Debbie Harry Biography
Deborah Ann "Debbie" Harry (born July 1, 1945) is an American singer-songwriter and actress, most famous for being the lead singer for the punk rock/New Wave band Blondie. She has also had some success as a solo artist, recording five solo albums. In the mid 1990s she also performed and recorded as part of the Jazz Passengers. Harry has also engaged in an acting career with over 30 film roles and several television appearances to her credit.
Harry was adopted when she was three months old by Catherine and Richard Smith Harry, gift shop proprietors from Hawthorne, New Jersey. She attended Hawthorne High School, where she graduated in 1963. Prior to starting her singing career she moved to New York in the late 1960s and worked as a secretary at the BBC Radio New York office for one year. Later, she was a waitress at Max's Kansas City, and worked in a Dunkin' Donuts, after which she was 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 the band Blondie in the mid-1970s, naming it for the wolf whistle men 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 1974, commercial success followed in the late 1970s to the 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. She was a continued regular at Studio 54 and was associated with Andy Warhol. The clip for 'Rapture' appeared within the first 24 hours of MTV's launch. In June 1979, Blondie graced the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. 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. To complicate matters further, Harry sometimes described her character in the band as being named "Blondie", as in this quote from the No Exit tour book:
"Hi, it's Deb. You know, when I woke up this morning I had a realization about myself. I was always Blondie. People always called me Blondie, ever since I was a little kid. What I realized is that at some point I became Dirty Harry. I couldn't be Blondie anymore, so I became Dirty Harry."
Through 1976 and 1977, Blondie released their first two albums to varying success outside the US. However, 1978's Parallel Lines (US #6, UK #1) shot the group to huge international success, and included the smash hit single "Heart of Glass". The release of Eat to the Beat (US #12, UK #1) in 1979 and Autoamerican (US #7, UK #3) in 1980 continued the band's run of hits, including "Atomic", "The Tide Is High", "Rapture" and the #1 single "Call Me" from the film soundtrack American Gigolo.
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 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 15 years. Two tracks recorded with TV. Mania (the production trio of Duran Duran members Nick Rhodes and Warren Cuccurullo), and producer Anthony J. Resta, "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, giving Blondie their sixth UK no.1 hit. "Maria" also reached #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 #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 single to coincide with further arena dates in November of that year.
Harry entered the Guinness World Book of Records in 1999 as the "Oldest Female Singer to Reach No. 1 in the UK Chart" when Blondie went to number one with "Maria" on February 13, 1999 at the age of 53 years and 227 days.
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, 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 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. 2005 saw the release of the mash-up "Rapture Riders", which 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. 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 Summer 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) 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."
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 has inspired the band to make another record. It will be their first new album since the release of The Curse of Blondie in 2003.
To date, Harry has released five solo albums. Harry began her solo career with the album Koo Koo in 1981. The album peaked at #28 in the US and #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 and climbed to #43 on the Billboard Hot 100, #29 on the Hot Dance Club Play and #32 on the UK Singles Chart. "The Jam Was Moving" was lifted as the second single and peaked at #82 in the US. In 1986, Harry released her second solo album Rockbird, which peaked at #97 in the US and #31 in the UK (where it has been certified Gold by the BPI). The single "French Kissin' in the USA" brought her to the Top Ten of the UK 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 #1 on the U.S. 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" 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 of the single propelled the album to #12 on the UK charts. However, the US was less receptive and it peaked at #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 15 Modern Rock single in the U.S.
From 1989 to 1991, Harry 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 #3 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 "I Can See Clearly", which peaked at #23 in the UK and #2 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.
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 BÃƒÂ¶ys fame). These were "God Save New York" and "New York Groove". It is unclear whether these tracks were finished versions of the tracks that will appear on the new record. However, 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. On June 6, 2007, an iTunes downloadable version was released via her official web site, www.deborahharry.com.
Harry joined Cyndi Lauper's True Colors Tour 2007 for the Human Rights Campaign. She is a strong advocate for gay rights and gay marriage. Though she has stated that she identifies as mostly heterosexual, Harry has said she has had intimate relationships with both men and women.
The final track listing for the Necessary Evil album 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 album was originally scheduled for August release in the US, but was rescheduled for late October so she could work on Blondie's European tour. The first single, Two Times Blue peaked at #5 on the US Dance Club Play chart. The album debuted at #86 in the UK and #37 in the US Billboard Top Independent Albums.
To promote the album, Harry appeared on various talk shows to perform "Two Times Blue". She also started a 22 date U.S. 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. On Harry's official blog, she stated her label was planning to release the song as the second single.
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 later, the Grand Theft Auto III radio station "Flashback FM"). 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 #5 on the U.S. 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 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 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" 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", although this did not surface until 1999. Likewise, at the end of 1999, Chrysalis Records released a best of her solo recordings entitled Most of All - The Best of Deborah Harry and a remix of "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; "Amarcord" and "You'll Come To Me", 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.
Harry has also been confirmed to have contributed to Fall Out Boy's upcoming album Folie ÃƒÂ Deux, which releases December 16, 2008. She sings on the chorus of the album's closer "West Coast Smoker".
Harry appeared on Broadway with Andy Kaufman in the wrestling play Teaneck Tanzi. A retitled version of the British play Trafford Tanzi, the show failed to transplant itself successfully to Broadway, and 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, in which she plays the character Nicki Brand.
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 The Castaways' "Liar Liar" from the soundtrack to the film Married to the Mob was released as a single in the U.S. Harry's version of Michael Jay's "Mind Over Matter" was also recorded in this period, but never released. She also starred in the film Intimate Stranger in which she played a telephone sex worker pursued by a serial killer.
Some of Harry's other notable film roles are appearances in Videodrome (1983); Union City (1980); New York Beat Movie (otherwise known as Downtown '81, in which she plays the angel of the East Village alongside Jean-Michel Basquiat); Rock & Rule (1983), an animated movie where she did vocals opposite Robin Zander of Cheap Trick; and Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990). She also had notable roles in such films as Spun, Cop Land, Heavy and My Life Without Me, and was featured in David Munro's 2006 film Full Grown Men.
Her TV guest appearances include The Muppet Show, MADtv, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Absolutely Fabulous, Saturday Night Live (as a musical guest and a host), Wiseguy, and Will & Grace (though her appearance in the season 5 finale of the show was cut from subsequent versions of the episode after its initial 2003 transmission, including DVD releases).
She had a voice role in the video game, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, as a cab dispatcher.
She sang "Ghost Riders in the Sky" over the closing credits of Alex Cox's film Three Businessmen.
She played the role of "Elizabeth" in the FMV-based game Double Switch, which was released for the Sega CD (1993), the Sega Saturn, Apple Macintosh, and Windows 95.
She made her second stage appearance in Edgar Oliver's play The Drowning Pages at La MaMa ETC in 2000.
She played the lead in the 2005 short film I Remember You Now, directed by Henry S. Miller, and worked with the same director again in his 2007 psychological thriller Anamorph.
In 2007 Debbie Harry came into The DL and performed a skit, teaching a new generation about punk music.