Rock mistresses are a dime a dozen, but today’s birthday girl Chrissie Hynde’s punk rock roots made her rock like no other.
I grew up listening to the music my folks listened to: from the likes of Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Police and Blondie; to Guns ‘N Roses and Gin Blossoms years later. Admittedly, I admire female singer-songwriters who have a lot to say about things many women have less to convey, and who belt out hits with a rock-and-roll vibe no other man or woman could.
One particular rock mistress from a much older generation that I truly admire is Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders. She was born Christine Ellen Hynde in Akron Ohio on September 7, 1951. Hynde was a student of Kent State University where she played in a couple of college rock bands. She witnessed the massacre of students by the National Guard in 1970. She quit school and flew to London, met rock journalist Nick Kent, who helped her get a writing job with NME Magazine. The timing was right: the Punk Movement was emerging, and the genre of music that came with it was for her to discover.
This woman certainly had a lot of can-do attitude going on for her. Her writing gig with NME didn’t last and soon she found herself working at Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s then unfamiliar clothing store, SEX, where she met a very young Sid Vicious (who was bound to join no less than the influential punk band Sex Pistols). Hynde used her positive aggression in trying to convince Vicious to marry her so that she could get a work permit. Girl power there even before the expression Girl Power! was invented.
Chrissie Hynde was a woman who desperately wanted to be part of a band. She was a self-taught guitarist who wrote her own songs and engaged in several musical projects, a few of them involving the Clash’s Mick Jones and the band who would soon be known as the Damned.
It was only in the late 1970s that Hynde’s rock star dreams would come true. In 1978, she met bassist Pete Farndon and they hand-picked would-be band mates, choosing James Honeyman-Scott on guitar and keyboards and Martin Chambers on drums. The Pretenders were born.
The band’s first hit single was a cover of the _Kinks’ “Stop Your Sobbing,” which made it to the UK’s Top 30 chart in January 1979. Later that year, The Pretenders recorded their first album. “Brass in My Pocket” made it to the US and UK charts and the Pretenders became part of rock history.
The band has undergone changes in its members due to drug-related problems and death of its original members in the 1980s. Chrissie Hynde remained as the sole original member through the 90s. She worked with a string of sessionists and retained the band name, performing the old and new songs as part of the band’s repertoire.
Hynde never dressed in the overtly sexualized manner that men loved women to adapt. She was raw musical talent, a great performer and a indelible character all rolled into one. And even as she turns 62, I bet she’s still one hell of a rockin’ chick.
Allow me to share with you the music video of my favorite Pretenders song of all time—-“Don’t Get Me Wrong.”