Debbie Harry
By: Joshua Glenn | Categories: HiLo Heroes

In the liminal year 1974, DEBBIE HARRY (born 1945) and boyfriend Chris Stein formed a pioneering New Wave band; after a few personnel changes, the lineup was named Blondie — because that’s what jerks yelled at Harry from their cars. Like fellow CBGB’s denizen Richard Hell, Harry is a Boomer refusenik — a member of what Hell called the “_____ Generation.” Inspired, no doubt, by her career trajectory as a waitress at Max’s Kansas City, a Dunkin’ Donuts zombie, a dancer in a soulless New Jersey club, and a Playboy Bunny, as Blondie’s frontwoman Harry invented and adopted a “____” persona: a glamorous goner, a sci-fi pod-person or fembot, a hypnotized drone. Does this self-protective, elusive strategy make her a nobrow or a hilobrow? “Even when [Harry is] portraying a character consummately obnoxious and spaced-out,” Rolling Stone said in its otherwise harsh review of the band’s first album, “there is a wink of awareness that is comforting and amusing yet never condescending.” So: the latter, perhaps. Either way, punk and New Wave’s affected blankness was a reaction against and antidote to the impressionable rockist sentimentality of Boomers.

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PUNK, POST-PUNK & ALTERNATIVE on HILOBROW: Joey Ramone | Dez Cadena | Jello Biafra | HR | Mike Watt | Vivienne Westwood | Iggy Pop | D. Boon | John Lydon | Henry Rollins | Palmolive | Plastic Bertrand | Kira Roessler | Lisa Carver | Frank Black | Ari Up | Gary Panter | Paul Simonon | Darby Crash | Penelope Houston | Exene Cervenka | Sid Vicious | Andrew Eldritch | Kate Pierson | Paul Westerberg | Lux Interior | Ian Dury | Stiv Bators | Tom Verlaine | Colin Newman | Johnny Thunders | Poison Ivy | Green Gartside | Lydia Lunch | Mark E. Smith | David Byrne | Debbie Harry | Captain Sensible | Mark Mothersbaugh | Kim Gordon | ALSO: The Original Generation X (1954–63) and the birth of DIY | The Original Stooge | Origin of the Pogo | Shocking Blocking: Rock’n’Roll High School | Punk fanzines from the 1970s | Post-Punk and New Wave on HiLobrow

On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Yellow Kid Weil, James M. Cain.

READ MORE about members of the Blank Generation (1944-53).

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Joshua Glenn is an author, publisher, and semiotic analyst. He is co-author (with Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth) of THE IDLER'S GLOSSARY and THE WAGE SLAVE'S GLOSSARY, co-editor of the object-oriented story collections TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY and (with Rob Walker) SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS, and co-author (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen) of the family activities guide UNBORED and three forthcoming spinoffs, including UNBORED Games. He is editor of HILOBROW and publisher of the Radium Age science fiction imprint HiLoBooks. Also: Glenn manages a secretive online community known as the Hermenautic Circle; he is founding editor of the e-book club Save the Adventure; and he's a frequent co-host of Boing Boing's podcast GWEEK. In the ’00s, Glenn was an editor, columnist, and blogger for the Boston Globe's IDEAS section, he co-founded the international semiotics website SEMIONAUT, and contributed to CABINET, SLATE, and elsewhere. In the ’90s, he published the high-lowbrow zine/journal HERMENAUT, worked as a dotcom and magazine editor, and contributed to THE BAFFLER, FEED, and elsewhere. His publishing company is King Mixer, LLC; and his semiotic analysis consultancy is Semiovox LLC. He lives in Boston with his wife and children.