Pat Benatar is a four-time Grammy Award-winning American rock singer with six platinum and four gold albums to her credit, as well as 19 Top 40 singles. Benatar’s polished mainstream pop/rock made her one of the more popular female vocalists of the early ’80s. Although she came on like an arena rocker with her power chords, tough sexuality, and powerful vocals, her music was straight pop/rock underneath all the bluster.
Born Patricia Mae Andrzejewski (AND-zhe-YEV-skee) on January 10, 1953 in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, to a Polish/Irish family. Andrzejewski initially studied voice and opera, following in the footsteps of her mother while growing up in Lindenhurst, New York, on Long Island. After graduating in 1971 from Lindenhurst High School, Andrzejewski married her high school sweetheart Dennis Benatar that same year and took his name.
Benatar was discovered at an amateur-night contest in 1977 at the New York City comedy club Catch a Rising Star. After performing successfully several times at the club, Benatar finally found her on-stage persona in the form of a wild Halloween costume, Catwoman, which she had worn as a joke. In several interviews, Benatar recounted her realization for the new audience reaction: “The crowd was always polite, but this time they went out of their minds. It was the same songs, sung the same way, and I thought, ‘Oh my god…it’s these clothes and this makeup!’” Because of that performance, she was signed to Chrysalis Records by its founder Terry Ellis.
Backed by a stellar band led by guitarist Neil Geraldo (who the singer would later marry) that provided the perfect accompaniment that was able to effortlessly alternate between rockers and ballads. Benatar quickly established herself as one of rock’s top vocalists, scoring a hit right of the bat with her debut album, 1979′s In the Heat of the Night, which spawned such radio favorites as “Heartbreaker” and “I Need a Lover” (the latter of which was written by a then-unknown John Mellencamp).
Benatar divorced in 1979 and married band leader/lead guitarist Neil Giraldo February 20, 1982. The Giraldos have two daughters: Haley Egeana born February 16, 1985, and Hana Juliana born March 12, 1994.
Benatar’s sophomore effort, 1980′s Crimes of Passion, more than delivered on the debut’s promise and it’s often considered to be the finest recording of her career. Spurred on by such classic rock radio standards as “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Treat Me Right,” and “You Better Run,” the album was certified platinum shortly after its release and Benatar became a certified arena headliner in the U.S. Benatar also became one of the most-played artists during MTV’s early days, received several Grammy Awards around this time, and continued to enjoy massive hits and sold-out tours throughout the early to mid-’80s, including such albums as 1981′s Precious Time, 1982′s Get Nervous, 1983′s Live from Earth, 1984′s Tropico, 1985′s Seven the Hard Way, and 1988′s Wide Awake in Dreamland, plus the singles “Fire & Ice,” “Promises in the Dark,” “Shadows of the Night,” “Love Is a Battlefield,” “We Belong,” and “Invincible.” But by the end of the decade, it appeared as though Benatar had fallen of the face of the Earth as the hits seemed to dry up.
Benatar opted to shift musical gears and issue an album of blues and R&B, 1991′s True Love, which failed to return the singer back to the top of the charts. Benatar returned back to her patented arena rock sound with such further studio releases as 1993′s Gravity’s Rainbow and 1997′s Innamorata (although the latter of which was largely acoustic-based) and while the albums didn’t exactly measure up to her earlier releases, both were solid efforts. The late ’90s saw a pair of live archival releases hit record store shelves, 1998′s 8-15-80 and 1999′s The King Biscuit Flower Hour Live, in addition to countless hits collections (although the best of the bunch proved to be 1989′s Best Shots, which remains a steady seller to this day). The singer began touring again by the middle of the decade (after taking a five-year hiatus from the road), co-headlining shows with REO Speedwagon, Fleetwood Mac, the Steve Miller Band, and Styx. She also continued to dabble in acting, appearing in the ABC Afterschool Special Torn Between Two Fathers and on various sitcoms. In August 2003, Benatar returned to recording with Go (Vanguard), her first studio LP since 1997′s Innamorata. The LP revisited the arena rock/MOR sound that had defined Benatar’s career, and was accompanied by an extensive tour.
Pat Benatar won an unprecedented four consecutive Grammy Awards for “Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female” from 1980 to 1983 for Crimes of Passion, “Fire And Ice,” “Shadows Of The Night,” and “Love Is A Battlefield,” and was nominated four more times: “Invincible” in 1985, “Sex As A Weapon” in 1986, “All Fired Up” in 1988 and in 1989 for “Let’s Stay Together.” Benatar also earned Grammy Award nominations in 1985 for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female with “We Belong” and in 1986 for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Duo or Group as a member of Artists United Against Apartheid for their single “Sun City.” Benatar is also the winner of three American Music Awards: Favorite Female Pop/Rock Vocalist of 1981 and 1983, and Favorite Female Pop/Rock Video Artist of 1985. She was twice named Rolling Stone magazine’s Favorite Female Vocalist, and Billboard magazine ranks her as the most successful female rock vocalist of all time based on overall record sales and the number of hit songs and their charted positions. Benatar was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2007.
