On this date 33 years ago, Blondie brought 'Rapture' – and rap – to No. 1
"Debbie Harry doing rap disco may seem bizarre, but it works here. The production is expectedly slick and the playing is tight."
Despite seeming bemused, Billboard praised Blondie's "Rapture" in its review of the song in the issue dated Jan. 31, 1981 – the same day the track's video premiered on Solid Gold. That week, the Mike Chapman-produced song debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 61, just as Blondie's previous single, "The Tide Is High," crowned the chart. Eight weeks later, "Rapture" blasted from No. 6 to No. 1.
The key word in Billboard's review of "Rapture," clearly, was "rap." The song is widely regarded as the Hot 100's first No. 1 to feature the genre. MTV also chose "Rapture" as the first rap video to air on the channel following its launch on Aug. 1, 1981. Hip-hop visionary Fab 5 Freddy appeared in the clip, as did fellow rap founding father Grandmaster Flash.
Blondie earned induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006, while 40 years after its formation, the band continues to wield its influence on a new generation of fans. The group recently performed at South by Southwest to throngs of adoring hipsters, and the documentary Blondie's New York premiered March 21 on the Smithsonian Channel. In the film, Harry, now 68, says that helping propel rap into the mainstream was part of her life's mission to dismantle social barriers.
"It always annoyed me when I was growing up that I was expected to raise a family and 'be the woman,' 'be the wife,' " she says in the documentary. "It didn't particularly appeal to me."