From Nina Simone to The Velvet Underground: Debbie Harry selects 8 of her favourite songs of all time
As one of the iconic faces of the new wave movement, Debbie Harry is a character that has been admired throughout most of her career. It was the case too when she arrived at BBC studios for a very special interview.
As part of the legendary Desert Island Discs radio show, host Kirsty Young welcomed one of the idols to the studio as Blondie’s Debbie Harry arrived to pick her favourite book, a luxury item and eight of her most treasured records to take with her to an inescapable island, to either help cure boredom or provide a welcomed distraction.
“It’s quite an odd thing,” Kirsty Young shares at the beginning of the interview, sitting before an icon and a hero of her own formative musical years. “I probably wasted a good 10 years wanting to be Debbie Harry,” she told her guest. We’re sure it’s nothing that Harry hasn’t heard before and she politely giggles the somewhat awkward statement away.
It would not be the last laugh of the conversation, nor the last awkward pause but it made for an interesting listen as Harry opens up a little on the show. Perhaps fitting in with her guest’s slightly quirky attitude, the questions Young asks are far removed from those she’s asked some other notable musicians. “Ever have a perm?” Young asked. “A home perm,” Harry replied, “It went really bad.” Eagerly accepting the acknowledgement of Harry’s reality: “That is some comfort,” Young replied.
For decades music has been at the heart of Desert Island Discs but for this special episode, it takes somewhat of a backseat as Harry’s uber-cool personality steals the spotlight. But, with that said, the selections Harry makes shows off not only an artist engaged with her roots but with the music that surrounded her at the time, opening herself up to what made Blondie what it is as equally as she does what influence Blondie has now had.
The Blondie singer picked up fellow New Yorkers, The Velvet Underground ‘White Light/White Heat’ as well as Nina Simone’s ‘Strange Fruit’ as a tip of the hat to the icons of the past. For those who have a penchant for film soundtracks, Harry has you covered as she selects ‘La Passerella’ from the film 8 1/2 by Nino Rota.
Next up was the array of modern music with Peaches’ ‘Talk To Me’, indie darlings The Gossip and their pounding gem ‘Heavy Cross’, and Fever Ray’s ‘When I Grow Up’. To finish the selection of pop music was EDM maestro, Calvin Harris’ ‘Merrymaking at My Place’.
Harry found fault in the show at one crucial point, however. When pushed to pick her favourite song to take away with her she struggled with her selection but eventually picked Mahler’s ‘Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor – 4th movement’ because “I can sing all the rest”.
It’s a brilliant conversation between Young and one of the most iconic singers of all time, Debbie Harry. Below you can listen to the full conversation, awkward giggles and all, and below that, we have the final selection of Harry’s favourite songs of all time.