Adventures In Feministory: Pat Benatar
This is not new information: Pat Benatar rocks. It's so obvious, I know. Yet I felt compelled to write this week's Adventures In Feministory about Pat because, frankly, I did not know as much about her as I thought. My recent renewed transfixion with all things Benatar formed because of her current tour with another ridiculously awesome '80s lady rocker, Debbie Harry. The Call Me Invincible tour might as well have been formed literally from one of my daydreams because Benatar and Harry are two of my favorite musicians of all time. Benatar's music is timeless, eternally relevant and oozes with lady empowerment.
So when I started trolling the webs for all the information I could find about this rock idol of mine, I discovered I didn't know shit when it came to her story. Her mother was a former New York City Opera singer and Benatar grew up listening to a lot of Opera, singing in a lot of choirs and was even accepted to Juilliard for singing. But it wasn't what she wanted. She started a band in New York City and was "discovered" at an amateur night after singing a Judy Garland song. Harry Chapin (the "Cat's In The Cradle" song guy) cast her in his rock musical in 1976 and by 1978, after a headlining gig at Tramps in New York City, was signed to Chrysalis Records. She formed a stage persona, accidentally, by wearing a spandex Halloween costume on stage for one of her shows and is quoted as saying, ""Most chick singers say 'If you hurt me, I'll die'...I say, 'if you hurt me, I'll kick your ass." Thank goodness that kind of boldness didn't study the classics at Juilliard, huh?
Her heyday lasted from roughly 1979-1989. Originally Benatar's label intended for her to sing ballads, because she was female. Her third single (and my #1 karaoke jam) "Heartbreaker" quickly squashed that notion. Songs like "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" challenged the stereotype that women are constantly heartbroken when their manfriends leave them, as Benatar chalked one particular breakup up to "putting another notch in her lipstick case". She portrayed herself and all women as strong and able. She took on topics like child molestation and participated in gay pride celebrations. For the last 30 years she has been one of the most prominent women in rock, with 19 top 40 hits under her belt. And she's still going. In a 2003 interview with The Believer Benatar said, "If somebody told me I'd be getting up there and singing 'Heartbreaker' at fifty I'd laugh...how long could this possibly last, popularity-wise? I don't know what the hell I thought I would be doing but I didn't think it would be this. I'm surprised. I'm very happy. I feel grateful as shit that I still get to do it." So are we, Pat. So are we.
And as a bonus, here is a track from Benatar's 1982 album "Get Nervous", entitled "Anxiety (Get Nervous)". It was released as a single but didn't get big. I have no idea why, because I dare you to not have a dance party to this song. Even if it's just in your chair. Go for it!
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