Playlist: Celebrating Chrissie Hynde’s 70th Birthday

Chrissie Hynde Birthday Playlist Graphics by Ainsley Basic

The Pretenders have gone through a lot of the same changes that their fellow 80s rockers dealt with. Membership always shifting, highs and lows on the charts: the band’s existence has always been tumultuous. The reason they survive is simple: Chrissie Hynde. Her lyrics bite, and her melodies stick in your head after one listen. She’s turning 70 on September 7th, and we’ll be airing a blowout birthday bash all day on WERS. Here’s a list of seven key tracks from her long career.



“Hymn To Her” sees Chrissie Hynde explore the pain of persistence, and her ability to express this emotion is impressive. The music is subdued, allowing for Hynde’s voice to shine through in its solid, clear way. Her vocal disposition reflects the theme of the song and parts the way for the guitar to have its time to impress halfway through the song. In her typical fashion, she feels like the foundation of this song. Her ability to pull every part of a song together is precisely what makes her an icon. While not the most complex song in her catalogue, “Hymn For Her” truly shows off her talent, demonstrating her ability to make more out of less. She can convey sadness and dedication with subtle techniques. And Her volume and emphasis pull the listener in and keep this song alive after so many years.

Tatum Jenkins, Music Coordinator



What a groove! This tune was taken, without the Pretenders permission, to serve as the opening theme for the Rush Limbaugh show. For better or worse, it’s immediately infectious and Limbaugh knew it. In “My City” I hear Chrissie Hynde as a bandleader pushing the Pretenders to leave more space, to feel the groove, and let her love letter to Akron be heard.

Phil Jones, Afternoon Host



Upbeat from the first explosive drum beat, introspective, and extremely playful, “Middle of the Road” stands out in the Pretenders’ discography. Through the lyrics, Chrissie Hynde reflects on being middle-aged. Listening to the metaphors and small personal details she injects, anyone who finds themselves settling somewhere in-between will resonate. The guitar chords and other progressions may be simple, but they are bursting with energy. And even after stretches of layered instrumental solos, Hynde’s voice keeps up and commands attention back to the lyrics. 

The last minute is my favorite part, containing two key Chrissie Hynde moments that make the song. Seconds before singing the lyrics “I’m not the cat that I used to be,” Hynde lets out an iconic feline-like cry. And trailing the song to a close, she somehow makes the harmonica sound rock ‘n roll, mimicking the sound of a wailing guitar. Both of these elements give “Middle of the Road” the playful and hardcore touch that make it so good. 

Nora Onanian, Web Services Coordinator



Starting off with driving guitars, tambourine, drums, and bouncy piano, this song sounds great, but what gives it its personality is its attitude. Chrissie Hynde comes in singing like she’s on stage. You can feel the movement, confident and casual. The band sounds as sharp as ever with a classic rock sound that they’ve perfected. Chrissie sings over the song with so much attitude it feels like she believes every word, and really is the lone wolf she’s embodying. As the song starts to break down, Chrissie addresses the listener directly. She sings, “what are you going to do about it?” and you can hear her trail off as she steps away from the mic. It’s an attitude that can’t be faked, and you can tell The Pretenders aren’t just pretending with this one.

Meghan Hockridge, Program Coordinator



“Don’t Get Me Wrong” is an instantly likeable song and it makes sense why – it organically appeals to our experiences. Chrissie Hynde wrote it on an airplane and the riff in the background of the song is inspired by the overheard announcement sounds she heard. It’s her lazer focus on enjoyment that makes this song special. She wrote it for tennis star John McEnroe as a song he could play on the guitar, another example of how “Don’t Get Me Wrong” was purely crafted out of joy. I’m inspired by not only Hynde’s vocals on this song and every song she’s a part of, but her goal to spread happiness to her listeners and friends through her music.

Tatum Jenkins, Music Coordinator


“2000 MILES”

This is probably my favorite Christmas song. It’s up there with “Fairytale of New York” and Lennon’s “Happy Xmas” in the rank of great original holiday songs. “2000 Miles” is immediately relatable to anyone who ever misses anyone. It’s also intensely personal for Chrissie Hynde who’s shared that the lyrics are primarily about the late James Honeyman-Scott, the band’s founding guitarist whose style would be imitated by all future guitar players in the band. Hynde is often cagey in her lyrics, but when she opens up, she lets you all the way into her world.

Phil Jones, Afternoon Host



We’d be mistaken not to include “I’ll Stand By You” on this list of key Chrissie Hynde tracks. The Pretenders most popular song of all time, the ballad is recognizable to listeners of all different genres. Hynde’s emotion-filled vocals backed by just a piano begins the track, opening listeners’ hearts to the poignant songwriting. Hynde wrote the song alongside Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg. Through the lyrics she promises to continue to love and protect someone going through a hard time. “I’ll Stand By You” has gone on to be covered by many artists – from Shakira to Carrie Underwood – but nothing quite compares to the original version. Hynde’s tone possesses a beautiful softness while still holding weight in what she is saying. The palpable comfort and assurance Hynde brings to this song is, in my opinion, the main reason it’s reach has spread so far.

Nora Onanian, Web Services Coordinator

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