Patricia Mae Andrzejewski was born in Brooklyn, New York, on January 10, 1953. An intricate medley of bloodlines runs through her veins and it will soon change into a explosive mixture.
Paternal ancestors were Polish and arrived to United States at the end of the nineteenth century from Krakow and Warsaw. Maternal ancestors were of English, German and Irish extractions and got to America in the 1600s.
Pat spent the first years of her life in Lindenhurst, Long Island, where she led a happy childhood in spite of the not so wealthy condition of the family. Her father, Andrew Andrzejewski, worked at the Dayton T.Brown Sheet Metal Works, where later was promoted to the rank of foreman. Her mother, Mildred Knapp, worked until the middle of the sixties for electronics plant and then opened a beautician’s shop.
Mildred already had the desire to become a singer. She sang in the New York’s opera chorus. But she got married and the pregnancy took her away from her dream. Maybe this is the reason why Pat was never discouraged by her family to study music. She began singing in the Primary School taking part in community projects and in the church choir.
She studied at junior high school and continued in the senior high school.
Here she met G.I. Dennis Benatar who became her husband when she was 19 years old. The couple moved to Richmond, Virginia, where Pat worked as a bank clerk. At night she moonlighted as a singer in restaurants and local clubs. The return of the couple in New York in 1975 will be soon followed by their separation.
In this period she had her first cabaret experiences in Long Island, until Pat was engaged in “The Zinger”, a sci-fi musical created by Harry Chapin, in which she performed the role of Zephir and sang “Shooting star” (included in “Synchronistic Wanderings”). The following passage to the cabaret circuit in Manhattan forced Pat to change the classical pitch of her voice with the purpose to sing more pop and rock in her set.
In the meantime she met Rick Newman, founder of “Catch a rising star”, a club on the Upper East Side of New York that featured singers and actors and that was an incubator for many great talents such as Billy Crystal and Robin Williams.
Pat Benatar and Robin Williams at The Catch a Rising Star 10th anniversary.
Here Pat gained the chance to perform a repertory that regularly received a fairly good success. In October of 1977, something extraordinary happened when Pat was invited to a fancy-dress party for Halloween. The vampire dress that she wore, magically, changed her life. That night at “Catch a rising star” she went on stage with that costume with a lot of black eyeliner, a short black top and black tights. The audience went into ecstasies. For the first time her strong voice that was able to reach an amplitude of four octaves, matched with a look as much vigorous.
With this new key the impact of the show increased so much that Terry Ellis and Chris Wright of Chrysalis Record decided to produce Pat Benatar under their label.
In 1978 Pat still hadn’t got a permanent band, so the producer Mike Chapman undertook to find a musician arranger able to assemble a standing band. Chapman was suggested to hire Neil Giraldo, known as Spyder, who was member of several bands, such as the one of Rick Derringer.
Born from Sicilian parents on December 29,1955, in Cleveland, Ohio, Neil Thomas Giraldo was the right person at the right time.
The spark that flashed between Pat and Neil was explosive and marked in a completely positive way the future of the couple. Neil’s amazing talent for composition showed itself with the song “We live for love” that in 1980 quickly climbed the American charts. The first album “In the heat of the night” (1979) hit a success Pat and the band were at the beginning completely unaware of. The album caught the multiplatinum status also thanks to the other winning singles “Heartbreaker” and “You better run”.
In August of 1980, Benatar released her second album “Crimes of passion”. The leading singles “Hit me with your best shot” and “Treat me right” enabled Pat to win the Grammy Award as best female rock voice at the twenty third Annual Grammy Award. This was only the first of four Grammy’s that Pat received in four consecutive years and that introduced her at a world-wide level. The following albums “Precious time” (1981), with Neil Giraldo for the first time also as a producer, and “Get nervous” (1982) sold millions copies.
At the height of the success, exactly on February 20, 1982, Pat and Neil sealed that sparkle, shot between them 4 years before, with their wedding celebrated in the Hawaian island of Maui. Their sentimental relationship was significant for their future musical choice. The strong liaison began to generate tensions with the label that was resolute to manipulate the public image of the singer. The rock background at that time was distinctly dominated by a male chauvinist hierarchy and Pat Benatar was the first able to break the scheme.
The impression she transmitted intended to place herself on the same level as her bandmates, with no intention of dominating the others and at the same time without resulting the sexual female fantasy so much acclaimed in those days. The Chrysalis directed her efforts to present the singer with a more aggressive and sexy style, a look that Benatar could accept when she was a single divorced. But in Pat’s opinion rock is something that has to express your way of being, your feelings; so her great affection for Neil, the marriage and her desire to create a family had changed her life.
In this sense the album “Get nervous”, in which the tension with Terry Ellis of Chrysalis reached the peak, represented a crossroad.
In this phase “Live from earth” (1983), her first live album, was released. It had been recorded in France and California during the 1982-1983 tour. The record includes one of the best singles in the singer’s career, “Love is a battlefield”, supported by a video directed by Bob Giraldi and aired on the already reigning musical television network MTV.
