Photo c/o Chris Stein, Debbie Harry, Late 1970s
Made abundantly clear by a quick scroll through your Instagram, Facebook or Twitter feed, today marks the 74th birthday of the wildly talented Debbie Harry whose newsworthy legacy neither begins nor ends with her reputation as "The Brigitte Bardot of Rock & Roll." Over the past four decades and counting, the Blondie frontwoman/co-founder has given rise to certain hits like "Heart of Glass", "Call Me", "One Way or Another" and "Rapture"--the first rap single to reach No.1 on the U.S. Billboard charts--and plenty of other iconic moments in visual culture as attested by our extensive archive and her unforgettable performance as retired pageant queen and bouffant-haired antagonist "Velma Von Tussle" in John Waters' Hairspray (1988). But more that the sum of these accolades past, we turn our attention to the present in exploration of Harry's time-honored appeal and recent resurgence, harkening to her most important role to date.
Though a mainstay of music history since her early nights at CBGB as far we're concerned, Debbie Harry's guest appearances on television shows such as Hulu's Difficult People, VH1's RuPaul's Drag Race and Comedy Central's Broad City in tandem with her collaborative contribution to Stonewall-inspired dance track and Pride 2019's official anthem "#LIFTEMUP" (also featuring Greko, Amanda Lepore, Peppermint and Sharon Needles) all signal the atomic blonde's return to and transcendence of mainstream acclaim as a cult hero of third wave feminism and LGBTQ+ advocacy. A major vanguard of the punk movement, the first genre to actively show female artists that they were not only capable of but encouraged to do far more in music than just sing pretty, Harry admits, "Regardless of what I say about trying to be better at what I do, I rely on looks a lot. Women’s calling cards, unfortunately, are based on their looks. As far as aging goes, it’s rough.” Just as glamorous in a boiler suit and a pair of combat boots as she is in a slip dress and a pair of slingbacks, the liberation of Harry lies not only in her sound or style but moreover in the way she moves, carrying herself with a socio-political poignancy and new breed of self-edifying beauty in subversion of industry status quo. Paving the way for contemporaries by example and a virtual effortlessness that is nothing short of rapturous, Harry is a living legend and timeless hero from whom we could all learn a thing or two.
To these ends, happy birthday to the truly incomparable Debbie Harry! Click here for a full collection of images from the archives paying homage to the Blondie frontwoman and style icon's dynamic legacy.