A few weeks back while listening to Sirius XM in my car, one of the deejays talked about Debbie Harry’s memoir and how it detailed some of the hardships she faced being a woman in the male-dominated music industry. I could relate to that. I had every intention of working in the music industry until I saw how women in that industry were treated first-hand. I came home and bought Face It: A Memoir.
For anyone who doesn’t recognize the name, Debbie Harry was the lead singer of the band Blondie. They were regarded as a punk/new wave band, but reading the memoir gives great insight into the band and how they just wanted to do different things and not get pigeon-holed.
Face It: A Memoir gives the truth according to Debbie Harry and I must say it’s a pretty good read. The tone to me is rather cool and off-hand as if she’s describing everything as an observer, not as an active participant. I would say that fits with the image she had for many years. Reading her words, though, I had the feeling she was much more emotional about things than she lets on.
I could relate some to Harry’s formative years, being an adoptee myself. There is a sense of not knowing your identity and searching for who you are. I was amazed at times that she was writing the exact things I felt for a long time.
Harry is pretty candid here and admits there are things she can’t remember for various reasons. One of them is drug addiction. She doesn’t make apologies or excuses for why things happened, which is refreshing. Too many autobiographies of musicians try to downplay various sides of the industry and its effects, but Harry is no holds barred.
I really enjoyed reading about the punk scene in New York. From Max’s Kansas City to CBGB’s and more, Harry has a lot of memories of those times that were just before I started hitting the clubs in the City. I can’t imagine what it was like to live in that casual decadence, but Harry brings it to life, as well as the musicians of that era.
The band Blondie grew out of that and had great success at a time when bands were able to make a few albums before hitting it “big.” Harry talks about the ups and downs of recording and touring, as well as what went into their music. This isn’t a song-by-song diary, so if you’re curious about the background of a favorite song, you won’t find that here.
As for the issues for a woman in the recording industry, Debbie Harry was one of the first women in the industry who wasn’t “managed.” That is to say, she wasn’t someone put on a stage and handed songs and told to sing. She was a songwriter and a strong advocate for herself. That didn’t mean she didn’t face challenges. What I was expecting was some moments where she detailed active discrimination or sexual harassment, but that wasn’t here.
One of the great things is the number of pictures and fan art in the book. I would say she’s probably hung on to nearly everything people sent to her over the years and some of it is on display in Face It: A Memoir. Chris Stein, her partner in Blondie and lover and life-long friend is also a photographer who took many pictures over the years. There are a number of photographs in the book that were never seen before.
I really enjoyed reading Face It: A Memoir. The writing flows nicely. Debbie Harry has had a fascinating life and I thank her for telling her story before others decided to tell it for her.
Categories: Book Reviews