Happy Birthday Debbie Harry: Looking Back at Iconic Career of ‘Blondie’ Frontwoman

by Chris Haney

Today, we celebrate Blondie lead singer and actress Debbie Harry on her 76th birthday. The prolific artist was a staple of the 1970s and 1980s, and her music and movies still have an impact on pop culture to this day.

Deborah Ann Harry was born in Miami, Florida, but adopted as a baby and raised in New Jersey. Considering she’s a New York City icon, her life could’ve been very different if she was raised elsewhere. By her college years, Debbie Harry had begun her musical career as a backup singer.

By the early ’70s, she helped form a couple of unsuccessful NYC bands. However, in 1974 she co-created the band Blondie. As they say, the rest is history.

Debbie Harry’s Music Career and the Rise of Blondie

Early on, Blondie earned regular playing time at New York City’s famous nightclubs Max’s Kansas City and CBGB. The venues were home of some of the most cutting edge music to come out in the ’70s and ’80s. Bands like The Velvet Underground and some of the earliest punk groups like The Ramones and Dead Boys honed their craft at the venues.

With Debbie Harry fronting Blondie, and becoming a style icon of the era, the band started to gain traction. A few years later she became a bonafide punk legend. Blondie released two albums that found success outside of the United States. Yet their third studio album Parallel Lines skyrocketed the band into worldwide success.

The album’s hit single “Heart of Glass” shot up both the U.S. and U.K. music charts upon its release. It peaked at No. 1 in both countries and sold almost two million copies, which made it the second-highest selling single of 1979.

The band continued its charting success with its next few albums. In addition, Blondie had multiple more No. 1 hits. She even helped popularize rap music in the late ’70s going into the ’80s. She often played shows with rappers and Blondie’s No. 1 single “Rapture” helped bring the genre to the mainstream.

The Movie Career of the Blondie Lead Singer

By the ’80s, Blondie and Debbie Harry had become international stars. Like many entertainers, the singer dived into another form of entertainment when she started to act.

Harry took her first major role in the 1983 horror film Videodrome. She went on to star in other films like Forever, Lulu, which she played the title character alongside Alec Baldwin. Yet it was another film in 1988 that most will remember her from.

Debbie Harry starred as the character Velma Von Tussle in director John Waters’s famous dance movie Hairspray. The movie has gone to be remade in other films, and has been adapted for Broadway as a musical. To this day, the story still draws new and old fans who adore it.