Debbie Harry Accuses Madonna of Identity Theft

Harrymadonna

As the theater version of Desperately Seeking Susan prepares to open in London’s West End (featuring the music of Blondie), Debbie Harry says Madonna stole her look back in the 80’s:

“I came right up against the Madonna thing. Maybe it’s my paranoia but she had a lot of my looks. If you look closely, sometimes there’s pictures of her and me that completely overlap. She [Madonna] was getting such a huge push from Warners, I was definitely on the B-list. It was a hard period for me. I don’t think anybody knew how to market me or what to do with me. I was like a fish out of water.”

Comments

  1. james says

    Sounds like sour grapes to me… doesn’t Debbie know that pop is cyclical and that by the time Madonna rolled around she was way past her “best before date”… and wasn’t Debbie’s look a direct rip-off from Marilyn Monroe? That said, I love them both.

  2. anthony says

    I agree with the sour grapes comment. Besides, half of that look was put together by the costuming dept. of the film Desperately Seeking Susan. Don’t blame Madonna. She’s changed her look over the last 25 years. While I like Debbie too, Madonna’s music had a lot more mass appeal at the time (even if you want to credit Warner’s marketing) … thus is the nature of pop music. Apparently people are still willing to listen to the current Britney crap…it’s been the #1 download on itunes for most of this week. Go figure.

  3. Tear says

    I agree with David. Madonna is one the most highly overrated artists ever. I’m equally as annoyed by the obsession a lot of gay men have over her. Her music is garbage. NEXT —>

  4. rascal says

    It’s next to impossible to credit a single individual with a street look that proliferates within certain cultural strata. The look that Madonna was credited with was already fairly widespread in the East Village and downtown areas of Manhattan in the early ’80s, although Madge was responsible for fueling its adoption by every young girl (and plenty of gay boys) in every small town in America.

  5. says

    Debbie Harry is a singer who also writes the majority of her material. Madonna is a dancer and a marketer. Its like comparing apples and oranges. Both are talented entertainers but Debbie gets my vote for pure artistic integrity.

  6. says

    debbie is an underground megastar… madonna is a commercial popstar… different arenas. debbie is waymore cooler and hip.

    that said, i’d love for the two girls to take this to the wrestling ring… that’s the arena they can compete !!

  7. bamjamz says

    Technically speaking, Madonna has written a great deal, if not most of her own material as well. Not to mention she’s had an active hand in all of the production and remixing of her singles.

    I’ll give her that.

  8. james says

    This is slightly off topic, but why is it that we always pit women against each other? We seem delighted by the tabloid catfights that young starlets have… feel we must be either Team Debbie or Team Madonna… we never pit men against each other (unless it’s some dumb pissing contest between Kanye and 50 Cent)…

  9. Pugzz says

    I love them both but Debbie is right. Madonna has always borrowed from the best. Debbie’s done alright for herself, she would have been better not saying anything.

  10. JAY says

    To all those who want to trash on Madonna, here is an article from UK music bible Q magazine:

    The November 2007 issue of UK music magazine Q celebrates The 21 People Who Changed Music – Madonna is included and notably is the only female on the list of 21 which includes The Beatles, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix.

    Madonna is the most successful female pop star that’s ever existed. If she was to retire now – which looks unlikely – no other woman could come close to covering all her bases. Gwen Stefani makes similarly hooky pop-dance tracks. Fergie’s got the moves. Lily Allen has the mouth; Kylie, the gay following; Dolly Parton, the business mind; Barbra Streisand, the ticket prices. But no female star – no star, full stop – does it as better as Madonna.

  11. Rey says

    Let’s be clear.
    When Madonna writes a song, it means she provided the lyrics. I could be wrong, but I haven’t yet seen a song she has written the melody for.

    That said, I like both Debbie Harry and Madonna for very different reasons. But they both do entertain me.

  12. ROB says

    Debbie is about to release a new album, too. She just threw out a pitch. Media, catch. Buy my record. I’m broke. I can’t live in London Terrace forever. If it means aligning my image with Madonna’s, then fine. Whatever it takes.

  13. tjc says

    Girls, girls — please don’t fight!
    [/snark_off]

    I love them both. I’m not the huge Madonna fan some gay men are, but I enjoy her stuff, and respect her abilities and skills.

