Pat Benatar, b. Patricia Andrzejewski, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York, January 10, 1953. Current legal name: Patricia Mae Giraldo.
Pat Benatar has long been known as one of the most powerful female voices in rock and roll. While many have questioned some of her choices of material to record, few question the strength of her singing voice. There is no mistaking the voice of this diminutive woman (I once read she was 4'8" but her official website says she is 5 feet tall). The variations in material she has recorded over the years, from her early arena style power rock in the late 1970s and early 1980s to a collection of blues numbers through to pushing the envelope with introspective, acoustic pieces that dropped her off the commercial radar and into the no man's land of success without super-stardom. Or perhaps that is part of the plan.
You're the right kind of sinner
to release my inner fantasy
During the 1970s, Pat Benatar was a regular club performer in New York City. It wasn't until 1977 that she was discovered by a talent scout from Chrysalis Records, who had her signed to a recording contract immediately (according to one legend he had seen her before, but on this night she had come from a Halloween party where she wore a black spandex "street vampire" costume and the look sold him). Later that year, Pat Benatar would convince her future husband Neil Giraldo, who was a guitarist going mad playing keyboards in Rick Derringer's band, to join her band. The picture was beginning to come together.
In 1979, Pat Benatar would release her first album for Chrysalis. Four singles from the album, In The Heat of the Night would hit the charts in 1980, beginning with "Heartbreaker" and continuing with "We Live For Love", a cover of The Young Rascals' "You Better Run" and "I Need a Lover" which was written by an unknown from Indiana named John Mellencamp.
Before I put another notch in my lipstick case
You better make sure you put me in my place
In August of 1980 she released her second album, Crimes of Passion, right on the tail of her debut, and success continued. Pat's signature song, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" from the album would reach #9 on the charts (although Pat Benatar now says it is her least favorite song to perform live and that it feels worn out, mostly because she had nothing to do with writing it). Crimes of Passion would eventually be certified multi-Platinum and the album led to Pat Benatar receiving the first of four consecutive Grammy Awards for Best Rock Vocal Performance Female.
You were on a liquid diet, you were sure you had to try it
And you lost all your pounds
The doctor's on vacation, so you took the medication
And wound up in lost and found
Pat Benatar's 1981 release, Precious Time featuring "Promises In The Dark" and "Fire and Ice" would reach the top of the American charts. In 1982 she would end the ponderings in the media and amongst fans about her relationship with guitarist, songwriter and producer Neil Giraldo by marrying him in Hawaii and then released the album Get Nervous later that year. This would be a change of pace for Pat Benatar, as it was more in tune with the quirky, New Wave scene than with the guitar hero/arena rock crowd who were flocking to her concerts. With it she proved she could determine her own direction and still sell albums. And she got to wear a straitjacket on the cover.
You can cry tough baby, it's all right
You can let me down easy, but not tonight
What have we learned so far? Well, it appears that Pat Benatar has exploded onto the music scene in the early 1980s and she can do whatever she wants. In 1983, she would release the album that would show us why. Live From Earth, Pat Benatar's live showcase shows us exactly why she sold out those concerts and continued to draw in record sales. Her performances (two of which I saw back in the day) were high energy and her voice was better live than in the studio. She knew how to play to an audience.
Lets not pretend that we're unique
Coz everybody's tasted loves illusion
We try to hide the fact that we
Got lost between the choas and confusion
And the love we feel
Is gettin' deeper, and deeper, and deeper, and deeper, and deeper
By the minute
Pat would once again take a change of pace, introducing us to 1984's Tropico, an album that left both those that love the hard rocking arena sound and the New Wave style of Get Nervous a bit confused. It was neither of those, and it drove slowly down the middle of the road and enchanted you. I loved Pat Benatar's earlier work, but was enchanted by Tropico and still don't know why. In 1985 she would release Seven The Hard Way, and record the theme song "Invincible" for the movie The Legend of Billie Jean. This would be the end of The Golden Age of Pat Benatar.
