Since the late ’70s, singer, guitarist, songwriter Chrissie Hynde has been the leader of one of rock’s most widely beloved bands, the Pretenders. Born on September 7, 1951 in Akron, OH, Hynde was turned on to rock the same way zillions of others did in the ’60s — via such British invasion bands as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and the Kinks. After attending Kent State University in the early ’70s (where she witnessed first hand the tragic Kent State Killings of 1970) and forming one of her first rock bands (with future members of Devo), Hynde became enamored with such proto-punk bands as the Stooges and the Velvet Underground. Fed up with the U.S. music scene, Hynde bought a one way ticket to London, England, where she became a rock critic. But more importantly, she found what she was looking for musically — Great Britain was in the middle of a musical revolution, “punk rock.”
Hynde became friendly with such up and coming punk rockers as the Sex Pistols and the Clash (Hynde almost formed a group with members of the latter band), and its back-to-basics approach inspired her to form her own punk outfit. By the late ’70s, Hynde had accomplished her goal, as the original Pretenders lineup was in place — Hynde on vocals/guitar, bassist Pete Farndon, guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, and drummer Martin Chambers. Due to Hynde’s vast rock & roll knowledge, the Pretenders were much more than just a punk band — they were never afraid to let other styles seep into their own sound, making their 1980 self-titled debut one of rock’s greatest all-time classics. Despite worldwide success and a hit sophomore album (1981’s Pretenders II), tragedy was lurking around the corner — both Scott and Farndon died from drug overdoses less than a year apart from each other.
The Pretenders carried on despite the career-threatening misfortune, and scored another big hit with 1984’s Learning to Crawl. Despite numerous lineup changes ever since, Hynde has kept the Pretenders going — issuing solid albums and continuing to be a must-see live act to this day. She has also never been afraid to voice her opinions concerning some causes and topics she believes strongly about, such as PETA and ending animal cruelty.