    Request to both of you: please, please, please — for the love of all that is holy, stay sane and don’t go all “Whitney Houston” or “Courtney Love” on us.

  14. Wes says

    How worthless is complaining about identity theft from THE EIGHTIES??

    I mean, c’mon Debbie, you’re both has-beens now. The playing field has finally been leveled lol.

  15. Giovanni says

    Didn’t Madonna accuse Gwen Stefani of the same thing during the beginning of Stefani’s pop ascent? I love Blondie/Debbie but the fact is EVERY hip east village girl looked that way in the early 80’s. I am sure she was an inspiration but the theft charge is a bit simplistic.

  16. PS says

    Debbie Rules. Madonna borrows from EVERYBODY! It’s just what she does. In the 90’s she heavily borrowed fom Bjork circa Bedtime Stories…um it was titled as such because Bjork gave her the title track as a gift. But I love Madonna as an entertainer and buisness woman. But Debbie Harry is just way cooler in my book. I doubt Debbie means any harm by the comments, but who knows for sure.

  17. Jordan says

    Regardless, isn’t this argument like a few decades too late?

    And anyway, Madonna left her in the dust years ago.

    What’s so great about Madonna is she elicits such strong emotions in people, and love her or hate her, her fame totally eclipses any other female artist on the planet.

  18. peterparker says

    Madonna stole my look? Jesus Christ which look? She’s had about 150 looks every year since 1984. Besides, I’m not sure that wearing the same pair of sunglasses constitutes identity theft.

    And yes, Debbie Harry is way cooler musically. But funny, I’ve never seen Debbie Harry perform at an fundraiser for HIV/AIDS (as Madonna has done). I’ve never heard of Debbie Harry encouraging a crowd to practice safer sex (as Madonna used to do back in the late eighties/early nineties). And it wasn’t Debbie Harry who was handpicked by Elizabeth Taylor to deliver an award to Miss Taylor for all her work to fight HIV/AIDS (that was Madonna). Sure, Madonna’s music is the lowest common denominator. But I love her.

  19. Drew says

    Oh, I think that statement is taken out of context . Debbie had mentioned that years ago when she and Madonna were both on Warner Brothers. They are bringing it out of the closet again because of the Desperately Seeking Susan opening in London. This has to be stir shitting British journalism.

  20. Lito S. says

    I’m not so sure Debbie’s comments are sour grapes about Madonna, but the record industry in general. She says she was up against the Madonna-thing, not Madonna. Debbie has always been supportive of other artists and even recently when pressed to comment on Brit Brit & Christina, said “Christina is an amazing talent with an amazing voice(sic)” [From a sunday morning program on A&E.]

    And to PeterParker, just cause an artist doesn’t attend AIDS charities doesn’t mean shit. But remember Debbie was on the Red Hot & Blue CD and video. She’s also performed at Wigstock and various gay clubs.

  21. PS says

    Didn’t Debbie Harry just headline the HRC summer tour? And didn’t she join forces with Marc Jacobs to support the Provincetown Arts Association? Just because she hasn’t specifically peformed for an HIV/AIDS charity (or maybe she has) doesn’t mean she is any less philanthropic or generous with donating her name, talent or money for other charities.

  22. sue says

    Debbie has always done her own thing.. I dont think Debbie would dissrespect Madonna.. its just british TAbaloids stiring up shit.. between them.. Debbie is the best musicley.. she does almost every type of music out their.. while madonna does great pop songs.. the only thing Madonna is better at.. is danceing.. Debbie could never dance. Debbie is the best singer ever..

  23. Brian J says

    Debbie is miles better singer than Madonna, Debbie does Rock/pop/rap/Jaz/ Reggie/ you name it that girl can do it. Madonna is a good pop singer,and a good dancer but that is as far as she goes. and Debbie is still putting out great albums!! shes far from over.

  24. AdamN says

    Debbie Harry is 70s CBGB cool. Its the rock and roll cool of Television, the Ramones, Talking Heads, Richard Hell and Patti Smith. Madonna was around that scene and borrowed that style and put it to super cheesy popular 80s muzak. Madonna’s sometimes fun in a ‘lets dork out to really lame music from the 80s kinda way’ but thats it, musically she never did anything as brilliant as Blondie in my opinion. But then I’m a rock n’roll boy…

  25. soulbrotha says

    “But no female star – no star, full stop – does it as better(sic) as Madonna”.

