Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry, born July 1, 1945, was at the forefront of the new wave genre in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Born in Miami and raised in New Jersey, the singer worked as a BBC secretary in New York, as well as a dancer, backing singer and Playboy Bunny. Harry co-founded Blondie with guitarist and former partner Chris Stein in 1974, and two years later the band released its self-titled debut album. The band soon became regulars at the iconic Bowery music venue CBGBs.
Blondie was followed by Plastic Letters in 1978, but it was later that year, with their third album Parallel Lines, that the band truly took off. The record included the iconic single “Heart of Glass”, which received worldwide acclaim. Proving the song’s enduring legacy, Miley Cyrus performed a raucous cover in 2020, following supermodel Gisele Bündchen’s rendition in 2014.
After 1979’s Eat to the Beat, Autoamerican (1980) yielded two number one hits in the shape of “The Tide Is High” and “Rapture”. The latter, inspired by Fab Five Freddy and his introduction of Blondie to New York’s hip hop scene, is credited as the first rap-oriented song to reach number one on the US charts. The video features a cameo appearance from Jean-Michel Basquiat, standing in for an absent Grandmaster Flash.
Harry also mingled with Andy Warhol’s crowd at the Factory, with the pop artist famously portraying her in 1980, and later introducing her to cult figures such as a pre-fame Courtney Love. Harry never married, and broke up with Stein in 1989, though they continued to work and tour together.
Besides a solo music career, Harry went on to star in several films, including David Cronenberg’s body horror Videodrome and John Waters’ Hairspray. In 2019, she looked back on her life as a fearless punk icon in the memoir Face It. “Should I regret anything? No. It is a waste of time. It really is a waste of time,” she told Dazed in 2020.