The NYPL Podcast
Podcast #101: Debbie Harry with Chris Stein on Beatniks, the Stillettoes, and Style
Debbie Harry is best known as the iconic singer of Blondie, which recorded hit albums such as Parallel Lines and Eat to the Beat. She has recorded albums as a solo artist and appeared in many films and television shows, including The Muppet Show and Forever, Lulu. This week for the New York Public Library Podcast, we're proud to present Debbie Harry discussing beatniks, the Stillettoes, and style.
Harry moved to New York City during the late 1960s. She calls her motivations as somewhat romantic:
"That's why I wanted to come to New York: I did, I wanted to be a beatnik forever. I just wanted to be a beatnik and I was so disappointed that they were gone by the time that I got here. I mean there were remnants of course, but I mean where else would a person go besides New York City?"
Prior to Blondie, she started a band called the Stillettoes, which featured all female singers.
"I saw Elda at Max's, Elda Gentile, and I had known her from The Dolls days. I was there to see a band. I don't remember which one. She said that she had a band with Holly Woodlawn. I said, 'Give me your number because I really want to see.' So I called her and she said that the band had broken up, and I said, 'Well let's start another band.' And that's what we did... It grew from Elda's love of cabaret and rock and my interest in rock and R & B. And then we had another singer Roseanne [Ross] who was very much into soul and R & B and gospel, so we just all took turns singing our favorite kind of music, and eventually, we actually got musicians to play with us."
Blondie's music has often been praised for its synthesis of diverse styles and influences. Harry spoke about their music as the result of living in a polyculture:
"We've always said this: we grew up in this metropolitan area where it's always been like a meltdown of cultures and styles of music. And fortunately, we grew up listening to all different stuff. And being turned on by it! I mean, when you're a kid, you're open, you know? You listen to the stuff. You're not socially involved. The music scene is not there. You're just a kid. The singer gets you. It just becomes a part of your nature."
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