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PAT BENATAR: She’s always been a rule-breaker and a trailblazer, she remains a bold and distinctive artist both on stage and on record, and now, after more than three decades in rock ‘n’ roll, she’s a bonafide living legend.
A four-time Grammy winner, Benatar is a classically trained mezzo-soprano. During the 1980s, Benatar had two RIAA-certified Multi-Platinum albums, five RIAA-certified Platinum albums, three RIAA-certified Gold albums, and 19 Top 40 singles, including the Top 10 hits, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, “Love Is a Battlefield”, “We Belong” and “Invincible”. During the early days of MTV, Benatar was one of the most heavily played artists on the popular music channel. Her hits continue to be as unforgettable now as they were at the dawn of MTV, when Pat emerged, fearless, fighting and forging a path for other female rock stars around the world.
Born Patricia Andrzejewski in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Lindenhurst, Long Island, Pat started singing in elementary school and never stopped, working on her craft throughout her teens. At 19, after one six months in college, she dropped out to marry her high school sweetheart Dennis Benatar, an army draftee who trained at Fort Jackson, South. The couple would eventually divorce in 1979.
In 1973, Benatar quit her job as a bank teller to pursue a singing career full-time after being inspired by a concert she saw in Richmond, VA. She got a gig singing with a lounge band called Coxon’s Army, who soon became regulars at Sam Millers Basement Club and fairly well known in and around Richmond. In 1975, just as Coxon’s Army was about to break, and against the advice of everyone involved, Benatar quit the band. She packed everything she owned into her car and headed back to NYC alone, with only $2500.00 in her pocket. And she never looked back.
One night in 1975, Benatar decided to try an open mic night at Catch a Rising Star. She was 27th in line to go on and didn’t hit the stage until 2:00 am. Benatar’s rendition of Judy Garland’s “Rock A Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody” sent the crowd reeling. Hearing the room explode, the owner of the club, Rick Newman, rushed in to see who could possibly be commanding such a response from the room. He watched the rest of the performance, and when the band was finished, Newman approached Benatar and demanded, ”Who ARE you?”. Thus began their relationship as manager and artist; a working relationship which would continue for nearly 15 years.
Catch a Rising Star was not the only break Benatar got in 1975. She also landed the part of Zephyr in The Zinger, Harry Chapin’s off-Broadway, futuristic rock musical. The production, which debuted on March 19, 1976, at the Performing Arts Foundation’s (PAF) Playhouse in Huntington Station, Long Island, ran for one month and also featured Beverly D’Angelo and Christine Lahti.
Halloween, 1977, proved a pivotal night in Benatar’scareer. Earlier in the evening, she’d dressed up as a character from the cult sci-fi movie “Cat Women of the Moon” and headed with friends down to Café Figaro in the Village. She entered the club’s costume contest…and won. To celebrate, the group all went back uptown to their haunt, Catch a Rising Star and performed in costume. Despite performing her usual array of songs, she received a standing ovation.
It was not her first, but she knew that this spandexed stage persona was a hit. So she repeated the look again the next night and received the same reaction from the crowd. As the nights went by, the outfits were tweaked a bit, the spandex was modified, and the signature look that everyone came to know was born.
In 1978, in between appearances at Catch a Rising Star and recording commercial jingles for Pepsi Cola, Benatar headlined New York City’s Tramps nightclub, where her performance impressed representatives from several record companies. She was signed to Chrysalis Records by co-founder Terry Ellis. In the spring of 1979, producer and writer Mike Chapman introduced Benatar to Neil Giraldo, an up-and-coming guitarist. Giraldo began his career in 1978, as a key member of the Rick Derringer band, after beating out 200 other guitarists for the position. Chapman felt Benatar needed a musical director and partner who could establish a more aggressive sound and thought Giraldo was the perfect choice. In Giraldo, Benatar found someone as strong as her, someone who could match the same firepower, someone who could inspire her, while being inspired by her. Their connection was instantaneous……..It was indeed, a perfect fit.
In the Heat of the Night, was recorded in June and July 1979. This was the first time the world was introduced to Giraldo and Benatar’s enduring partnership and their rock ‘n’ roll love affair. In The Heat Of The Night, which included the classic “Heartbreaker”, as well as the Giraldo-penned hit, “We Live For Love”, went platinum.
