"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.
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."
- GALLERY:Chrissie Hynde
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."
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?"
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!"
Destiny, indeed: Once in London, she spent the better part of five years struggling to be in a band, and in 1978, lightning struck. Hynde found three kindred spirits (musically, anyway) and formed The Pretenders.
Almost overnight, the group was a critical and commercial triumph.
But there would be no "happily ever after": By the spring of 1983, two of the band's founding members -- guitarist James Honeyman-Scott and bassist Pete Farndon -- would be dead. Both had overdosed on drugs.
"When Jimmy died at age 25, and then Pete died less than a year later, did you think, 'Maybe I won't go on with the band?'" asked Smith.
"I knew I wasn't gonna go on with that band," Hynde said. "But also, I had to keep making records, 'cause, you know, I had to pay the bills and keep my thing alive.
"I think that's the good thing about taking a long time to establish what you're doing and making a lot of mistakes along the ways. When you finally achieve what you were going for, if it suddenly is taken away from you, you know, you don't want to let it go."
And she's still holding it together.
The Akron she knew is gone, but the city is coming back -- and Hynde, who still lives in London, is coming back here more often these days, too. She still keeps her dream car there: it's a 1971 Pontiac Le Mans T-37.
You really haven't seen Akron until you've seen it like this: from the front seat of a muscle car, with Chrissie Hynde as your tour guide, and her pal, Gabe Troppe, at the wheel.
Hynde took Smith by a place she hung out as a kid: the local cemetery. "I like it because it's old and the crypts are beautiful."
"Did it creep you out walking around here?" asked Smith.
"No," Hynde said. "I like ghosts!"
Hynde is a strict vegetarian, so we skipped the burger joints. But there was one Akron landmark she just couldn't pass up.
"We're right near Krispy Kreme donuts, actually. You want one?"
Hynde, now a grandmother, will turn 64 tomorrow, and it's clear that she doesn't hit the donut shop too often. She's also cut 'way back on the partying.
"Everyone in my game comes to the same conclusion eventually, and that's that they have to back off," Hynde said.
And when did she come to that conclusion? "Probably when I was 60!"
"And what does that mean for you, backing off?"
"It just means I can sleep better. And I'm not afraid to go out at night, 'cause I'm pretty sure I know where I'll be by midnight, and I know I'll get home."
She may be an international rock superstar, but in Ohio, Chrissie Hynde is just another customer in line, and that basically is how she sees herself.
"I don't even like calling myself an artist -- whatever I am," she said.
"Why not an artist?"
"Oh, it just sounds kind of pompous. When I think of an artist, I think of Van Gogh. You know, I think it's someone really, you know, with a paintbrush."
"Do you think you're talented?" asked Smith.
"I never really thought of it like that. I guess, you know, I'm -- everyone has their talents. I know what mine are. Mine's looking after a band and orchestrating a rock band. That's what I'm good at. I'm kind of like an arranger."
And what about songwriting? "Yeah, I can put a song together, but it only comes to life when I take it to the band."
"You're very modest about that," said Smith.
"I'm not sure if that's modesty, that's just the way I see it," Hynde said. "I wouldn't put it in those terms myself. I mean, I'm a much better band leader than anyone else in the room! Okay, yeah."
She's seen the best and worst life has to offer, but somehow Chrissie Hynde still finds it all pretty sweet.
"Can't argue with that!" she says, Krispy Kreme in hand.
To listen to Chrissie Hynde perform "Dark Sunglasses," from her debut solo album "Stockholm," click on the video player below.
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