The outspoken ​Chrissie Hynde

"Brass in Pocket" was a 1980 hit for The Pretenders, and for its lead singer, Chrissie Hynde. She's an enduring rock legend, and an outspoken one as well. Tracy Smith has our Sunday Profile:

"Why would you not wanna be in a rock 'n' roll band?" asked Chrissie Hynde. "Every time I do a show, I look out in the audience. I can see every guy out there that wanted to be a bass player. I can see every woman out there who wanted to be a singer. And I just think, 'Don't you guys wish that you were doing this?' Who doesn't wanna be in a rock band?"

"How does it make you feel?" asked Smith.

"Good!"

Chrissie Hynde is the face, the voice and the soul of The Pretenders. For close to 40 years she's seen it all, and sung about it. But some of her best-known work is about an old love affair - not with a person, but a place.

When you think of cities that inspire songs, Akron, Ohio, might not spring to mind. They once produced so many tires here you could smell rubber in the air day and night.

And it was like that when Christine Ellen Hynde was born in 1951, the second child of a secretary and a phone company worker. Both were decidedly old school:

"My dad was of the school of, if he heard Bob Dylan, he'd be, you know, 'Chrissie, he can't even sing!'" she said. "So it really caused a rift with me, and we were all going in different directions."

But Chrissie had music in her blood. As a teen, Hynde was a self-described rebel -- a bored middle-class kid whose only real interests were music and drugs.

She told Smith she was addicted: "Yeah, probably."

To what? "Going out and seeing bands and getting high."

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Doubleday

And as she writes in a new memoir, "Reckless: My Life as a Pretender" (Doubleday), she fell in with a group of outlaw bikers and wound up beaten and raped. (Read an excerpt here.)

Hynde partly blames herself for the incident, and has come under fire for saying so.

"Well, you know, if you hung out with those guys, that's what happened," Hynde said. "That's the way it was."

"It just kind of went with the territory?" Smith asked.

"Yeah, of course. I mean, if you go and hang out with outlaws and criminals, then that's just part of it."

Smith asked, "Did you, at the time, fear for your life?"

"Not really. But I should've. And other people around me should've. But we weren't thinking that way. You know, we were just trying to score pot and, you know, see bands. That's all we wanted to do. And if motorcycles were part of it, then even better."

"Were the bikers part of the reason that you thought you needed to get out?"

"I would say, there was certain elements that I wanted to avoid, yeah," she replied. "With a lot of these guys, once you get involved in 'em, you don't really get out. Especially if you're a woman, you become sort of property."

"And you could've been headed down that path?"


"Definitely."

Eventually she decided that there was nothing left for her in Ohio. "What are you going to do when there's no downtown?" Hynde said. "When you're 17 you don't want to move to the suburbs. What are you going to do there? I think a lot of American cities lost their youth population when their downtowns collapsed, and they all bailed. They went to wherever -- Denver or New York or, well, in my case it was London. But I had a destiny to fulfill!"