American rock singer, songwriter, and guitarist With her gritty, intelligent songs and swaggering performance style, Hynde led her band the Pretenders to great success.
Born: September 7, 1951; Akron, Ohio
Christine Ellen Hynde was born on September 7, 1951, to Bud and Delores (“Dee”) Hynde. She was the second of two children. Her father worked for Ohio Bell Telephone Company, and her mother was a part-time secretary. Hynde was a restless child, with little interest in formal education. By the time she was attending high school, she had become totally disillusioned with what school had to offer. At that time, Hynde was a huge fan of the British Invasion bands, such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Kinks. After graduating from high school, Hynde attended Kent State University, majoring in fine arts. She dropped out of college in 1971, and she supported herself by working as a waitress. As a vegetarian, however, she was upset that she had to serve meat dishes to the customers. Frustrated with American life, Hynde moved to London in 1973. Sheworked at various jobs, including for a short time as a rock critic for the music newspaper New Musical Express. Hynde became friends with several struggling musicians, including Mick Jones of the Clash and Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols. After several attempts to form a band, Hynde finally found the right combination of musicians for her band in 1978.
Her vision and patience resulted in the Pretenders. In 1980 Hynde began a relationship with one of her rock heroes, Ray Davies of the Kinks. While their tempestuous relationship did not last, it did produce a daughter, Natalie Rae, who was born in 1983. Hynde married Jim Kerr, the lead singer and songwriter of the band Simple Minds, in 1984. Their daughter, Yasmin, was born in 1985, and they divorced in 1990. During the 1990’s, Hynde became a strong supporter of the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). In 1997 she married the Colombian artist Lucho Brieva, and they separated in 2002. In 2007 Hynde opened a vegetarian restaurant in her hometown of Akron, Ohio. The Music As the rhythm guitarist, lead singer, and primary songwriter of the Pretenders, Hynde established herself as a distinctive female persona in rock music. Taking inspiration from her heroes of 1960’s rock music and the punk scene of the 1970’s, Hynde carved out a significant position for the Pretenders in the new wave movement. Early Success. In 1978 Hynde formed the Pretenders in London. In addition to Hynde as vocalist and rhythm guitarist, the original members were Pete Farndon on bass, James Honeyman-Scott on lead guitar, and Martin Chambers on drums. The Pretenders’ first single was a cover version of the Kinks’ “Stop Your Sobbing.”
The single was a solid hit in England, and it received some airplay in the United States. In January, 1980, the Pretenders’ self titled album was released to critical acclaim, an auspicious beginning for the band. The album was a blend of punk aggression, a new wave pop sensibility, and a Rolling Stones’ earthiness. With such provocative original songs as “Brass in Pocket,” “Precious,” “Up the Neck,” “Tattooed Love Boys,” “Kid,” and “Mystery Achievement,” Hynde established herself as a tough yet vulnerable singer song writer. With its bold sexual swagger, the song “Brass in Pocket” became a number-one hit in England. The album also became number one in England, and it rose to number nine on the American music charts. Learning to Crawl. Through a combination of strong melodies and literate, blistering lyrics, the Pretenders established themselves as a band with almost unlimited potential. While their first album was nominated for three Grammy Awards, Pretenders II was not as universally praised. Nevertheless, it included several poignant and striking topical songs, including “The Adultress,” “Message of Love,” “I Go to Sleep,” and “Talk of the Town.”
Some music critics characterized the second album as a misstep, unfocused and derivative. While a misstep could be corrected, the problems within the band would prove to be a greater challenge. In 1982 Hynde asked Farndon to leave the group because of his serious drug problem. Tragically, within days of Farndon being asked to leave, Honeyman-Scott died of heart failure, from an overdose of cocaine, on June 16, 1982. With the help of new musicians, Hynde recorded a touching tribute to her friend and band mate Honeyman-Scott in the song “Back on the Chain Gang.” By March of 1983, “Back on the Chain Gang” had reached number five on the American singles charts. In another shocking incident, on April 14, 1983, Farndon was found dead from a heroin overdose. Hynde had no intention of allowing the Pretenders to collapse, so she recruited new members for the band and went into the recording studio to work on the next album. Against all the odds, the refurbished Pretenders produced a remarkable third album in 1984 with Learning to Crawl. In addition to “Back on the Chain Gang,” the album includes such powerful Hynde songs as “Middle of the Road,” “Thumbelina,” “My City Was Gone,” and “2000 Miles.”
The Pretenders, in various forms, have continued to record and perform, the only constant being Hynde. In 1994 the single “I’ll Stand by You” became a successful pop hit for the band. In addition to her work with the Pretenders, Hynde has worked on various outside projects. A Pretenders box set, Pirate Radio, was released in 2006. It included eighty-one tracks on four compact discs and a DVD with nineteen videos of performances. Musical Legacy In 2005 the Pretenders were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As the driving force of one of the most important bands of their era, Hynde stands as an inspiration to all women rock musicians, and she influenced Courtney Love, Liz Phair, and P J Harvey. In several surveys, Hynde is listed as one of the most important rock musicians. In 2002 she (as a member of the Pretenders) was ranked by Rolling Stone as number twelve on the list of fifty essential “women in rock” for the group’s debut album.