Chrissie Hynde, the vegetarian, skinny-jeaned, heavily eyelinered, front woman of The Pretenders turned 61 this year. She still looks fabulous and has lived a fabulous life. Here’s her story, well, what I can decipher from stuff I found online. Chrissie has fronted The Pretenders from 1978 up to today, even after having survived hit after hit, drug-related deaths of band mates, and a revolving door of band members.
Through it all she’s been a single mom twice over, an animal rights and vegetarian activist, a respected musician in a very penis-centric business and has maintained her unfettered demeanour the whole time.
She grew up in Akron, Ohio, but even as a teenager knew the boys in her high school were not even close to being cool enough for her. For fun, she would escape to Cleveland to see concerts featuring the real objects of her affection. She told a reporter that knowing guys like Iggy Pop and Brian Jones were out there in the world, made the local boys seem way too pedestrian for her. College was a time of awakening in which Chrissie became interested in eastern mysticism and vegetarianism. She attended Kent State University’s Art School and was, in fact, on campus the day of the infamous Kent State shootings. She had a band in college with soon-to-be Devo band member Mark Mothersbaugh, called Sat. Sun. Mat.
In 1973, Chrissie took off for London and got a job at an architectural firm for 8 months. She started dating rock journalist Nick Kent and got a job writing for NME (New Musical Express). That was short-lived, and Chrissie took a job at Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s clothing store, SEX. This store was known to be a local hangout for young punks like Sioxusie Sioux and The Sex Pistols. It was there that Chrissie met a young Sid Vicious and tried to talk him into marrying her so that she could get a work permit. The story is that she did not get along with Westwood and lost her retail gig. She then began to write sex letters for Forum magazine. She did get Vicious to agree to marry her for the sum of £2, but the day it was to go down, he was busy in court on a criminal damage charge. It is also rumored that Chrissie gave Johnny Rotten his first guitar lessons, but that didn’t really work out.
She traveled to France and experimented with some bands. One band was called Moors Murderers, named after notorious English child killers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. She went back to England and made music her focus. Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols claimed that he and Chrissie were casual lovers and spoke about it on his Los Angeles radio show, Jonesy’s Jukebox. He mentioned an encounter in a bathroom at a party where he claimed that the session was so intense that Chrissie ate a piece of chicken because she was so hungry afterwards—breaking her strict vegetarian diet, if only for that one brief moment. He also claims to have turned Joan Jett lesbian. Hmmmm…calm down, dude. Chrissie crossed paths early on with musicians such as Mick Jones of the Clash and Big Audio Dynamite, Jon Moss of Culture Club, Tony James of Generation X and Sigue Sigue Sputnik, etc. In 1979, The Pretenders recorded their eponymous first album, with the big hit, “Brass in Pocket.” The band took off.
By 1982, the band began to lose members—some would succumb to drug addiction and some left due to drug-related arguments. Through the years she has collaborated with some cool people like: backing vocals on The Specials’ “Nite Klub,” The Kinks’ “Add It Up,” she sang a duet with INXS on their 1993 album Full Moon, Dirty Hearts, and backing vocals on Morrissey’s “My Love Life,” and “Shame Is The Name.” Probably the most famous collaboration is her version of “I Got You Babe” with UB40 in 1985.
In 1983, Chrissie had her first child, a daughter with Ray Davies of The Kinks, named Natalie Rae-Hynde. He was technically still married to his first wife at the time, but that’s rock and roll. They never did marry. Davies had told The London Times that they went to the registrar office to get hitched but fought the whole time and bailed out.
Recently, Chrissie and Ray did a duet, recorded at two separate times, called “Postcard From London.” The song sounds as though they’re talking about their own relationship, but Davies has said that it’s really about the way London has changed and become a suckfest of homogenized anti-culture in preparation for the 2012 Olympics. “We don’t want to repeat the ethnic cleansing of Beijing,” he told the paper.
Chrissie met and began a relationship with Jim Kerr, lead singer of Simple Minds, in 1985 while both of their bands were touring together. She was still going out with Ray Davies at that time. Her relationship with Kerr was very tempestuous and he persuaded Chrissie to marry him. He probably went, “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!!! Mmmmmmm Hmmmmmm, yeahhhh!” a la “Don’t You Forget About Me.” What girl can resist that? Several days after the wedding, Kerr took off on a two-year tour leaving the already preggers Chrissie behind. She gave birth to a daughter, Yasmin Paris Kerr, while he was away. He proved to be a pretty crappy husband and father, because upon returning from the tour, he chose to go to Scotland with his band to write more music, rather than to London to be with his wife and daughter. Marriage over! Chrissie then took the next eight years off of touring to raise her two daughters on her own. Jim, of course, went on to marry and then divorce actress/singer Patsy Kensit. They have a son. Today, Patsy is married to Liam Gallagher. Kerr, not winning any father of the year awards, avoided his daughter Yasmin for ten years.
At the age of 25, she told a British newspaper that she forgives him for abandoning her throughout her childhood. Kerr started to pay attention to his daughter after he broke up with Patsy. Yasmin went on to tell the paper that she sees him more as a friend and that her parents get along a lot better now. Today, she is 27 years old, the mother of two-year old twins and works as an actress. Kerr lives in Italy and owns a hotel, as well as working on his music.
Chrissie then married Italian artist Lucho Brievo in 1997, but divorced in 2002. So, ya know, marriage isn’t for everyone.
Fun Chrissie Hynde Facts
Chrissie’s famous black mop of hair has been cut by the same hairdresser on Marylebone High Street, London, who only charges £15, for the past 20 years.
In 1993, Chrissie was among dozens of animal rights activists at McDonald’s in Amsterdam for the debut of their veggie burger. For years, she had been very critical of the fast food giant, and rightly so! That same year, I went to Amsterdam and made it a point to try one of the veggie burgers because Chrissie is rad.
In 2000, Chrissie was arrested in New York City for walking into the Gap in Times Square and ripping a leather jacket to pieces in protest of their use of animal products.
Linda McCartney was Chrissie’s best friend. Stella McCartney calls her Great Auntie.
In 2007, Hynde opened a vegan restaurant in her hometown of Akron, Ohio, called VegiTerranean. It was a fusion of Italian-Mediterranean food and was voted among the top five vegan restaurants in the U.S. Unfortunately, it closed in 2011 due to the shit economy.
In 2011, Chrissie released an album called “Fidelity!” with JP, Chrissie and the Fairground Boys. I’m still kicking myself for not seeing them live when they toured that same year.