    Really Jay, that’s a direct quote from Q? Well I guess they really are the tastemakers, seein’ as they have all those really good proofreaders and stuff.

  26. mcQuaidLA says

    Debbie’s got it right. As incredible as Blondie was and Debbie is, they didn’t have the commercial potential that Madonna had out of the box – and Warner’s saw that.

    Stylistically, Debbie was completely new in that she really started the notion of the Collage Persona. To say she riffed on Marilyn Monroe would be missing part of the story since MM was hardly the first bottle-blonde vamp. Debbie was part “punk Barbie Doll” as Betsey Johnson put it, part Bridge and Tunnel Tough Girl, part East Village art groupie and the prototype for Riot Grrls to come and she grabbed from all those places to put herself together. But Debbie still kept it esoteric enough that you had to know something to grasp everything she was doing and singing.

    Madonna (probably not even consciously) took what Debbie had done, discarded the clandestine quality and the arti-ness, and brought the whole aesthetic further forward. Part of her brilliance has been in her ability to take societal esoterica, process it so it’s somewhat comprehendable to the average person and then demand that pop culture deal with it.

    In that process, it becomes all about Madonna, but let’s face it, Venus Extravaganza or Playboy’s Miss November 1965 or Andrea Dworkin or Annie Sprinkles never had the juice to get people’s panties in a twist the way Madge does.

    Without Debbie, there would be no Madge, without Madge, there would be no Christina Aguillera, and so on.

    I’ll stop before I start to sound too much like Camille Paglia

  27. mcQuaidLA says

    Debbie’s got it right. As incredible as Blondie was and Debbie is, they didn’t have the commercial potential that Madonna had out of the box – and Warner’s saw that.

    Stylistically, Debbie was completely new in that she really started the notion of the Collage Persona. To say she riffed on Marilyn Monroe would be missing part of the story since MM was hardly the first bottle-blonde vamp. Debbie was part “punk Barbie Doll” as Betsey Johnson put it, part Bridge and Tunnel Tough Girl, part East Village art groupie and the prototype for Riot Grrls to come and she grabbed from all those places to put herself together. But Debbie still kept it esoteric enough that you had to know something to grasp everything she was doing and singing.

    Madonna (probably not even consciously) took what Debbie had done, discarded the clandestine quality and the arti-ness, and brought the whole aesthetic further forward. Part of her brilliance has been in her ability to take societal esoterica, process it so it’s somewhat comprehendable to the average person and then demand that pop culture deal with it.

    In that process, it becomes all about Madonna, but let’s face it, Venus Extravaganza or Playboy’s Miss November 1965 or Andrea Dworkin or Annie Sprinkles never had the juice to get people’s panties in a twist the way Madge does.

    Without Debbie, there would be no Madge, without Madge, there would be no Christina Aguillera, and so on.

    I’ll stop before I start to sound too much like Camille Paglia

  28. jacknasty says

    WTF is she whining about? Blondie has always been bitter that Madonna became the biggest star in the world when her band was broke up.

    Blondie released Hunter in 1982, and then NOTHING until a compelation album in 1988

    Between 1982 and 1988 Madonna released 3 studio albums and became a huge star.

  29. Verado says

    Um Ok…Debra Harry sounds like she needs some publicity to promote an album release that will more than likely do poorly. Debra Harry was not a style original in the photo provided above. Check out Siouxsie Sioux of the Banshees back in the day. A true style pioneer and ripped off by none other than Debra Harry in this pic. Debra Harry lacks any kind of originality these days period. Madonna & Harry are not even comparable so I won’t even touch that one. Stop your whining and release your album without laying attacks on those out of your league Harry!

  30. Verado says

    Um Ok…Debra Harry sounds like she needs some publicity to promote an album release that will more than likely do poorly. Debra Harry was not a style original in the photo provided above. Check out Siouxsie Sioux of the Banshees back in the day. A true style pioneer and ripped off by none other than Debra Harry in this pic. Debra Harry lacks any kind of originality these days period. Madonna & Harry are not even comparable so I won’t even touch that one. Stop your whining and release your album without laying attacks on those out of your league Harry!

