Debbie Harry
Singer, songwriter, actress
Born: July 1, 1945, in Miami, Florida
Grew up in: Hawthorne, New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2017: Performing Arts

Although her public persona is a patchwork of various cultural clues, Debbie Harry is a true original.

Born Angela Trimble, the future pop icon was adopted when she was three months old by Catherine and Richard Harry, who renamed their new daughter Deborah Ann Harry. Raised in New Jersey, Harry sang in her church choir and attended Hawthorne High School, graduating in 1963. She next earned an associate of arts degree from Centenary College in Hackettstown.

In the late 1960s, Harry moved to New York City, where she began her professional singing career in a folk-rock group, Wind in the Willows. In the coming years she would work as a secretary, beautician, Playboy bunny, go-go dancer (in a Union City discotheque) and waitress (at Max’s Kansas City, a focal point of the Manhattan music and art landscape).

Eventually, Harry joined the Stilettoes, a female trio that would soon add a guitarist, Chris Stein. Harry and Stein became an item, left the Stilettoes and, in 1974, formed their own group, Angel & the Snake, an edgy little outfit that evolved into Blondie. With its raw, high-energy sound, Blondie became part of the burgeoning New York punk scene, playing frequent gigs at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB.

As the face and voice of Blondie, Harry honed her unique image: part platinum-blonde starlet, part cool comic-book heroine, part beatnik-inspired diva. The media caught on and by 1979, the group had a No. 1 single, “Heart of Glass,” a glossy, disco-oriented track that seemed diametrically opposed to the unfiltered, head-banging punk sensibility from which Blondie emerged.

“Heart of Glass” was just the beginning of Blondie’s chart-topping run—and of the group’s knack for reinvention. The electro-pop hit “Call Me” followed in 1980 and spent six weeks at No. 1. The following year, a West Indian/mariachi-inspired track, “The Tide is High,” topped the Billboard singles chart in January; two months later, the dreamy dance-rap song “Rapture” ruled the Billboard list.

In “The Billboard Book of Number One Hits,” author Fred Bronson shares Harry’s explanation of Blondie’s risky musical choices: “We really tried to vary our music and we really tried not to mimic ourselves… We tried to be a little daring.”

In 1981, at the height of Blondie’s fame, Harry released her solo debut album, “KooKoo,” which peaked at No. 25 on the U.S. albums chart. Blondie disbanded in 1982, and Harry put her recording career on hold while she cared for an ailing Chris Stein. Her next solo album was not released until 1986. More than a decade later, Blondie reformed for a new studio album, “No Exit,” released in 1999.

Throughout her career, Harry has recorded with an array of other artists and appeared in more than 40 films—typically independent or quirky projects—and on numerous TV shows. Her filmography includes key roles in the sci-fi flick “Videodrome” (1983); the comedy-mystery “Forever, Lulu” (1987); and John Waters’ cult classic “Hairspray” (1988).

Intro/Acceptance Video