1978 in London, England
- Chrissie Hynde (born September 7, 1951 in Akron, Ohio) - Lead vocals, guitar, primary songwriter
- James Honeyman-Scott (born November 4, 1956 in Hereford, England, died June 16, 1982) - Lead guitar
- Pete Farndon (born June 2, 1952 in Hereford, England, died April 14, 1983) - Bass guitar
- Martin Chambers (born 1952 in Hereford, England) - Drums
The Pretenders would never have happened had Chrissie Hynde not crossed the Atlantic in a move to London in 1973. Initially she wrote music criticism, and in 1976 she was an active observer of the British punk rock explosion. By 1978 she hooked up with Pete Farndon, who helped finalize the band's original lineup by recruiting two Hereford acquaintances, Honeyman-Scott and Chambers. Although the rest of the band didn't share Hynde's punk leanings, the group forged an intertwined, fresh sound.
A Brief Reign for the Pretenders, 1978-1982:
In less than four years together, the original quartet was hailed as one of guitar-based rock music's saviors during the chaotic post-punk period. Honeyman-Scott is still widely regarded as one of rock's all-time guitar greats, capable of unbelievably creative and ingenious rhythms and textures in his playing. Farndon and Chambers, meanwhile, formed a highly capable, organic rhythm section that allowed for a give-and-take cohesion among band members rarely seen in any style of rock music.
The First Two Albums:
With the unimaginatively titled The Pretenders and The Pretenders II, released in 1980 and 1981 respectively, the band both created and confidently occupied a niche in rock music that had long desperately needed to be filled. Hynde's quavering, soulful vocals formed such a playful interplay with the jagged yet artfuly rendered musical lines supplied by the rest of the band. "Kid," "Message of Love," "Precious," "Tattooed Love Boys" and "Mystery Achievement" are but a few song highlights of the first two albums.
Tragedy, Brutal & Abrupt:
Before long Honeyman-Scott's heroin use quickly became an obstacle to the band's continued success, and in June 1982 Hynde kicked him out of the band for his increasingly destructive habit. Ironically enough, mere days later Honeyman-Scott died of a drug overdose. To prove inevitability as a natural law, Farndon died of similar causes just 10 months later. At that point, bouncing back from such double devastation seemed far-fetched for even this hardy bunch.
Aggressive, Determined Perseverance of Hynde & the Pretenders:
Still, this is Chrissie Hynde we're talking about. Two months before Farndon's death, she had already put together a new version of the band. 1984's Learning to Crawl featured "Back on the Chain Gang," a haunting tribute to Hynde's fallen bandmates that reached the Top 10 on the pop charts. Hynde pressed on with somewhat of a revolving lineup for the Pretenders' next release, 1986's Get Close, dismissing Chambers but still finding chart success with the wonderful "Don't Get Me Wrong."
Feminist Icon or Just a Serious Rock Chick?:
By the mid-'80s it had become pretty clear to everyone that the Pretenders had become essentially a vehicle for the talented Chrissie Hynde. This continued, intermittently, into and through the '90s. But more than anything else, Hynde has stayed relevant for the ground she's broken for women in rock and roll. Even so, she has been ambivalent at best about such a role or image, focusing instead on continuing to celebrate the accomplishments of the original Pretenders.