Saturday, February 8, 2014

Pat Benatar, The #21 Female Artist of the Rock Era

Patricia Andrzejewski was born in Brooklyn, New York. Pat became interested in theater and took voice lessons, singing her first solo at the age of eight. Pat participated in musical theatre, marched in the Homecoming parade, and sang in the choir at Lindenhurst Senior High School.

While training as a coloratura with plans to attend Julliard School, Pat surprised everyone by declaring that a classical career was not for her, and instead enrolled in the State University of New York at Stony Brook to pursue a degree in health education.  However, she dropped out after one year to marry Dennis Benatar and the couple moved to Virginia.
Pat got a job as a singing waitress at a nightclub called The Roaring Twenties, and she joined a group called Coxon's Army.  Benatar received her break in 1975 when she took the stage on amateur night at the comedy club Catch a Rising Star in New York City.  Her performance of Judy Garland's "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody" caused club owner Rick Newman to call her back.

Benatar became a regular at Catch a Rising Star for nearly three years.  She also landed a part in Harry Chapin's musical The Zinger, which played in Long Island.  Pat also recorded commercial jingles for several companies including Pepsi, and she headlined the Tramps nightclub in 1978.

Executives from Chrysalis Records saw Benatar at Tramps, and signed her to a recording contract the next week.  Famed producer Mike Chapman, who had worked with Blondie and the Knack among others, broke his vow not to add any new artists when he heard Benatar's demo tape.  Chapman and Nicky Chinn also wrote three songs for the album.  

But the most significant thing that happened was when Benatar met guitarist Neil Giraldo.  He shared Pat's passions and used his skills as an innovative arranger and producer to help design, from the beginning, the now-renowned Benatar sound.  Giraldo and Benatar's vision merged explosively on Pat's debut album In the Heat of the Night in 1979.  The lead single, "I Need A Lover", was highly underrated; the best it did was #31 in the Netherlands.

Benatar's next single was "If You Think You Know How to Love Me", which became a hit for Smokie.

Many of Pat's early songs weren't appreciated until she became a big star.  We now see in retrospect that they should have been big hits.  The single "Heartbreaker" was #16 in Canada and #23 in the U.S.

Pat's follow-up, "We Live For Love", hit #8 in Canada but only #27 in the United States.

Benatar toured to support her debut album.  She also played a small role in the movie Union City in 1980.  Another outstanding track on the debut album, which eventually went Platinum, is "My Clone Sleeps Alone".

As unrecognized and underrated as Pat's first album was, her second, Crimes of Passion in 1980, became her launching point.  It started, however, with the same story as the singles from her debut, as the first single (Benatar's cover of the Rascals song "You Better Run") was largely ignored, with #31 in Australia being its best chart ranking.  It holds the distinction of being the second video aired by MTV when the music channel kicked off in August of 1981.

The next single was the one that did it for Pat--the fiery "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" reached #9 in the United States and #10 in Canada.

Crimes of Passion hit #2 on the Album chart for five straight weeks, and remained a top-seller for 93 weeks.  If anything, it has gotten better with time.  "Treat Me Right" (featured in the classic movie An Officer & A Gentleman) hit #12 in Canada and #18 in the U.S.

Unbelievably, the next single "I'm Gonna' Follow You" went nowhere, making it one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.

Benatar headlined a very successful tour and her fan base was growing rapidly.  The incredible Crimes of Passion album (#63 for the Rock Era*) has sold over four million copies in the U.S. alone and also included several great album tracks.  This is "Never Wanna' Leave You".

Benatar had developed an incredible range of 4 1/2 octaves, and she captured Favorite Pop/Rock Female Vocalist at the American Music Awards.  Another great track is Pat's remake of the Kate Bush song "Wuthering Heights".

The entire Crimes of Passion album was cited when Benatar was given the Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.  Pat delivered an amazing performance on "Hell Is For Children", one of The Most Important Songs of the Rock Era*.

