You only need to look at a few bars to understand why Pat Benatar, along with her husband Neil Giraldo, truly “belong together.” They have been married for nearly 40 years and are one of rock’s most beloved couples, if they are not at the top.
Jim Axelrod, Correspondent, asked them: “Collaborating for four years with someone is a lot; forty?”
Giraldo said, “That’s insane.” “We are basically insane.”
Only if you consider insane selling 36 million albums and winning four consecutive Grammys. You also have to record 15 Top 40 hits (from “Heartbreaker” to “Treat Me Right” to “Love Is A Battlefield”.
Axelrod asked: “Is it possible for you to articulate what is at root of this successful collaboration?”
Benatar stated, “We are connected in so many different ways, all of which combined together; you can be parents, lovers, husband and wife, grandparents, musicians, writers. It’s amazing!
She was the daughter of Long Island blue collar Long Islanders and almost never got to hit us with her best shot. “My boyfriend, whom I met at 16 years old, was drafted. I thought he would die in Vietnam. So, I married him, just like an idiot. And he didn’t die! “And I became a bank teller!”
The story could have ended there if her friends hadn’t dragged her along to a concert. A Liza Minnelli concert was the birthplace of one of the most influential voices in rock history. “Let’s see Liza Minnelli at Richfield Coliseum,” said one of my gay friends. It was packed. The stage lights went on. She began singing. She started singing. It’s possible.
“I quit my job the next day and started looking for gigs. “I had never done anything like this in my entire life.”
“Literally, no Liza Minnelli and no Pat Benatar?” Axelrod asked.
“Yeah. It was just that I could see someone doing what I truly, in my heart, wanted to do.
After a few years, she was divorcing and living in New York City. Halloween 1977 was her first big event. Her costume was taken from the B-movie, “Cat Women of the Moon”.
Spandex and her career would never be the exact same.
Benatar stated, “I had all that big eyeliner, I had this short thing with these short black tights, these short boots, and a Ray Gun. So, I was doing well, getting gigs and all that stuff. That night, I sang in costume. It was quite an experience. It was a completely different experience. “What’s the deal?
It was 1978 when she signed her first record deal. This was how she met a Cleveland guitarist, 22 years old.
Giraldo stated, “All that I was looking was a great performer.” I wanted to find that person so I could produce great music and write songs.
Benatar stated, “I didn’t want to be an artist solo.” I wanted what Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, or Keith and Mick had together. “I wanted it back and forth, forward and back, back, forth, back, forth.”
“She was searching for you before you were a person?” Axelrod asked.
Giraldo stated, “Correct,” and he was searching for her. As soon as I reached her, I thought, “We have to sing in a different key.” This must go up. “There’s another part to your voice that we aren’t getting.”
“We did ‘Heartbreaker’ first. It was the first time I did it. That’s it.'”
Giraldo stated, “I just knew it. I knew it.” “I was not looking back.”
They would follow up “Heartbreaker”, with three Top-10 hits over the next five years, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” and “Love Is A Battlefield.”
Her tough-cookie personality would speak volumes to a generation. She was an icon of female empowerment, who, decades prior to #MeToo didn’t take crap from any DJ with the power to play her songs.
Benatar said, “The moment I’d walk into there, he would say, ‘Why not you sit right here [patting his lap], and let’s see if that record can be played. ‘Oh, f*** you.’
“In the beginning, I meant, I was still kinda, like, timid. Then I realized, “Wait.” This is my chance. This will create ripple effects if I make a change for myself. I had power now. That changed everything.”
Nearly instantly, Benatar & Giraldo realized that their relationship went deeper than just musical collaborators.
Axelrod stated that there was a chance of winning the lottery.
“Oh, that chemical thing was absurd!” Benatar laughed.
By 1982 they had married, formalizing their two-against-the-world posture in dealing with the music business. Benatar stated, “I didn’t start it by myself.” “He and me did this together, starting from Day One.”
Axelrod stated, “It seems important to almost set things straight.” It was a partnership.
Benatar said, “It was.” “Someone said that he didn’t understand why his name had to be on the marquee. “I said, “Because every song you love and listen too is created by him. ass ****.'”
This kind of pushback, they claim, explains one of rock’s great mysteries – how, given her influence, impact and number of hits can Pat Benatar still be in Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? (She’s not.)
Axelrod inquired, “Does this bother you at the moment that you are not in Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?”
She said, “No.” It’s great fun to win. The question is: Does this validate or invalidate what we have done? No. It would be great to have it for our kids, the fans and everything else. Do I need to acknowledge it? No.”
“That sounds disarmingly good.”
Giraldo laughed, “It’s again the truth.”
Benatar said, “Life is not fair.” “What are you going to do?”
They also have other priorities: Their two grown daughters and their two grandchildren, who live close to Los Angeles. Giraldo founded Three Chord Bourbon, which donates a portion of its profits to support struggling musicians.
They may have found the perfect chapter in their rock & roller love story. Their songs will be used as the basis of a musical, a modernized version of “Romeo & Juliet”, which they plan to bring to Broadway next season. Benatar stated that they have always called us Romeo & Juliet in rock & roll because they tried to break us up so early. “We Live for Love is the balcony scene. It’s gorgeous. It feels like it was written just for you!”
Is there anything else Pat Benatar or Neil Giraldo would call the show other than “Invincible”
“With ‘Invincible’, the musical. Benatar stated that the whole point is that differences between us can make us stronger and not weaker. “That’s what the story is about, and true love exists.”
“Romeo & Juliet, or Neil & Pat?” Axelrod laughed.
She laughed and said, “Both.”