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knoxnews.com - Sunday 18th November 2007

Bledsoe: Singer brought class to '70s punk scene
By Wayne Bledsoe

When Debbie Harry first appeared to audiences in the band Blondie in the mid-1970s, it was with an image that was totally unlike any other act emerging from the punk scene. Harry was a combination of cool platinum blonde and class. That stood in stark contrast to the ripped jeans and T-shirts of The Ramones or the kitschy gaudiness of The B-52's.

"I said a long time ago that I thought Marilyn Monroe was my mother, and some people took it in a literal way," says Harry in a phone call from New York. "I sort of meant it as an homage sort of thing. Spiritually or visually, that was one of the things I contributed to fronting a band - I took a cinematic image and brought it to the front of a band. I really felt that nobody had really done that before."

Certainly, there had been nothing in rock quite like Harry. Nico, the one-time frontwoman of the Velvet Underground (who was added to the group by artist Andy Warhol solely for her looks) might be Harry's closest predecessor. But, during the group's tenure, no one much knew who the Velvet Underground was, and Nico was not a natural singer or entertainer. Harry had the style and the talent to charm both her punk peers and mainstream audiences.

Harry's new solo album, "Necessary Evil" (Eleven Seven Music), is her first solo effort in 15 years and follows a very successful Blondie reunion tour. She says she just began recording some things with friends, rather than actually planning a new solo disc.

"I really just felt the need to be creative," says Harry. "Performing Blondie material year after year, night after night, can really get to be sort of stultifying. I felt like I really wanted to write some new stuff. It was a very relaxed, no-pressure arrangement. I didn't have any deadline. I started building up a little pile of new material and was excited about it. Eventually, I played some of it for my manager, and he was, like, perhaps I should put out a solo project, because I hadn't done one in a while."

Raised in Hawthorne, N.J., Harry, now 62, began making music in the 1960s with folk band Wind in the Willows, and spent time as a Playboy Bunny and a secretary before forming Blondie in New York in the mid-1970s. While the group's sound was unlike the band's contemporaries, the group shared a similar philosophy with punk acts.

"I think what we got sick and tired of was people just sitting around listening to bands and not really getting up and moving around and getting excited," says Harry. "We just wanted to move and dance and jump around."

Harry says things have changed a lot, much of it for the better, since she began in music. For one thing, the Internet has helped break down age barriers.

"I always felt that ageism was really a problem," says Harry. "Now people are talking to people not because they're in the same classes at school or in the same kind of job level. It's just this kind of electronic world."

Link: knoxnews.com - Sunday 18th November 2007


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