Heroes: Debbie Harry

Heroes: Debbie Harry

Heroes: Debbie Harry

Back, bolder, and still Blond(i)e

Back, bolder, and still Blond(i)e

Photography: Hedi Slimane

Text: MATHIAS ROSENZWEIG

This story appears in the pages of V138: The Sound of V issue—now available for purchase!

“I don’t really love nostalgia,” Debbie Harry says over the phone. The Blondie frontwoman is in New York City—the place that saw her flourish into her particular bouquet of punk rock legend meets fashion icon and international sex symbol. “I like looking ahead. It’s more interesting.”

But when your life is as integral to the cultural landscape as Harry’s, there’s really no escaping the past—weeds and flowers alike. In 2018, this led to the release of her memoir Face It, a book that shines the stage lights on everything from the star’s toddlerhood—she writes about her first memory from the age of three months—to an adulthood punctuated by rape, heroin, and global stardom.

“I don’t think of myself as being old, but I guess I’m pretty old now,” she says, trailing off with a faint laugh. “So I do have a lot of stories to tell, and a pretty adventurous life. It’s not like I grew up in a town, got married, and stayed there.”

Reviews of the book harped on her seemingly unfazed attitude towards both the good and the bad, the latter due in part to rose thorns and thick skin she developed out of necessity. “My ambition and my desire to achieve helped me get through,” she says. As for the “good,” a romanticized vision of New York’s Lower East Side, where the punk rock scene cultivated itself and continues to inspire kids, hoping to catch some of Harry’s residue, the star doesn’t necessarily miss it. “Generally speaking, I don’t say, ‘Oh, I wish it was the good old days’...it was a great period in music, but I think that goes on. It will always exist. There was the Beatnik era, then the Glitter age, the Hippie period…and I’m just talking about the US.”

She also thanks her bandmate and romantic partner of 16 years, Chris Stein, for helping her reach her peaks as well as holding her hand while traversing fame’s valleys. “I’ve always said this—that our partnership was very valuable, and we supported each other. If we had moments of being doubtful or worried, very often the other one of us would say, ‘Oh, come on, get over it.’”

The pair remains close today, appearing together for interviews in support of their box set, Blondie: Against The Odds 1974-1982. A sprawling and ambitious garden that showcases everything from the band’s early roots to their blossoming into certified hitmakers, the anthology includes remastered versions of their first six studio albums, plus unreleased demos, outtakes, commentary, essays, illustrations, and more. It is a full-blown encyclopedic triumph for one of the greatest bands to ever play—even non-fans could learn something from such a transparent display of artistic growth.

This is particularly of interest for Harry, who famously shied away from divulging too much of her life, one that was crafted by her inherent artistic direction, to the public. Even in her “tell-all” book, much is left up to the reader’s imagination. In the last pages, she writes: “I still have so much more to tell but being such a private person, I might not tell everything…It’s always best to leave the audience wanting more.”

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