Blondie is an American rock band that first gained fame in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The band was a pioneer in the early American punk rock and New Wave scenes. Its first two albums contained strong elements of these genres, and although successful in Australia and the United Kingdom, Blondie was regarded as an underground band in the United States until the release of a third album in 1978. Over the next three years, the band achieved several hit singles and was noted for its eclectic mix of musical styles incorporating elements of disco, pop and reggae, while retaining a basic style as a New Wave band.
Lead singer Deborah Harry achieved a level of celebrity that eclipsed other band members leading to tension within the group. Following a poorly received album, and with core member Chris Stein diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease, the group disbanded in 1982. As members pursued other projects, Blondie's reputation grew over the following decade and the group reformed in 1998, achieving renewed success and a number one single in the United Kingdom the following year. The group toured and performed throughout the world over the following years, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
In the early 1970s, Chris Stein moved to New York City, and inspired by the New York Dolls, aimed to join a similar band. He joined "The Stilettos" in 1973 as their guitarist and formed a romantic relationship with one of the band's vocalists, Deborah Harry. A former waitress and Playboy Bunny, Harry had been a member of the folk-rock band "Wind in the Willows" in the late 1960s. In 1974, she parted ways with "The Stilettos" and Elda Gentile, the band's originator. Stein and Harry formed a new band with drummer Clem Burke, keyboard player Jimmy Destri and bass player Gary Valentine. Originally billed as "Angel and the Snake" the band soon renamed themselves "Blondie." The name was taken from comments from truck drivers who called "Hey, Blondie" to Harry as they drove by.
Blondie's popularity declined rapidly; despite two number one singles, Chrysalis Records elected not to release a third single from Autoamerican and stopped promoting the album in favour of Deborah Harry's solo album Koo Koo (1981). Rolling Stone's review placed most of the blame for the album's failure on the producers and songwriters, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, though it also commented that "Harry is less a trained singer than a moody presence, someone who can breathe atmosphere into a tune without benefit of a wide vocal range".
Blondie's next album The Hunter (1982) and the single "Island of Lost Souls" were released to largely negative reviews. An extensive U.S. tour commenced with Duran Duran as an opening act prior to their break-through in North America, but many shows were cancelled due to low ticket sales.
Blondie disbanded in 1982, amidst media reports of tension within the group, and Harry continued to pursue a solo career. Stein developed the autoimmune disease pemphigus vulgaris, and while Harry nursed him over the course of several years, she disregarded her career and did not perform for five years. Clem Burke was a highly regarded session musician and during this period his most notable work was with Eurythmics.
By 1982, the year the band broke up, Blondie had released six studio albums, each exhibiting a stylistic progression from the last. The band is known not only for the striking stage persona and vocal performances of Harry but also for incorporating elements in their work from numerous subgenres of popular music, reaching from their punk roots to embrace new wave, disco, and hip hop.
In March of 2006, Blondie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. All six members from the "Parallel Lines" era lineup were invited to the ceremony, which led to an on-stage spat between the extant group and their former bandmates Nigel Harrison and Frank Infante when the latter pleaded to be allowed to perform with the group at the ceremony - a request refused by Harry.
A BBC documentary on the group, aired Friday, July 21, 2006, discussed a new legal battle Nigel Harrison and Frank Infante have undertaken against the present day band (most likely over terms of their implied 'partnership' agreement as members of Blondie). This has something to do with the frosty reception they received from Harry and Stein at the induction.
Blondie have influenced many musicians, among them Madonna, Shirley Manson, the band L7, and Gwen Stefani.
On May 22, 2006, Blondie was inducted into the Rock Walk of Fame at Guitar Center on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard. Especially important regarding Blondie's Rock Walk induction is the fact that currently, Rock Walk inductions are voted on by previous Rock Walk inductees, making this truly a musician's award.
They remain the only American act to reach number one in the UK singles charts in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Coincidentally, their last number one hit, "Maria", topped the UK charts exactly twenty years after their first chart-topper "Heart of Glass" in 1979.