Although billed as a solo artist, Benatar recorded and toured with a consistent set of band members over most of her career, who contributed greatly to the writing and producing of songs and are recognizable characters on album photos and in many of her music videos.
* Neil “Spyder” Giraldo (incorrectly spelled as “Geraldo” in early liner notes/credits) is the distinctive lead guitarist of the band and has performed on all of Benatar’s albums. (He is also Pat’s second husband.) Neil also sings, plays keyboards and harmonica, and has many writing and producing credits on the Benatar albums. Neil performed with Myron Grombacher in Rick Derringer’s touring band, appearing in a possible bootleg entitled Derringer Live At The Paradise Theater Boston, Massachusetts, July 7, 1978 (UPC 672627400428).
* Myron Grombacher is billed as drummer on nine of Benatar’s albums and has numerous writing credits. Myron is easily recognizable in the music videos, particularly as the mad dentist in “Get Nervous”.
* Charlie Giordano performed keyboard duties on five albums, and is identifiable by his glasses and distinctive array of berets, blazers and 80s-style ties.
* The original bass guitarist was Roger Capps, replaced on Tropico by Donnie Nossov, and then later by Frank Linx.
* Scott Sheets is credited on rhythm guitar on the first few albums.
Benatar still writes and tours with her husband, Neil Giraldo.
In the summer of 2005, the couple’s older daughter, Haley Giraldo, starred in E!’s reality TV series Filthy Rich: Cattle Drive.
Benatar played the character Zephyr in Harry Chapin’s futuristic rock musical “The Zinger.” Set in a recording studio sometime around the year 2000, the production, which debuted on March 19, 1976, at the P.A.F. Playhouse in Huntington, Long Island, ran for a month and also featured Beverly D’Angelo and Christine Lahti. Of her character, Benatar said, “It was great. I had an afro wig with glitter on! It was so fabulous.” Benatar performed the solo “Shooting Star” in honor of Chapin for the Harry Chapin Tribute, Carnegie Hall, December 7, 1987.
In 1980, she portrayed the character “Jeanette Florescu” in Marcus Reichert’s film noir Union City.
Benatar had a song featured in the 1980′s version of the movie Metropolis.
In 1985, “Invincible” was the title track to the cult movie The Legend of Billie Jean.
In April of 1989 she appeared in an “ABC Afterschool Special” entitled “Torn Between Two Fathers” about a teenage girl who sues her natural father for the right to remain in her step-family’s home following the accidental death of her natural mother. Pat played “Donna”, the current wife of the teenager’s natural father.
Benatar has made numerous TV appearances, mostly as herself. She appeared with her husband in the Charmed episode “Lucky Charmed”, on which “Heartbreaker” was used, and in an episode of Dharma & Greg as herself (singing “We’ve Only Just Begun” at an impromptu wedding in an airport). In 2006, Benatar performed at the July 4th music event in Dublin, Ohio.
The song “Love Is a Battlefield” was featured twice on South Park, the first being the Season 2 episode “Ike’s Wee Wee”, but most notably in the episode “Red Man’s Greed”.
She appeared on an episode of the short-lived sitcom That ’80s Show, as herself. She was an old rival of the character Margaret. Her video for “Love is a Battlefield” appeared on an earlier episode of the show as well.
The song “Love is a Battlefield” was also used in the 2004 movie 13 Going on 30, starring Jennifer Garner.
On February 14 and 15, 2008, she and husband Neil “Spyder” Giraldo appeared as themselves on The Young and the Restless when they performed at the Indigo club.
In 2006, the song “We Belong” was part of a $20 million dollar ad campaign for Sheraton hotels, although the version used in the commercial was not Benatar’s. Her version of the song is featured in the 2006 comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, starring Will Ferrell and directed by Adam McKay.
Though she had earlier expressed dismay for rock stars endorsing products (including onetime cohort Debbie Harry, who had developed her modeling career simultaneously to her rock career), Benatar herself has now become a commercial spokeswoman for the Energizer company, and is currently being featured in an ad for Candies Vintage shoes for Kohl’s department store.
Her 2007 song “Passion” can be downloaded free from the Jell-O Official site.
- adapted from Greg Prato & Stephen Thomas Erlewine biography and Wikipedia