Home Celebrity Debbie Harry, 69, Shows Madonna, 56, How to Age Gracefully with Cabaret...

Debbie Harry, aka Deborah Harry, is going to be 70 years old on July 1st. She could teach a thing or two to Madonna, who’ll be 57 this summer, about aging gracefully and still appealing to fans of all ages.

Last night, Debbie opened her first ever cabaret stint at the Cafe Carlyle, legendary home of the late Bobby Short and Elaine Stritch (and where the cheesecake melts in your mouth). The frontwoman for Blondie appeared only with a keyboardist/programmer/guitarist named Matt Katz-Bohen, who works on and off with Blondie. Debbie, with those stunning cheek bones and a full mane of blonde hair, wore a simple long back skirt, pleated, and a chic black jacket. Otherwise it was just her voice, and the smallest room she’s worked in since CBGB back in the day.

The trick to Debbie’s set, which excluded all Blondie hits, was a repertoire of songs pulled from later, less well known solo albums and the last, forgotten Blondie CD (which was excellent but murdered by its distributor). Her dreamy, ethereal voice, which sometimes finds unexpected deepness, was in fine form.  So was the singer, who has a natural nonchalance, and quick irreverence. With so many hits and many cult followings, Debbie Harry has nothing to prove. And yet she proved a lot.

Debbie is an astute curator of songs. She offered a couple of her minor solo hits– “French Kissing in the USA” and “In Love with Love,” as well as “Strike Me Pink” (which someone should cover again– it’s a really good single). Did you know “French Kissing” was written by TV Producer Chuck Lorre when he was known as Chuck Levine? Really.

She told the audience, “We’ve been rehearsing a lot, I’m a little rough around the edges.” Nonsense. Harry has a nice, effortless quality that will serve her well during her Carlyle run. I wouldn’t mind going back in a few days to see how she’s doing. I really enjoyed a song called “Kiss and Tell,” and another one called “Lucky Jim,” which she explained was not named for Kingsley Amis’s novel. There was also a clever and poignant medley of “I Cover the Waterfront” mashed up with Moby’s “New York, New York.”

Harry stayed away from Blondie, although I might suggest one or two songs from that catalog. Julia Fordham recently turned “Call Me” into a slow jazz number; Harry could try it. And “Sunday Girl” seems like the perfect cabaret song. But it’s her choice, and she could teach a few things to Madonna– whom she preceded by many years as the Queen of Downtown music–how to age and get away with it: Keep it simple, and aim to your peers. Debbie Harry sings and speaks from a reality and honesty; you get it right away. There’s no artifice. I’ll bet we hear an album connected to this show in the near future. It would be welcome.


photo c2015 Showbiz411

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
14 replies to this post
  1. Debbie is doing very well This stint at the small club was a guilty pleasure and a sellout. Debbie is still touring the World stage with Blondie their concerts all over Europe last year sold out. Blondie also do the big festivals and last year they did Glastonbury to a 80’000 crowd and one in France to 125,000 crowd and many more over the summer. Most older artists make records and most over sixty don’t have big hits but they still sell their albums that’s a fact. Even Madonna can’t sell what she sold in the 80’s and doesn’t have the big hits she would like. Debbie and Blondie are touring America in 2015. Blondie Won the NME God Like Award in London last year and a Ultimate Icon Award from cosmopolitan not long ago. Debbie and Blondie are still raking in the money and making fresh music They also celebrated their 40th Year as Blondie. I’m not a big fan of Madonna but I admire her and why put any woman down who want to make music at any age. People on here seem to be putting Debbie down because of what this reporter said whats that about? Madonna said in a interview their was only one woman in the music industry she admired when starting out and that was Debbie Harry because she come across as witty, smart, and a role model she said she really like her. This interview is on YouTube Madonna- Debbie Harry as a role model.

  2. Roger Friedman has nothing nice to say about Madonna. Never does. It’s a personal vendetta. So any article he writes is never taken seriously. This article has nothing to do with madonna. And there was no need to mention her.

    Plus. Is there a rule as to how people should act or behave at certain ages? Both blonde and madonna are great artists in their own right. And it’s time these sexist, ageist writers give it up.

  3. I adore Debbie and am thrilled to hear of her latest successful creative project, but you do both women an incredibly obvious ageist, misogynistic disservice to set up a comparison. How cheap and tired. BOO.

  4. Really? So the author sees novdistonction between 59 or 69. Just that all women over a certain age are old. that is underserved. Not only that both gave had very different careers. That is like me putting Annie Lennox and Cindy Lauper in the same mix. All women are fabulous regardless of age.from an award winning actress director. Thank you

  5. Debbie is my Madonna. I loved her as a little girl, wanted to be her….still have idol worship. Even though I am not a Madonna fan I will say I’m not sure Debbie would appreciate someone cutting down another woman in order to compliment her. Debbie Harry doesn’t need that. And truth be told, Madonna, like Debbie, has earned her right to grow old however she wants.

  6. Go fuck off with your trite ageist “aging gracefully” bullshit. There’s no one way to age. Both are doing it differently and don’t need to be compared.

  7. Thank God Madonna didn’t learn too much from Debbie or she’d be playing cabarets & bars instead of large arenas & stadiums all around the world. This is another ageist article. Who are you to tell Madonna what she should be. She is Madonna, not Debbie Harry or anyone else. She’s being true to herself & if you don’t like it, so be it. But don’t tell her to be someone else! Madonna is Madonna & will always be Madonna. Deal with it!

  8. Seriously, It is so funny to me that all this ageism is done by men the same age. Its truly disgusting. No two people should follow one another. Madonna should just be her true self. Debbie Harry is great, but a different person. She gave up early on a stellar career. That was her choice and weather it was the right thing do? Well only she knows. Since she(Debbie Harry) tried to release a dance record last year and it did not do well. I will assume she wishes her career was more like Madonna. The only problem Madonna has is no one can control her and in todays controlled industry. That is unacceptable.

  9. ONLY hack writers write for Parade magazine! And if this writer believes that an “artist” should make art for his/her peers, then I’m sure the only people reading this are Fox News-watching feebleminded octogenarian republicans. Duh!

  10. if you go to youtube and search for Madonna Choreography and filter by the upload date you will clearly see how her Rebel Heart album has been inspiring countless young, talented, creative, artistic, sexy and intelligent men and women of all ages around the world to be free, true to themselves, healthy, and to live life to the fullest. She still has decades of vitality to share. This is the mark of true talent, to inspire others to create and share with the world what is inside of them and to express it freely to the world.

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