You really do know how to strut that stuff
You really do know how to act tough
Your body's just like a centerfold
A fantasy anyone would want to hold
For the first time in her career, there would be a gap of more than a year between albums. After Seven The Hard Way (the title of which was a reference to releasing seven albums in seven years) in 1985, Pat would wait until 1988 to release Wide Awake In Dreamland. Partly due with the birth of her first child with Neil Giraldo in 1985, Pat had taken a break, and in the meantime her popularity took a downturn. Six years of volcanic popularity on the music scene left her almost an afterthought in 1988. The first single from the album, "All Fired Up" was a return to the old style kicking it up a notch feel of her early work, but then the album flatlined. More of a melodic and emotional album than her most successful releases, the album went gold but left many old fans heading out into the aisles.
But I've been seriously thinking
About slippin' on the velvet gloves
I know it's strange but my luck's about to change
Cause what we got here is true love
In 1991, Pat Benatar would decide to take another sudden turn an a new direction. Her 1991 album True Love was nothing her fans expected and turned many of them off. A collection of bluesy songs sung in a lounge singer style raised eyebrows, but no one can sing while reclining on a grand piano in a cocktail lounge the way Pat Benatar can. The album is a must have for anyone who has ever been alone in a smoke-filled bar at one o'clock in the morning listening to dreams evaporating into thin air. Believe me. I would not lie.
People like to shake you up and put you down
Run you all around, drive you crazy
Like to steal the roses right out of your bed
Get inside your head, drive you crazy
Perhaps freaked out by the lack of commercial success of True Love and her thinning fan base, Pat Benatar released Gravity's Rainbow in 1993. It was a calculated effort to appeal to her old arena rock audience, but it barely caused a blip on the radio or the charts and almost seemed like a desperate attempt to reclaim the past.
In 1997, Pat Benatar would recover and return to taking her music in the direction she wanted to take it in. Her 1997 release Innamorata would give another flavor of Pat Benatar. Taking elements of past work and blending it in with the 1990s trend of female acoustic singers with deep, soulful lyrics and a head of steam with a purpose, the album was a critical success but still failed to recapture past successes. Yet, it seems to be one of the albums from her collection that Pat Benatar is most comfortable with.
Sometimes I believed, what you had to say
Then I watched you bleed, all the truth away
Somewhere in my heart, there's a place I know
Where all our dirty little secrets go
Pat Benatar has spent a great deal of time in recent years on the rock and roll "seniors' tour" with acts like Styx, the Steve Miller Band and REO Speedwagon. She continues to play live as often as possible, and her voice is said to be just as crisp and powerful as always. She is too often forgotten in the modern age, as we often forget who puts down the roots for what we have today. Pat Benatar broke out at a time when there was either disco or hard rockin' guitar gods pumping testosterone all over the stage and their audience. She became the powerful, female rocker who was tough and yet very much a woman. Without Pat Benatar, would women with balls be seen on stage and heard on the radio as often as they are today? After all, in an era when female rock and roll artists were either sexy, cute or storytelling girl next door types, Pat Benatar was there holding her own in a male dominated world. She didn't sell records based on sex appeal or because she was cuddly. She sold records at the height of her success because her voice and the way she delivered the words rivaled any instrument weilded by any of the male rockers of the time.
Another odd fact about Pat Benatar is that she may be the cleanest woman in rock history. The only rumors to take hold in her career were those about Neil Giraldo, which she later confirmed by marrying, and has stayed married and faithful to ever since. She appears to have no arrest record, no scandals, has never been in a drug or alcohol rehab program, and simply provides little material for the tabloids. Perhaps that is why her popularity began to fade. No one had any dirt to throw or mud to splash. She currently has two children with Neil and no plans for any more.
Researched at Allmusic.com
And the voices I hear in the bathroom late at night
Lyrics are copyright various persons
Some are penned by Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo
Others are penned by successful people who rarely leave the house.