1980 Grammy-winning album, Crimes of Passion, saw Giraldo arranging, playing guitar and keyboards and providing vocals for songs like “Fire and Ice”. The album included her signature song, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and reached quintuple platinum while giving Pat her first Top 10, million-selling hit. The following year, Benatar and Giraldo cemented their place in music history forever by being the first female and first guitarist, respectively, to ever appear on MTV, with the video for “You Better Run”.
The duo continued in 1981 with Precious Time, which had Giraldo officially on board as producer and arranger; as well as guitar, keyboards and vocals. Precious Time delivered a second Grammy for Benatar for the lead single, “Fire and Ice”, and went double platinum, outdoing its predecessor by hitting #1. These achievements cemented the Giraldo/Benatar partnership as an increasingly unstoppable force in the music industry.
Of the ten Grammy Award ceremonies in the 1980s, Benatar was nominated for Best Female Rock Performance nine times, including for “We Belong” and “Invincible” in 1984, “Sex as a Weapon” in 1986, “All Fired Up” in 1988 and in 1989 for “Let’s Stay Together”. She won an unprecedented four consecutive Grammy Awards for Best Female Rock Performance from 1980 to 1983 for her second LP, Crimes of Passion, and the songs “Fire and Ice”,”Shadows of the Night”, and “Love Is a Battlefield”.
Other platinum albums followed. The team repeated their musical arrangement on Get Nervous in 1982, which featured yet another Top Five hit and Grammy-winner, Shadows of the Night.
1983’s Live From Earth boasted the million-selling Gold single, “Love Is A Battlefield”. The single peaked at Number 5 in the US, winning Benatar another Grammy along the way. 1984’s Tropico shined its spotlight on the Top Five as well, charting the Grammy-nominated “We Belong”.
In 1985 Seven The Hard Way would hit the US Top 10 with the #10 single “Invincible” which also became the theme for the movie, The Legend of Billie Jean. “Sex As a Weapon” would climb as high as #28 in January of 1986. The album peaked at #26, earning an RIAA Gold certification (import cd).
In 1988, Benatar released her 8th album, Wide Awake in Dreamland, primarily recorded in Giraldo’s studio, which spun off the Top 20 hit “All Fired Up.” The album earned her yet another Grammy nomination for “Let’s Stay Together” in 1989. In 1991 came the blues/swing-inspired True Love album, followed in 1993 by the critically-acclaimed Gravity’s Rainbow.
In 1997, Pat released Innamorata on the CMC International label. Then in 1998, further celebrating Benatar’s live prowess, 8-18-80, a live recording of a concert at the Old Waldorf in San Francisco, was released.
In 1999, Benatar and Giraldo opened their private vaults and compiled an extensive three-CD collection, Synchronistic Wanderings: Recorded Anthology 1979-1999. This impressive set includes songs from soundtracks (including Speed), contributions to tribute projects and benefits, previously unreleased live recordings, outtakes and demos, B- sides, and rarities never before available on CD.
As if that wasn’t enough, in the summer of 2002, Benatar and Giraldo released a thrilling live CD and DVD. The CD, Summer Vacation Soundtrack Live, and the DVD, Summer Vacation Live, featured a 90-minute concert filmed at the Grove Theatre in Anaheim, California. In addition, they debuted four new songs (“I Won’t,” “Girl,” “Out Of The Ruins,” and “Please Don’t Leave Me”) as well as previously unrecorded acoustic versions of “We Belong” and “Love Is A Battlefield.” Summer Vacation Live DVD also included behind-the-scenes footage and exclusive interviews.
In August 2003, Benatar released Go, her first album of new songs in seven years. Benatar described the record as a “contemporary guitar-driven record” and “the natural progression of where we should be”.
After being inducted into the Long Island Hall of Fame in 2008, Benatar released her long-awaited autobiography in 2010, the appropriately titled Between a Heart and a Rock Place – which allowed the world a fascinating glimpse into the life and times of one of the most beloved female rock ‘n’ roll icons of all time.
