opened and closed in one night. Later that year Harry, who had already appeared in a number of independent and underground films, made her major motion picture debut in the David Cronenberg film Videodrome.
Following the release of Rockbird, Harry took a number of acting roles including the villainous Velma Von Tussle in John Waters' Hairspray (1988).
A cover of The Castaways' "Liar Liar" from the soundtrack to the film Married to the Mob was released as a single in the US. Harry's version of Michael Jay's "Mind Over Matter" was also recorded in this period, but never released. Harry starred in a film called Forever Lulu, also known as Crazy Streets, in 1987 alongside Alec Baldwin. She had only one line but made appearances throughout the film. She also starred in the film Intimate Stranger as Cory Wheeler, a telephone sex worker being pursued by a serial killer. Harry's other film roles include Roadie, Union City, New York Beat Movie (otherwise known as Downtown '81), Rock & Rule, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, Six Ways to Sunday, The Fluffer, Cop Land, Heavy, My Life Without Me, Spun and Full Grown Men. Her television appearances include roles on Tales from the Darkside, Will & Grace, The Muppet Show, MADtv, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Absolutely Fabulous, Saturday Night Live, The Adventures of Pete and Pete, and Wiseguy. She hosted Saturday Night Live in 1980, a year after appearing on the show (as vocalist in Blondie) as musical guests.
Compilations and other releases
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