1984 was a very lucky year: Pat got pregnant with her first daughter, Haley Egeana, who was born on February 16, 1985. The couple spent 8 months working on the following album with a new relaxed and happy spirit. “Tropico” (1984) reflects without any doubt the new sensations and will come out as one of the most melodic records in her career. The sublime “Painted desert” and the well-known “We belong” are an appropriate example. “Tropico” was a jump in quality because of innovation in the arrangement and of musical dynamic, from which Pat’s vocal potentiality drew all the possible benefits.
December of 1985 is marked by two happenings, Pat joining the “Sun city” project, that put together 50 artists against apartheid, and the release of the album “Seven the hard way”, with new tensions with the label. Noteworthy are the winning singles “Invincible”, theme from the movie “The legend of Billie Jean”, and the sweet “Run between the raindrops”, that some years later will be represented in an admirable live version in “Synchronistic Wanderings”.
The following album “Wide awake in dreamland” was released in 1988 and rapidly reached the gold status thanks to masterpieces such as “All fired up” and the tribute to Bob Marley “One love (song of the lion)”. The new creative strength of the record, directly generated in the Spyder’s Soul Kitchen, the studio Neil and Pat had in their home in South California, was a stimulus to try new roads.
So they had the idea of conceiving a blues album, and with the joint effort of The Roomful of blues rhythm session in 1991 “True love” was released. It’s an unique event in Pat Benatar’s career, very different from the former records musical styles and from the ones to come, but it enhanced a lot her vocal talent. “True love” certainly represented an example of retro-swing music ahead of time and that later gained ground in all the nation. The album got the gold status, the fourth for Pat Benatar.
Two years later, “Gravity’s rainbow” (1993) re-proposed a modernization of the sound. The record, that was the last act with Chrysalis, didn’t achieve the commercial success the former records did, but it was appreciated by critics for intense songs such as “Somebody’s baby”, “Every time I fall back” and “Kingdom key”.
On March 12, 1994, the second daughter of the couple, Hana Juliana, was born, and after a rest planned for the happy event, Pat and Neil come back to perform on stage in Japan, Australia and United States. They played with such bands as The Fleetwood Mac and The Steve Miller Band.
In 1997 Pat drew up an agreement with a new label, CMC International, for the release of “Innamorata”. The title reflects the contemplative nature of the love songs included in it, among the beautiful “Strawberry Wine” stands out. The promotion of the record is also supported by a Fall solo club tour featuring a set that allows the audience to appreciate the artist in a more intimate way.
In 1999, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary from Pat Benatar’s first appearance on musical scene, “Synchronistic Wanderings” was released, the only one among the innumerable compilations that should never be absent in the hands of a Pat fan. It’s a collection of 3 cd’s including many previously unreleased songs. Pat and Neil drew on their private collection unpublished live recordings, songs from soundtracks, B-sides and rarities never recorded on cd.
Six years will pass from “Innamorata” to see the release of the last original album “Go” (2003) with the label Bel Chiasso. The couple had already included a taste of the new record in the DVD “Summer vacation tour”, which came out in 2002 and featured four new songs, alternated with amazing acoustic versions of “We belong” and “Love is a battlefield”. “Go” offers a right balance between vigorous songs typical of Pat’s early years such as “I won’t” and “Go” itself, and melodic pop ballads such as “Please don’t leave me” and “Brokenhearted”.
At the moment Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo live in Hawaii Islands. Throughout the years they tenaciously achieved a precious balance between family and pressures from record industry. Now they can dedicate their life to what they adore: to continue performing on stage.
Long Island Sound Award
Brookhaven Amphitheater June 29, 2005
For outstanding contributions to Long Island's Musical Heritage
On October 30th, 2008, Pat Benatar received the honour to be inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. It's an organization that wants inspire in each person the desire to explore and celebrate music in all its form and arises from the purpose to preserve the Long Island's music for future generations.
Other artists honored included Billy Joel, Barbra Streisand, Simon and Garfunkel, Cindy Lauper and Mariah Carey.
The following are the Pat's remarks on the occasion of the event:
My parents moved from Brooklyn to Long Island in 1956 when I was 3 yrs. old. They had dreams of a better life for our family. That was exactly what we had. 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, marching in the Lindenhurst High School Homecoming Parade,mostly in the rain....:-) and singing with the high school choir at the annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony.
We were a working class family, as was most of our neighborhood .....I think ONE family had a "nice" car. We didn't have much, and my father and mother's paychecks never seemed to equal the stack of bills on the kitchen table, but we had a great life. Lots of love and laughs.
Because I watched my neighborhood struggle, I learned all about the work ethic. I learned that nobody was going to hand you anything,and if you worked hard, ANYTHING was possible. But mostly I learned to be happy with what I had and who I was. So, my ambition was pure.......I wasn't running away from my life......I was simply following my dreams.
I believe that my upbringing shaped the person I was able to become and the values and ideals I learned back in my hometown kept me grounded when my life changed forever. I've never forgotten where I came from, in fact, I bring my husband and children there regularly so they can experience what I reminisce about, first hand. I know I have been blessed......I never forget that a small town girl from Lindenhurst, LI actually got the chance to live her dreams and share those dreams with so many people. For that, I am forever grateful. Thank you so much for this honor, I will cherish it always. And one more thing......Long Island girls ROCK!!!