With a career spanning decades, Pat Benatar is one of rock’s leading ladies. Here’s a review of Pat Benatar’s Between A Heart and a Rock Place.
I have enjoyed Pat Benatar’s powerhouse vocals ever since I was a young girl. I was introduced to her music by FM radio and my older sister, Sarah, who happened to own a copy of Benatar’s 1980 album, Crimes of Passion, on vinyl. That album has the distinction of being the very first one I ever purchased with my own money. I bought it at a local discount store, having walked there all by myself. I took the record home and played it over and over again. Pat Benatar’s music was a big part of the soundtrack of my youth. I was excited when I saw her 2010 memoir Between a Heart and a Rock Place for sale on Amazon.com. I managed to finish it within a couple of days.
Benatar starts at the beginning, writing about her upbringing in Lindenhurst, Long Island in a close-knit Polish-Irish family. She took to music early and caught the attention of choir teachers in her local school district. Because she had an extraordinary voice from an early age, she took voice lessons. She set her sights on attending Juilliard and becoming an opera singer. Her voice was supposedly not unlike Julie Andrews’. But then Pat fell in love with her first husband, Dennis Benatar, and temporarily abandoned her music dreams in favor of a brief stint in college. She decided she’d teach sex ed.
Dennis Benatar was a draftee in the Army and when Pat married him, she became an Army wife. She was moved to South Carolina and Virginia and she eventually took jobs working in banks. She was good at the work, but still wanted to sing. After seeing Liza Minnelli perform at the Richmond Coliseum, Pat’s desire to be a singer was rekindled. She took a job as a singing waitress in Richmond. Later, when Dennis got out of the Army, they moved back to New York and Pat started singing regularly at a club called Catch A Rising Star.
It wasn’t long before Pat Benatar’s star began to rise. She found a manager and assembled a band. She recorded some songs and soon met the man who would become her star guitarist and husband, Neil Giraldo. Pat Benatar refers to him as “Spyder”. Though their relationship was initially professional, Pat eventually divorced Dennis Benatar and married Spyder. They have two daughters, Haley and Hana, and have been married since 1982.
One thing I like to do before and after I read a book is check out what other people have to say about them. Many folks on Amazon.com seemed to think Pat Benatar’s life story is dull and boring. I didn’t feel that way at all. It’s true that as rock stars go, Pat Benatar has led a pretty straight-laced lifestyle. She doesn’t smoke, drink, do drugs, or have random sex with other celebrities. She doesn’t have a lot of juicy gossip to share with readers. What she does have is a story about her time pioneering rock music as a woman. Back in the dark ages of the 1980s, there weren’t a whole lot of female rock stars. Benatar was expected to be sexy and sultry, even though she wasn’t really like that. She had to deal with a lot of sexism.
Benatar writes a lot about her dealings with her first label, Chrysalis, which was co-founded by Briton Terry Ellis. I was interested in reading about Ellis because I read Ray Coleman’s 1994 book The Carpenters: The Untold Story, which revealed that Ellis had dated Karen Carpenter. Coleman wrote a lot about their relationship and why it eventually failed. I got the impression that Terry Ellis was “fun” and liked to go out on the town. Pat Benatar’s comments about Ellis were far from complimentary. They had a strictly business relationship and Ellis apparently overworked her and treated her like a sex object. He even told her that people don’t go to a Pat Benatar concert to hear her sing! What?!!
Aside from the business aspect of her music career, Benatar also writes about working with her husband, who is quite the musical genius. She comes across as very down-to-earth and family oriented. I got the sense that I would like Pat Benatar as a person. Benatar also includes color photos, which were fun to look at. I particularly enjoyed the photo of her daughters, born nine years apart. They look like they could be twins! Benatar was a very devoted mother to them and writes of getting them tickets to see Miley Cyrus, N-Sync, and other teen oriented acts. She’s charming as she explains that just like every other mom, she’s been to her share of teeny bopper concerts!
Benatar also has a special love for a place in Hawaii. She writes lovingly of Hana, a small town in Maui, where she and Spyder got married and eventually built a home. Her description of the place makes me want to visit. It sounds heavenly.
I really enjoyed Between a Heart and a Rock Place and would recommend it to anyone who likes to read memoirs about rock stars. Don’t read it expecting to read juicy gossip, though. Read it to learn about an extraordinary and dynamic woman’s rise to the top in a male oriented business. Pat Benatar is a great role model for young women. I’m proud to endorse her book.
Pat Benatar sings “Heartbreaker” in 2001.