Throughout the mid-1980s and early 1990s, Hynde employed a string of session and professional musicians within the band, always keeping the name Pretenders. With many of the albums through this period, the only constant presence is her own, and the album art often reflects this (using her picture alone in some cases).
As the rare, successful female bandleader and style-setter in the early days of 1970s punk and new wave, Hynde had a major impact on the music scene. Her edginess, punk sensibilities and truthfulness in interviews earned the respect of fans, musicians and critics alike, inspiring multitudes of young women to follow.
In 1980, Hynde told Rolling Stone magazine: "I was never too interested in high school. I mean, I never went to a dance, I never went out on a date, I never went steady. It became pretty awful for me. Except, of course, I could go see bands, and that was the kick. I used to go to Cleveland just to see any band. So I was in love a lot of the time, but mostly with guys in bands that I had never met. For me, knowing that Brian Jones was out there, and later that Iggy Pop was out there, made it kind of hard for me to get too interested in the guys that were around me. I had, uh, bigger things in mind."
On February 5, 2011, Hynde and the Pretenders performed live on CMT's "Crossroads (VH1 TV series)" with Faith Hill and her band.