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Debbie Harry Young: 13 Rare Photos of the Blondie Singer’s Life and Legacy

Take a look at the singer's iconic life and career!


As the frontwoman for Blondie, Debbie Harry helped to pioneer new wave music — a genre that fuses elements of pop, punk, disco, funk, and reggae. Her fearless approach to fashion and music paved the way for future icons like Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Gwen Stefani. Now, 55 years into her rapturous career, we’re looking back at Debbie Harry’s most defining moments.

1945: A New Wave Icon Is Born

On July 1, 1945, Angela Trimble was born at a Miami-area hospital and put up for adoption by her birth mother. She was adopted by Catherine and Richard Harry, a couple in Hawthorne, New Jersey, who renamed her Deborah Harry.

1965: Debbie Harry Moves to NYC

After graduating from Centenary College in New Jersey with an Associate of Arts degree, a young Debbie Harry moved across the river to New York City. She worked as a secretary at BBC Radio, a cosmetician, and a Playboy Bunny before launching her music career.

1968: Debbie Harry Starts Her Music Career — in a Folk Band!

1968: Debbie Harry Starts Her Music Career — in a Folk Band!
The Wind in the Willows, 1968 Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer / Getty

Harry made her first foray into music as a backup singer for the folk-rock band The Wind in the Willows.  The band’s debut album just barely cracked the Billboard 200 album charts, and a second album was recorded the following year but never released. The band broke up shortly thereafter.

1945: A New Wave Icon Is Born
Debbie Harry, 1968 Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer / Getty

1973: Debbie Makes Her Mark on the Punk Scene

Debbie Harry, 1974Larry Hulst / Getty

While working as a waitress at the NYC venue Max’s Kansas City, Harry met musician Elda Gentile. Harry and Gentile teamed up with Rosie Ross to form the campy girl group The Stillettoes.

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After attending the band’s second gig, musician and photographer Chris Stein joined as a bassist, and soon struck up a romantic relationship with Harry. The Stillettoes became a fixture at iconic NYC punk venue CBGB — the Ramones even opened for them!

1974: Blondie is Formed

1974: Blondie is Formed
Blondie (1977) Bettmann / Contributor / Getty

Harry and Stein eventually left the Stillettoes to form their own band, originally called Angel and the Snake. However, they soon changed the name to Blondie, inspired the moniker used by truck drivers who catcalled Harry after she dyed her hair platinum blonde. This created confusion for some fans who assumed that Debbie Harry was Blondie.  The band had to issue a press release explaining that Debbie Harry’s name wasn’t actually Blondie, and the band was known to wear pins that said “Blondie is a band.”

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1976: Blondie Gets a Life-Changing Opportunity

Blondie 1976 (L-R) Gary Valentine, Chris Stein, Debbie Harry, Jimmy Destri, Clem Burke, 1976Chris Walter / Getty

Blondie released their self-titled debut album in 1976, which peaked at #14 on the Australian charts and #75 on the UK charts. The album garnered a glowing review from Rolling Stone — and they stood by that review more than four decades later, when they placed the album at #401 on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Blondie followed that up with the album Plastic Letters a year later, which peaked at #72 on the Billboard 200. Its lead single, “Denis,” topped the Eurochart Hot 100. That same year, Blondie was invited to open for David Bowie and Iggy Pop on their Idiot World Tour. “We were all in awe of this man, this creative genius and artist,” Harry told the Palm Beach Post. “We were lucky that they asked Blondie to do the tour because it was a huge milestone for us.”

1978-1979: Balancing Blondie with a Solo Career

1978-1979: Balancing Blondie with a Solo Career
Debbie Harry (1979) Bettmann / Contributor / Getty

Blondie’s third album, Parallel Lines, finally launched the band into worldwide stardom — thanks to the runaway success of its third single, “Heart of Glass,” which topped the weekly singles charts in multiple countries. This was followed by the success of “One Way or Another,” an infectious pop song with an unsettling backstory — the lyrics were inspired by an experience Harry had with a stalker. Parallel Lines has gone on to sell more than 20 million copies worldwide.

Before “Heart of Glass” propelled Blondie to fame, Harry had taken a role in a neo-noir crime film called Union City. The movie wasn’t released until 1980, but Harry’s experiences working on set inspired the song “Union City Blue,” which became a single on the band’s 1979 album Eat to the Beat. The album was certified platinum in the US and kept Blondie’s momentum going strong.

1980: The Friendship Between Debbie Harry and Andy Warhol

1980: The Friendship Between Debbie Harry and Andy Warhol Debbie Harry Young
Andy Warhol’s “Debbie Harry” portrait at Sotheby’s Auction House (2011) Oli Scarff / Staff / Getty

While her success with Blondie was skyrocketing, Harry was also making her mark on the New York art scene. In 1980, Andy Warhol — a friend of Harry and Stein — created a silkscreen portrait of Debbie Harry, cementing her status as a pop culture icon. At a contemporary art auction in 2011, the portrait sold for $5.9 million.

1980-1981: The Making of a Legend

1980-1981: The Making of a Legend
Blondie (1979) Maureen Donaldson / Contributor / Getty

Blondie showed no signs of slowing down in the new decade. They contributed the song “Call Me” to the film American Gigolo, and the single became their second chart-topper. Later that year, the band released their fifth album, Autoamerican. Branching out from their signature new wave sound, Blondie experimented with a wide range of musical genres.

The first single, “The Tide is High,” was a cover of a Jamaican rocksteady song, and it became Blondie’s third number-one single. Their next single earned Debbie Harry and Blondie an unexpected place in hip-hop history. After attending a rap performance hosted by their friend Fred Brathwaite — a.k.a. hip-hop trailblazer Fab Five Freddy — Harry and Stein were inspired to incorporate rapped vocals into the aptly-titled track “Rapture.” The song is the first number-one single to incorporate elements of rap.  

In the summer of 1981, Debbie Harry released her debut solo album, KooKoo, a fusion of funk, rock, and dance. The album reached #25 on the Billboard 200 and was certified gold in the US.

1982: Blondie Breaks Up

Debbie Harry Young
Debbie Harry singing with Blondie, 1982Ebet Roberts/Getty Images

On Blondie’s sixth studio album, The Hunter, the band once again explored a variety of musical styles — but reviews and sales were both disappointing. They embarked on a national tour to support the album, but the tour was plagued with problems, including mysterious medical issues for Chris. When the tour ended, the band went their separate ways. Soon after, Stein was diagnosed with pemphigus vulgaris, a rare and life-threatening autoimmune disorder, and Harry took a step back from music to care for him.

1983-1996: Debbie Harry in the Post-Blondie Era

1983-1996: Debbie Harry in the Post-Blondie Era Debbie Harry Young
Debbie Harry Solo Performance (1977) Richard McCaffrey / Contributor / Getty

After the Blondie breakup, Debbie Harry continued to dabble in acting, with roles in the sci-fi horror movie Videodrome and the comedy-mystery Forever, Lulu. She also released her second solo album, Rockbird, which spawned the single “French Kissin’ in the USA.”

Another breakup was soon to follow: In 1987, Harry and Stein ended their longtime romance. However, the pair remained good friends, and Harry is the godmother to Stein’s two daughters.

Over the next decade, Debbie Harry continued to build her post-Blondie career. She released two more solo albums, Def, Dumb & Blonde and Debravation, and joined the jazz ensemble Jazz Passengers in 1994. She also continued to take on movie roles, most notably as Velma Von Tussle in John Waters’s 1988 comedy Hairspray.    

1997-2003: Debbie Harry Reunites With Blondie Bandmates

Debbie Harry Young
Debbie Harry, 1997Rob Verhorst / Getty

In the late 90s, Blondie came back onto the radar when alt-rock frontwomen like Gwen Stefani of No Doubt and Shirley Manson of Garbage cited Debbie Harry as an inspiration. In 1996, Harry and Stein reached out to their former bandmates to discuss a possible reunion. In 1997, the original five members of Blondie reunited for three outdoor festivals, and they embarked on an international tour the following year.

Bassist Gary Valentine left after the tour. In 1999, the remaining four members released the seventh Blondie album, No Exit. The first single, “Maria,” topped the charts in the UK. The band followed that up with The Curse of Blondie in 2003, but the title turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the album received mixed reviews and failed to make a big dent in the charts. But Blondie still had more than 25 years worth of hits behind them — and thousands of fans eager to sing along — so they set out on a two-year world tour, playing more than 160 shows. 

2006: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction

2006: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction
Clem Burke, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction (2006)Jim Spellman / Contributor / Getty

In 2006, Blondie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson gave the induction speech at the ceremony, where she gushed that Debbie Harry was “the girl who invented the archetype by which all other stars who have followed in her footsteps have been measured. Her influence can still be detected today in the style of every self-respecting rock and roll queen.”

2007 – 2023: Debbie Harry’s Ongoing Legacy

2007 – 2023: Debbie Harry’s Ongoing Legacy
Debbie Harry at Coachella (2023) Scott Dudelson / Contributor / Getty

In 2007, Harry released her fifth solo album, Necessary Evil, and she’s continued to collaborate with artists like Fall Out Boy and the Dandy Warhols. Harry has also recorded two more albums with Blondie — Panic of Girls and Pollinator — and released her memoir, Face It, in 2019.

Most recently, Blondie’s hit “One Way or Another” was one of six songs included on the soundtrack to the Guardians of the Galaxy-themed roller coaster Cosmic Rewind at Walt Disney World. And this summer, at 77 years old, she kicked off a series of festival performances with Blondie — proving she plans to be a force to be reckoned with in the music industry for years to come.

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