Grassroots campaigning against sprawl in Ohio (in black leather & jeans)

Few readers of this site would argue that there are rock stars among us.

But who knew that part of that famous chip on Chrissy Hynde’s shoulder was reserved for fighting “urban sprawl and cultural homogenization?”

We all do now, thanks to a profile of the ever-hip front-woman of the seminal punk-pop-rock band The Pretenders in Sunday’s New York Times. Almost 30 years since their debut self-titled album, the band (made up of a shifting lineup of musicians behind Hynde) is still touring and making music. Their latest release, the first in six years, is “Break Up the Concrete,” a not-so-subtle reference to the de-facing of an American town – specifically, Akron, Ohio, where little Chrissy grew up. The city is also the subject of one of the Pretenders biggest hits, “My City Was Gone,” from the 1984 album, “Learning to Crawl.”

Hynde long ago moved to London, but has recently taken an apartment in Akron because it “offers an opportunity to champion causes like mass transit and urban renewal,” and to be more available to her elderly parents, Times reporter Alan Light wrote. A vegan, the denim-clad singer also opened a vegetarian restaurant last year, if only to provide her with a place to dine when home on visits.

“There’s a resonance you get when you go back to the place you were born.”

“The album’s title track is a high-speed meditation on urban sprawl and cultural homogenization, but at Farm Aid, Ms. Hynde expressed optimism,” wrote Light, who chronicled the band’s September appearance at the 23rd annual Farm Aid show in Mansfield, Mass. “She cited wider acceptance of vegetarianism and increased attention to downtown areas as evidence of changing attitudes.”

Hynde, still svelte and sexy at 57, “has not only begun to laud the efforts of Akron officials, she has also joined the fight to revitalize downtown Akron,” according to an article in the Akron Beacon Journal in late August.

Her hometown newspaper said that Hynde doesn’t drive (of course, she doesn’t need to) and is “a big proponent of improving the bus system and removing the common perception that public transportation is only for people who can’t afford cars. But although Hynde prefers to walk when she is not on a tour bus, she believes many parts of Akron are not pedestrian-friendly.”

From “My City Was Gone:”
I went back to Ohio
But my city was gone
There was no train station
There was no downtown
South Howard had disappeared
All my favorite places
My city had been pulled down
Reduced to parking spaces

New York Times story (Oct. 5):

Akron Beacon Journal story (Aug. 30):

Posted by Thomas J. Walsh
Contact the reporter at

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal