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Blondie, Unbowed

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Debbie Harry at the Palladium in 1977.   

Ask Harry if she’s a survivor and she sighs. Blondie has been lucky. They’re still alive, individually—“So many of the people we came up with have blown themselves away. I wake in the morning wondering, what would [Johnny] Thunders be into now?”—and as a band. Not that there haven’t been close calls. “In 1982, everything imploded,” Harry says. “Chris got really sick. Our record company folded. We had poor management. Mercenary management. Suddenly we were broke. The IRS took our house. I was famous. I’d hear myself on the radio, and it felt like the whole world collapsed around me. I didn’t sing for years.

“It’s crazy how relative things get. Big as we were, sometimes I am completely miserable about not becoming a giant megastar, like Beyoncé or someone. I tell myself my little art pretensions held me back, kept me at a certain level, like a cult figure, and how truly awful that is. Then I see myself in the mirror and just laugh because that stuff is just stupid, you know?”

Harry, who has no children (“By the time you think you’d make a good mom, it is too late”), does wonder about her legacy and how much longer she’ll keep doing this. “We just got off this tour. Eighteen dates in Europe and the U.K. I went out and sang, felt really terrific—as good as ever—but that’s kind of an illusion. Not so long ago, I was cleaning out one of my old backpacks and found this obituary of Breno Mello. He was in Black Orpheus, this Brazilian movie version of the Orpheus story I was crazy about when I was growing up. It had all this great music; I saw it over and over. So when Mello died, I cut out his obit and kept it. I forgot I had it until I cleaned out my backpack, and I thought, If Orpheus can die, it is all borrowed time.

Panic of Girls
Blondie.
Noble ID.
Sept. 13.


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