Pat Benatar (born Patricia Mae Andrzejewski on January 10, 1953) is a four-time Grammy Award-winning American singer best known for her mezzo-soprano vocal range and establishing herself as one of rock's top vocalists and one of music's top-selling female artists with hit songs such as "Love Is a Battlefield", "Hit Me with Your Best Shot", and "Heartbreaker".
Benatar is one of the top-selling female artists of all-time, and one of the 1980s Top Platinum Album Recipients, according to the Recording Industry Association of America with two RIAA-certified Multi-Platinum albums and five RIAA-certified Platinum albums, plus three RIAA-certified Gold albums and 19 Top 40 singles to her credit.
In addition, Benatar is the first female artist on MTV and her music video "You Better Run" the second aired by the network following its debut with The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star".
Born Patricia (Patti) Mae on January 10, 1953 in Greenpoint, New York, to Andrew and Mildred Andrzejewski, the family moved from Brooklyn to N Hamilton Ave, Lindenhurst, Long Island when she was 3 years old. "I have wonderful childhood memories of picking berries in the "woods" by our house, driving to the "docks" on the South Bay to get freshly harvested clams," she said.
The daughter of a sheet-metal worker and a beautician who once sang with the New York City Opera, Benatar became interested in theater and began voice lessons, singing at Daniel Street Elementary School her first solo, a song called ???It Must Be Spring,??? at age eight. She said, "As a kid, I sang at any choir, any denomination, anywhere I could." At Lindenhurst Senior High School (1967 - 1971), Benatar participated in musical theater, playing Queen Guinevere in the school production of Camelot, marching in the homecoming parade, singing at the annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, and performing a solo of "The Christmas Song" on a holiday recording of the Lindenhurst High School Choir her senior year.
Benatar was cut off from the rock scene in nearby Manhattan though because her parents were "ridiculously strict - I was allowed to go to symphonies, opera and theater but I couldn't go to clubs," and her musical training was strictly classical and theatrical. She said, "I was singing Puccini and 'West Side Story' but I spent every afternoon after school with my little transistor radio listening to the Rolling Stones..."
Training as a coloratura and accepted to The Juilliard School, Benatar surprised family, friends and teachers by deciding a classical career was not for her and pursued health education at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. At 19, after one year at Stony Brook, she dropped out to marry her high school sweetheart Dennis Benatar, an army draftee who trained at Fort Jackson, South Carolina and then served with the Army Security Agency at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, before being stationed at Fort Lee (near Petersburg), Virginia. Specialist (E-4) Dennis Benatar was stationed in Richmond, Virginia, for three years, where Pat worked as a bank teller.
In 1973, Benatar quit her job as a bank teller to pursue a singing career after being inspired by a Liza Minnelli concert she saw in Richmond. She got a job as a singing waitress at a flapper-esque nightclub named The Roaring Twenties and got a gig singing in lounge band Coxon's Army, a regular at Sam Miller's basement club. The band garnered enough attention to be the subject of a never-aired PBS special, and the band's bassist Roger Capps also would go on to be the original bass player for the Pat Benatar Band. The period also yielded Benatar's first and only single until her eventual 1979 debut on Chrysalis Records: "Day Gig," 1974, Trace Records, written and produced by Coxon's Army band leader Phil Coxon and locally released in Richmond.
Benatar's big break came in 1975 at an amateur night at the renowned comedy club Catch a Rising Star in New York. Her rousing rendition of Judy Garland's "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody" earned her a call back by club owner Rick Newman, who would become her manager. Benatar said,
"I came in from Virginia one night. I had straight red hair and I wore a dress. I sang a Judy Garland song and I don???t know what happened, I never sang in New York before in my life, even though I grew up there, everybody just went crazy. I didn???t do anything spectacular. I don???t know what happened, it was just one of those magical things. came right in and said, ???Let???s talk about you playing here some more.???" Mr. Newman said, "It was 2:45 in the morning. We had 30 performers and she was about #27. I was on the other side of the room drinking with some friends--then I suddenly heard this voice!"
The couple headed back to New York following Dennis' discharge from the army, and Benatar went on to be a regular member there for close to three years, until signing a record contract.
Catch A Rising Star was not the only break Benatar got in 1975. She landed the part of Zephyr in Harry Chapin's futuristic rock musical "The Zinger." Benatar's first foray into rock. The production, which debuted on March 19, 1976, at the Performing Arts Foundation's (PAF) Playhouse in Huntington Station, Long Island, ran for a month and also featured Beverly D'Angelo and Christine Lahti. Benatar said,
"I was 22 by the time I started to sing rock, so at first I was very conscious of technique and I was overly technical. That proved to be inhibiting so it was a disadvantage until I began to sing intuitively. That???s the only way to sing rock ??? from your gut level feelings. It???s the instinct that the best singers have."
Halloween 1977 proved a pivotal night in Benatar's early, spandexed stage persona. Rather than change out of the vampire costume she had worn to a Greenwich Village cafe party that evening, she went on-stage wearing black tights, black eyeliner and a short black top. Despite performing her usual array of songs, she received a standing ovation. Benatar said,
"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!'"
In between appearances at Catch A Rising Star and recording commercial jingles for Pepsi Cola and a number of regional concerns, Pat Benatar headlined New York City???s famous Tramps nightclub March 29 - April 1, 1978, where her performance impressed representatives from several record companies. She was signed to Chrysalis Records by founder Terry Ellis the following week. Benatar said,
"There was a long period of three years, when I spent my time taking demo tapes around and being rejected by one record company after another. Then just two days after the debut concert with the band, we were signed to a record contract..."
Record company executives did not share Benatar's ambition to write and sing original rock material at first. They wanted to promote her as a balladeer, claiming that suited women better. It was the beginning of an often contentious relationship with her record label over material.
Recorded in June and July 1979, Pat Benatar debuted the week of August 27, 1979 with the release of I Need A Lover from the album In the Heat of the Night. She said, "My album was the last of a bunch by female singers to come out so I was told not to expect much, even though Mike Chapman was producing."
Pat Benatar won an unprecedented four consecutive Grammy Awards for Best Female Rock Performance from 1980 to 1983 for Crimes of Passion, "Fire and Ice," "Shadows of the Night," and "Love Is a Battlefield." Of the ten Grammy Award ceremonies in the 1980s, Benatar was nominated for Best Female Rock Performance eight times, including for "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. Benatar 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.
Pat Benatar was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame at the Second Induction Award Ceremony and Fundraising Gala held October 30, 2008. In her acceptance letter, she said, ???My upbringing, and the values and ideals I learned back in my hometown kept me grounded. I never forget that a small town girl from Lindenhurst, LI actually got the chance to live her dreams.??? She added, ???Long Island girls ROCK!
She divorced Dennis in 1979, and later married band leader/lead guitarist Neil "Spyder" Giraldo on February 20, 1982. They have two daughters: Haley Egeana born February 16, 1985, and Hana Juliana born March 12, 1994.