1. Debbie Harry is the frontwoman and namesake of Blondie. She is also, let’s be real, a human angel.
Her star first began to rise in the early 1970s, when she was one of the central figures of the New York City punk scene, but Blondie’s debut album, 1976’s Unmade Beds, brought her international attention. Before becoming a music icon, she had previously been a waitress at the seminal venue Max’s Kansas City, a bunny at the Playboy Club, and a go-go dancer in Union City, NJ, which likely inspired the gorgeous Blondie song “Union City Blue.”
2. Her tightly-reined vocal range allows her to sound gruff, soft, authoritative, mellifluous, and, above all, totally in charge of every song she sings.
Listen to her mastery here, on “Shayla,” from the 1979 album Eat to the Beat; the sound of her voice alone is all but guaranteed to rattle your heart around. Her vocals slowly and surely dip, soar, coo, and otherwise perfectly embody the spirit of gorgeous lines like, “I am free, but life is so cheap.” This song is especially incredible when you consider that it appears on the same album as “Victor,” a track which finds our heroine screaming and yelling like a pissed-off military general. Her versatility is mind-blowing.
3. She lent that powerful-ass voice to some of the greatest pop songs in history, many of which she co-wrote with Blondie guitarist Chris Stein.
If you don’t immediately want to take to the floor and spin around crazily when you begin listening to “Heart of Glass,” I’m not sure I want to know you. The same goes for “Call Me” and “One Way or Another,” as well as Blondie’s incredible covers, like “The Tide is High” (oh my god, seriously, the greatest song) and “Hanging on the Telephone.” And those are just a few of the band’s best singles—throughout the ’70s and ’80s, Blondie consistently flooded the radio with some of the best pop tracks ever recorded.
4. Harry partially built her career on shoving an exaggerated, skewed image of the female ideal in the face of a world that was reluctant to take female musicians (and especially female punks) seriously.
Harry is a skinny white blonde, sure, but she was always hyperconscious of how she performed that identity. She considered her public role of “Blondie” as a kind of cartoon character, albeit one that was entirely in control of her personhood. Earlier this year, she described the dead-on way she pushed a feminine image into the forefront of music thusly: “I was dead sick and tired of all of these songs [where women singers] were all victimized by love. I was sick of it. I didn’t want to portray myself or women as victims.”
And the poet, critic, and essayist Wayne Koestenbaum perfectly zeroed in on her multifaceted presentation of femininity in his recent essay “Debbie Harry at the Supermarket”:
In Blondie’s hit song “The Tide Is High,” Harry claims not to be the kind of girl who easily gives up. By singing the words “I’m not the kind of girl,” Harry… admits that there exist many varieties of girl, as many as there are shades of lipstick, or verses in the Bible, or varieties of rock on the path to Lourdes… and Debbie has the right to pick exactly which kind she is.
5. And let’s just face the truth that’s right in front of us: She’s one of the plain-long sexiest women of all time.
6. Her image heavily played into her legendary status as a live performer. Harry set out to tear up every stage she appeared on, and there’s no denying that she did just that.
Photograph by Jenny Lens from the book Punk Pioneers
She sexily clowned around with her audiences, stormed around like a goddamn lightning bolt, pranced, preened, all but fellated her microphones, and made very sure that every set of eyes in the room was on her. As such, she’s considered one of the greatest live performers in rock history. Watch any video of a Blondie show for proof.
7. In addition to her musical work, Harry was also a huge artistic inspiration for mega-stars Stephen Sprouse…
8. …and, of course, her friend Andy Warhol.
According to Harry, their friendship started on the sidewalk. “We crossed paths. New York had an active street life — it was a small community back then. You often ran into people. You knew them already or got introduced,” she said in 2011. “I bumped into Andy on Broadway and 13th Street and said hello, and we chatted about everything. I suppose this is how we met and our friendship grew from there.”
9. She also tried her hand at film, acting in movies like Videodrome and New York Stories.
She worked with auteurs like David Cronenberg, Woody Allen, and John Waters. In Cronenberg’s Videodrome, she portrayed a masochistic radio DJ/psychiatrist named Nikki Brand. The movie is now a part of the Criterion Collection. Not too shabby, especially since Harry had extremely minimal acting experience before appearing in the 1983 film.
10. And nowadays, she continues to personify her iconoclastic beauty and charisma with aplomb.
Her status as a style icon is unimpeachable, as evidenced in this gorgeous May 2013 fashion editorial where she modeled for Vogue España. Y-O-W.
11. Basically, Debbie Harry will always be music royalty, and for damn good reason, too.