The year was 1979, and the album, Gold Rush 79, a 2 LP set courtesy of the beloved compilation king K-tel, featuring an eclectic smorgasbord of hits from Peaches and Herb to Dr. Hook. Shaking my groove thing while knocking on wood, I became one with those albums, literally treating them like gold, perfecting record player needle moves, careful not to leave a single scratch. One song in particular stood out among others, and I played it nonstop like teens tend to do when music speaks to them—”Heart of Glass” by Blondie.
Lead singer Debbie Harry provided an edgy punk rock style I’d never witnessed before, and I couldn’t get enough . . . I owned all of her records, watched appearances on Bandstand, and simulated dance moves in homage to those hits—my generation’s anthems. With a mixed attitude of strength and indifference, Harry inspired girls everywhere to own it. She was the 80s teen’s version of Lady Gaga. And as I experimented with parachute pants, punk hair, eyeliner, cropped tops, baggy jeans, and leg warmers, Blondie did the same, creating music with forceful lyrics, romantic tensions, and funky pops of hip hop and rap, including a Brooklyn shout-out to Fab 5 Freddy, introducing us all to a whole new world of music.
Today Debbie Harry remains relevant. Featured in French Vogue, Interviewed by Lady Gaga in Harper’s Bazaar, and working on the Occupy This Album collaboration with other celebrated artists, Harry doesn’t miss a beat capturing the spotlight. A sixty-something female icon, who looks every bit of 45, Harry still pushes fashion to the limit, inspiring new generations of women, as well as reminding her original groupies, like me, to embrace age and womanhood with confidence, determination, and a little bit of kick-ass attitude.
She continues performing and creating new music with Blondie’s latest album, Panic of Girls, released in September 2011. “Wipe off My Sweat” and “Love Doesn’t Frighten Me” speak to me and have become new favorites. As I listen to Panic I can’t help but notice how Harry reinvents herself, a musical chameleon—mastered by a select few artists—holding true to her original voice, not shying away from experimenting with new sounds, but avoiding that all too familiar plea from retro artists to gain new followers or speak to a new generation . . . Harry is simply making great music with longtime friends and keeping it real, Blondie style. And I wouldn’t expect anything less.
Harry joins another longtime friend and artist, Roy Nathanson, and his students, The Institute for Collaborative Education (ICE) High School Band, on stage at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square on Thursday, February 2nd. Led by a teacher who is a celebrated saxophonist, a founding member of the Jazz Passengers, an actor, and poet, ICE strives each year to maintain their incredible and one of a kind music program. Thursday night’s event benefits ICE and its extracurricular programs. Your ticket purchase is a tax-deductible contribution. For ticket information, visit the ICE PTA blog. You can connect with Debbie Harry and Blondie on Facebook and Twitter.