The following year, Benatar kept the momentum going with her album Precious Time, which went straight to #1 on the Album chart.  The dynamite first single "Fire And Ice" went to #4 in Canada and #2 on the Mainstream Rock chart and #17 overall in the U.S., and Pat won the Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for the second straight year.

Another highly underrated song, at least as far as its chart performance, was Pat's next single, "Promises In The Dark".  It peaked at #38 overall in the U.S., although it reached #16 in the more specific Mainstream Rock chart.

Precious Time sold two million copies in the U.S. alone.  Pat also did a great cover of one of the best songs from the group from Boise, Idaho, Paul Revere & the Raiders.

In 1982, Benatar released the album Get Nervous.  The opening single, "Shadows Of The Night", ran up to #3 on the Mainstream Rock chart and #13 overall in the U.S. and #12 in Canada.  Three years, three straight Grammys for Benatar for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

Get Nervous became Pat's fourth straight Platinum album, and she was back on stage to accept her second American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Female Vocalist.  The accompanying world tour was recorded and later released as the "Live from Earth" album.  "Little Too Late", which peaked at #20, is another track worth featuring as we salute The #24 Female Artist of the Rock Era*.

Benatar married her amazing guitarist, Neil Giraldo, to create one of the top music marriages of all-time in 1982.  

In 1983, Benatar released the live package Live From Earth, which went Platinum, and contained the single "Love Is A Battlefield".  The song became one of her biggest hits, peaking at #1 on the Mainstream Rock chart and #5 overall in the U.S., #1 in Australia and the Netherlands, #2 in Canada and #6 in New Zealand.  With the million-selling "Love Is A Battlefield", Benatar accomplished the unprecedented feat of winning her fourth consecutive Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

Benatar released the album Tropico in 1984.  The single "We Belong" hit #3 on the Mainstream chart and #5 overall in the U.S., #5 in Switzerland, #7 in Australia and New Zealand and #8 in Canada.  The song gave Benatar another Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

Tropico became Pat's sixth straight Platinum album.  Her next single was "Ooh Ooh Song".

Benatar also was nominated for a Grammy as a member of Artists United Against Apartheid for the single "Sun City" and the category Best Rock Vocal Performance, Duo or Group.

In 1985, she released the album Seven the Hard Way, another Gold Benatar album.   The lead single, "Invincible", rocked up to #4 on the Mainstream chart and #10 overall in the U.S. and #6 in Canada.  Once again, the amazing Benatar was nominated for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards.

The follow-up, "Sex As A Weapon", hit #5 on the Mainstream Rock chart, and earned Pat yet another Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

In 1988, Benatar released the album Wide Awake in Dreamland.  The album yielded the hit "All Fired Up", a #2 smash on the Mainstream Rock chart and #19 overall in the United States, #2 in Australia and #8 in Canada.  It earned Benatar a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

The album gave Pat her eighth consecutive Gold album.  Another single from Wide Awake in Dreamland gave Benatar yet another Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.  Her next hit was "Let's Stay Together".  In fact, in the 10 years of the 1980's, Benatar was nominated for Best Female Rock Performance an incredible eight times. 

In 1991, Benatar released the album True Love, which yielded the single "Payin' The Cost To Be The Boss", a #17 hit on the Mainstream Rock chart.

In 1993, Pat released the album Gravity's Rainbow.  The track "Everybody Lay Down" reached #3 on the Mainstream Rock chart.

Benatar has released two more albums, Innamorata in 1997 and Go in 2003.  In 2010, she published her autobiography, Between a Heart and a Rock Place, which became a New York Times bestseller.  

While these rankings on Inside The Rock Era reflect each artists' achievements to this date using up-to-date sales information, I suspect that, as a new generation gets wind of this lady's music, her albums will see a spark in sales, and her status will be elevated higher.

Benatar won four Grammy Awards out of nine nominations and three American Music Awards.  She has had 16 hits, with four reaching the Top 10, with 16 Mainstream Rock hits, nine of which went Top 10 and one #1.  But she earns #21 because of the quality and volume of her non-singles.  Benatar has sold over 11.5 million albums in the United States alone.  

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