  31. marvelboy74 says

    Blondie was a group.

    Deb released 3 non-compilation albums from 1981 to 1989. One of the main reasons of the Blondie breakup was that Chris Stein was ill.

    Oh and Deb is one of the faces of MAC Cosmetics’ Viva Glam VI campaign. The campaign donates every cent of the selling price of their iconic lipstick shades to the MAC AIDS Fund, which helps people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide.

    Facts, rather than conjecture.

  32. Bob A says

    First, for the poster who claims Debbie has never performed charity shows for aids. Have you been living under a rock? I have gone to at leat 7 Aids Charity Events where Debbie was the headliner, several others where she was on the bill. I know of at least 50 others, including Wigstock almost yearly in NYC. Also, she just completed the Human Right Tour “True Colors” with Cyndi Lauper and Erasure, among others, and raised loads of money for Aids. This is not to mention that every year Debbie performs at Gay Pride Events. Perhaps the poster should research the topics before he or she posts.

    Madonna did steal some of Debbie’s style in the early days. The wedding dress in Like A Virgin, identical to one Debbie performed onstage wearing. Madonna gets credit for creating some of her own looks, a la Catholic Punker.

    Vocally, the two cannot really be compared. Madonna has a very small range, and Debbie has a very large one. Have you heard the notes in Debbie’s songs. I heard Gwen try to sing Call Me, and she didn’t come close to hitting the high notes. Also, Madonna’s songs, especially in the early days were very simple, like nursery rhymes. Debbie’s for the most part are very complex and you can tell comes from a writer with a large vocabulary.

    As a DJ, I believe Madonna had some great simple songs in her early days. Last few CDs have really been average at best. Debbie has had some great songs post Blondie, but due to her age, the songs were ignored by radio, a fact that Madonna faces today, and must duet with Britney, and Timberlake just to get on the radio. It’s a shame that DJs do this. I never did, but many do.

    This statement was reposted by the press, but is a very old statement from the late 1980s. I am sure Debbie did not give them permission to reprint the story. I know that Debbie and Madonna are friends and always compliment each other. Debbie has said Madonna took it much farther than she ever could have. Madoona states that Debbie was a huge influence.

    Bob A

  33. Jason Kanner says

    MADONNA CHNAGED THE FACE OF MUSIC
    AND HELPED EFFECT CHANGE ON HOW GAYS WERE PRTRYAED IN TEH MEDIA BY TAKING IT OUT OF THE CLOSET
    SHE FUCKING ROCKS

  34. Daniel says

    Thanks to the poster who cleared up Debbies ‘lack’ of social consciousness for the AIDs cause. Both are talented and have their own style. It sounds like the press is just digging up old dirt but any publicity is good publicity.

  35. Louis says

    I seriously doubt this story. I’ve been following Deborah Harry’s career for years and I’ve never heard her say a bad word about Madonna or any other performer.

    In fact, Debbie never says “Madonna ripped off my look” in the quotes used. That’s the headline made up by writers trying to sell papers (or… internet ads).

    What she is saying is that since they had similar looks at the time and Madonna was “newer”, Warner Brothers spent more money to promote Madonna (which can’t be disputed) and didn’t quite know how to market Debbie. That’s not a slam against Madonna at all.

    Debbie freely admits that her look was partially inspired by classic film stars like Jayne Mansfield and Marylin Monroe and has said she understands that she would influence others in the same way.

    The funny thing is Debbie doesn’t even know where this story came from. Listen to this interview where they ask her about it and she has NO idea what they are talking about. It’s pretty funny:

    http://www.kink.fm/topic/play_window.php?audioType=Episode&audioId=1055808

  36. Richie says

    Debbie was definately springboarding for Madge, what the Hell. it was the Eighties,The Punk scene Blondie was a part of was nothing like the Dance Floor post HIV beginnings of her Madgesty

  37. peroxide says

    Debbie is an artist, and I don’t think that Madonna can be called an artist. To me she’s just a performer, and so overrated. Her music sucks and so what if she had dancingskills and Debbie didn’t. I love Debbies clumsy “dancing”, at least she dares to look funny. Debbie is much cooler, she belongs to the blank generation. Besides Madonnas lyrics are stupid, Debbies aren’t.