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Face It: A Memoir of Debbie Harry - Book Review

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by Gillian Ching (subscribe)
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Published February 1st 2020
Autobiography of High Priestess of Punk
As the lead singer of New York punk band, Blondie, Debbie Harry has been one of popular music and popular culture's most unique and enduring stars.

She has sung her way into our musical memories with songs like 'Rapture', 'The Tide Is High' and 'Sonic' just to name a few. As well, she became a fashion icon with her 60s mod style and Marilyn Monroe inspired blond locks...

With her sultry sound, her sassy "don't get in my way" attitude, her unmistakable heart-shaped lips and urban cool, she re-wrote the rules for female lead singers in the 1970s. That influence has continued ever since.

Photo courtesy Debbie Harry facebook page


Face It is the official autobiography of Punk's high priestess which gives a detailed account of her life within and beyond the international music scene,

Her Early Life
The book is based on a series of interviews with Ms Harry who explores her musical adventure spanning nearly 5 decades.

We re-visit her early life when she was adopted as a 3-month-old baby by a loving New Jersey couple and raised in what she describes as "a small, uptight little town where reputations were made and lost in seconds."

As someone who didn't easily fit in at school, she dreamed of being an artist. So when school was over, the once Angela Trimble packed her suitcase, jumped on a bus and followed her creative spirit towards the skyscrapers and cultural melting pot of New York City.

Photo courtesy Debbie Harry fanclub page, Facebook


She dives into the seedy New York creative scene of over-crowded lofts and makes friends with destitute but hopeful artists, including Patti Smith, The Ramones, Iggy Pop, and David Bowie.

Of this era, she reflects " we were just in this isolated bubble of economic depression in New York that was artistically so strong. We had to be artistically strong and we didn't think about making longer-range plans, only surviving,"

But it was her meeting with Chris Stein, who would go on to become her music and long time partner for many years, that was most significant.

As individual and beautiful as she was (and still is), her adventures as a musician living in New York during an economic downturn was not always pretty. There were the demands from record demands to make more and more releases and the band eventually faced financial ruin.

Debbie also experienced some traumatic, personal events including:

being raped at knifepoint by a home intruder.

being trapped in a car with notorious serial killer Ted Bundy.

surviving a house fire.

overcoming a heroin drug addiction .

Photo courtesy facebook


The book often feels like a handwritten journal with its pages marked by etchings and scribbles which are entangled into the design.

The cover itself gives a clue into this pixie-like punk, with drawings of safety pins, a dice, a bleeding heart, stilettos and an empty martini glass, all metaphors to prepare the reader for the rollercoaster life of Debbie Harry, which we can expect to ride across its 344 pages.

Adding a coffee table feel to the book are the pages of "fan paintings" of the punk diva, which she has collected over many years. Unlike the standard paragraph of thank yous, her acknowledgements page at the end of the book is pictured as a cartoon.

Photo courtesy QBD


Overall
While the book covers the ups and downs, highs and lows of her life, when it comes to composing and singing great songs, you have to face it, Debbie Harry and Blondie are good.

I guess that's why Blondie has sold an estimated 40 million albums and been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

While Angela Trimble never knew her real parents, we certainly get to know Debbie Harry through this book.

Her memoir is a must-have for her fans and those curious about a groundbreaking period in music history and to trace the steps of this less than predictable artist.

Face It was published in 2019 by Harper Collins.
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Cost: $45 depending on book sellers
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