Singer, actress. Born on July 1, 1945, in Miami, Florida. She was adopted by Richard and Catherine Harry at the age of three months. Growing up in Hawthorne, New Jersey, Deborah Ann Harry sang in the church choir. She tried college for two years before dropping out and moving to New York City. Harry ended up waiting tables at Max’s Kansas City, a popular club that was part of the downtown art and music scene.
Harry later joined the Stilettos, a female trio. She met guitarist Chris Stein who became a member of the group. Over time, Stein and Harry became romantically involved. The two started their own band in 1974, which would turn into the world-famous Blondie. The new group played many of the legendary clubs in New York, including CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City. Their music was considered to be new wave, a type of rock music inspired by punk and other music styles, such as reggae, ska, and funk. The band’s first self-titled album was released in 1976. The next year the band toured in support of their second album Plastic Letters, which scored the number two spot on British charts with the song “Denis.”
Their third album Parallel Lines helped catapult them to pop music stardom. The song “Heart of Glass” reached the top of the U.S. charts in 1978. Harry was not only the lead vocalist for the group, she wrote many of the songs with Stein. With her white-blond hair, high cheekbones, and full lips, Harry soon became a pop music icon. At the time, she was one of the few female recording artists to rise to the top. Her cool, sexy style paved the way for later recording artists, such as Madonna.
Blondie continued to be successful with their next two albums Eat to the Beat (1979), which included “Dreaming” and “Atomic,” and Autoamerican (1980), which featured “The Tide Is High” and “Rapture.” Besides her work with the band, Harry found time to take on a few film roles. She appeared in Union City (1980) and Videodrome (1983).
The band broke up in 1983. Around this time, Stein became ill with a rare skin disease. Harry took time out from her career to look after him. He recovered, but their relationship didn’t survive. Harry released a solo album Rockbird in 1986, scoring a minor hit with the song “French Kissin’.” She also continued to act in such films as John Waters’ Hairspray (1988), Heavy (1995), and Cop Land (1997) and appeared on the television series Wiseguy in 1989.
Switching musical styles, Harry joined the Jazz Passengers as lead vocalist for their 1997 album Individually Twisted (1997). That year, she also reunited with her Blondie bandmates that year to tour Europe. Their first new album together in more than 15 years, No Exit, was released in 1999. Their song, “Maria,” hit the top of the charts in England, but it didn’t do as well in the United States. The group was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
Harry continues to perform and act. In 2006, she appeared in The Show (Achilles Heels), a theatrical dance production as well as the independent film Full Grown Men.