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Debbie Harry

As the face and sound behind one of new wave's most influential bands to emerge during the punk heyday of the 1970s, Debbie Harry was the ultimate diva. She was the Blondie frontwoman, a vixen with hypnotically wild stage moves and an edgy cool voice. A killer sneer matched her signature blonde mop and made her a star. Born in summer 1945 in Miami, Debbie Harry was adopted and raised by Richard and Catherine Harry in suburban New Jersey. She spent most of her young adult life working various jobs. Her initial start in music came in the late '60s with the folk act, The Wind in the Willows. They'd only release one album, their eponymous debut for Capitol in 1968, but Harry had other plans. Her stint as a Playboy Bunny wasn't exactly what she had in mind, however her waitressing gig at Max's Kansas City eventually guided Harry to the punk rock cliques taking over New York City during the 1970s. In 1973, Harry met Chris Stein, a graduate of New York's School of Visual Arts. Stein was impressed with Harry's tough persona and liked her all-girl rock group, The Stilettos, but within a year Harry left and formed Angel & The Snake with Stein. By 1974, they'd christened themselves Blondie. Their moniker wasn't derived from Harry's famous blonde mane contrary to popular belief either. Harry took the phrase from those obnoxious truck drivers who catcalled "Hey Blondie, give us a screw" as she'd passed by. With drummer Clem Burke and ex-Knickers keyboardist Jimmy Destri, Blondie spent eight years winning the world over with their infectious post-punk sound. "Heart of Glass," the reggae-tinged "The Tide Is High," and "Call Me" were major chart-toppers in America while Blondie's third album, Parallel Lines sold 20 million copies worldwide. Harry went solo while Blondie was still hot. Koo Koo, which was produced by Chic man Nile Rodgers, marked her debut in August 1981. It wasn't nearly as accessible or as polished as Harry's work with Blondie, for Koo Koo earned a dismal #28 position on the US charts. The next year, Blondie issued Hunter and called it quits. Stein had fallen ill with a rare fatal genetic disease called Pemphigus, and Harry stepped out of the spotlight to nurse her partner back to health. It would be five years until she'd sing again. Rockbird was issued in 1986, critics loved it and the Chuck Lorre-penned "French Kissin'" was a moderate radio hit. But as soon as she arrived, Harry disappeared. She'd spent the latter part of the decade working on her acting skills. Now going by Deborah Harry, she appeared in an episode of Wiseguy on CBS in 1989 and released a third album, the Euro-dance inflected Def Dumb and Blonde. Debravation appeared four years later. The 1990s saw a much more reserved Debbie Harry in the sense that she was enjoying her pop culture status and the simple life as well. She appeared in countless films by this time, most notably Videodrome (1982), Hairspray (1988), and the black comedy Six Ways To Sunday (1997). She was also recording and touring with the avant-garde/jazz troupe, The Jazz Passengers and Harry joined them for their 1997 debut, Individually Twisted. She'd been working with Stein, Destri and Burke again, too. A Blondie reunion was official in 1999 when the four of them released their first album in 17 years. No Exit showed an always stylish pop/rock sound from the band and as a seasoned artist, Harry was as brilliant as ever. MacKenzie Wilson

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