Pat Benatar is acknowledged as the leading female rock vocalist of the ‘80s – a feat marked by her unprecedented winning of four consecutive Grammy Awards between
1980 and 1983, as well as three American Music Awards – but Benatar and Giraldo remain a rock ‘n’ roll powerhouse today, selling out concerts and still wowing audiences after over three decades in music together. Theirs is a chemistry that will, undoubtedly, be thrilling music lovers forever.
NEIL GIRALDO: Neil “Spyder“ James Giraldo, has been a professional musician, producer, arranger and songwriter for over four decades now, changing the face of the pop charts throughout the 1980s with his collaborator, muse and wife, Pat Benatar. More than just an explosive steel-bending guitar player, Giraldo’sinnovative vision helped him create the signature Benatar sound from its inception.
His impressive back catalog includes more than 100 songs written, produced, arranged and recorded for Benatar, as well as many hits he helped create for John Waite, Rick Springfield (Number One, Grammy-winning classic “Jessie’s Girl” and Top Ten hit “I’ve Done Everything For You” included), Kenny Loggins (Top Twenty hit “Don’t Fight It” – also Grammy-nominated), Steve Forbert, The Del Lords, Beth Hart and countless others.
Giraldo began his career in 1978, as a key member of the Rick Derringer band, after beating out 200 other guitarists for the position. It wasn’t long before Rick discovered Neil’s piano-playing prowess and quickly put those skills to work in the studio as well, while recording Guitars and Women.
1981’s Precious Time outdid its predecessor, and with Giraldo now officially credited as producer along with co-producer Keith Olsen, delivered a second Grammy for Benatar.
The Giraldo/Benatar partnership continued to be an increasingly unstoppable force with Get Nervous, featuring the single Shadows of the Night, which won the Grammy for Best Rock Female Vocal Performance in 1982.
Neil and Pat were married that same year. In 1983, the pair released their biggest hit yet with the Grammy-winning track, “Love Is a Battlefield,” taken from the Live From Earth album, which featured Giraldo’s most innovative production to date, creating a thundering, rock ‘n’ roll soundscape out of what had started as a somber, acoustic demo.
They closed off the decade with 1991’s True Love – an ahead-of-its-time, ultra-stylized recording for the contemporary market, inspired by the sound of the Count Basie Band — one of Giraldo’s piano-playing idols – and by the Big Joe Turner/Roomful of Blues record, 1984’s Blues Train.
Thus, Giraldo and Benatar took over radios, TVs, jukeboxes, turntables and car stereos around the world, throughout the 1980s and beyond, exciting fans and selling millions of copies of their twelve original albums, as well as two live records and an anthology.
Neil Giraldo was born in 1955 in Cleveland, Ohio. Eternally immersed in the Sicilian culture of their ancestry, parents Anthony and Angela bought Neil his first guitar at the age of six, in the hope that he and big sister Priscilla might serenade the family with songs from the old country. Neil’s Uncle Tim, who was only four years older, had different ideas, however, and introduced Neil to bands like The Yardbirds, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones and all the other great guitar-driven rock ‘n’ roll bands of the 1960s. It was a move that was to change Neil’s path forever.
Finding new and innovative ways to shadow path his way into songs, Giraldo formed a habit early on of, not just playing along with his favorite artists, but writing different parts for himself within those tracks. At the same time, the budding guitar wizard also became proficient on piano by playing along to Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis records, and played drums to Simon & Garfunkel albums to explore how different rhythms could change the complexion of the songs. These were habits and practices that would go on to give Benatar’s biggest hits – like “Love is a Battlefield” and “We Belong” – their truly unique identity.
Today, Giraldo’s career is as dynamic as ever, as he is in the process of completing two books – one an auto-biographical novel, one a coffee table book — as well performing in a new band project with Scott Kempner from the Del Lords/Dictators. He is also further expanding his Bel Chiasso entertainment company, which develops a variety of television and film projects. In addition, he has also opened up his large vault of unreleased, unfinished songs and will be completing and releasing various new tracks with Benatar, as well as with other artists, in the coming months.
As their thirty-eighth anniversary approaches, Benatar and Giraldo still hit the road every summer, thrilling audiences just as they always have. Whether it’s in support of the vocal, a guitar solo, or jumping from piano to guitar and back again, Giraldo’s gift is knowing how to always up the power in a song, increase the excitement, and keep himself and Benatar as creative as they’ve ever been.