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A native New Yorker, Patricia Andrzejewski was born in Greenpoint, Brooklyn on January 10, 1953 and raised in the nearby town of Lindenhurst on Long Island. She began her career as a lounge singer in Richmond, Virginia where she and her first husband, Dennis Benatar, a member of the U.S. Army, were stationed. While singing as part of a lounge band called Coxon's Army, Benatar released a regionally distributed independent single, 1974's "Day Gig," before relocating to New York City. During the latter half of the '70s, she built up her profile through regular nightclub appearances at the famed comedy club Catch a Rising Star while recording jingles on the side. By 1978, she'd attracted both management and label attention and soon signed a deal with Chrysalis Records. Around this same time, she and Dennis divorced, though she would continue to use his surname for the remainder of her career.
A stellar band formed around Benatar led by guitarist Neil Giraldo, a musician who became her primary collaborator and eventually her husband. She scored a hit right out of the gate with her 1979 debut In the Heat of the Night, which yielded two popular radio singles "Heartbreaker" and "I Need a Lover" (the latter of which was written by a then-unknown John Mellencamp). Benatar's mix of fiery rock songs and pop balladry presented a winning mix and her sophomore effort, 1980's Crimes of Passion, more than delivered on the debut's promise. A critical and commercial success, the album went multi-platinum behind hits like "Treat Me Right, "You Better Run," and her signature song, "Hit Me with Your Best Shot." A Grammy Award (the first of four) for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance further bolstered her rising star status ahead of 1981's Precious Time, her first U.S. chart-topper, and its lead single "Fire and Ice." Over the next few years, Benatar was a fixture of MTV and a leading arena headliner as evidenced by the 1983 live album Live from Earth, which was captured during the tour for her fourth LP, Get Nervous (1982). In addition to showcasing Benatar's dynamic live band, Live from Earth is also notable for the inclusion of the chart-topping studio track "Love Is a Battlefield." With 1984's Tropico, Benatar detoured into a softer pop sound and was rewarded when the soaring power ballad "We Belong" became a Top Five hit. Included on 1985's Seven the Hard Way, the hard-driving "Invincible" became another major hit and served as the theme song to the film The Legend of Billie Jean. Following 1988's Wide Awake in Dreamland, Chrysalis encapsulated Benatar's impressive first decade with the 1989 greatest-hits package Best Shots.
Heading into the '90s Benatar opted to shift musical gears and issue an album of blues and R&B, 1991's True Love, to mixed results. Two years later, 1993's Gravity's Rainbow was a return to rock form, but the momentum she'd carried throughout the '80s had more or less died and it proved to be her last effort for Chrysalis which was subsequently sold to EMI. With her commercial heyday behind her, Benatar's output slowed and after 1997's acoustic-driven Innamorata she remained relatively quiet for the next several years. A pair of archival releases, 1998's 8-15-80 and 1999's The King Biscuit Flower Hour Live, carried her into the 21st century.
Released in 2003, Go marked Benatar's return to both the studio and her trademark arena rock sound and she followed it with a substantial tour. After this her recorded output dropped off completely as she focused on occasional touring and the publication of her 2010 memoir Between a Heart and a Rock Place. Following that, she and Giraldo toured regularly, including a 35th Anniversary blow-out that began in 2014 and was commemorated with a 2015 live CD/DVD release, 35th Anniversary Tour. 2015 also saw the release of a Christmas single, "One December Night," Benatar's first new studio recording since 2003. While no new albums were forthcoming, she continued to release one-off singles including 2017's "Shine," written for the Women's March, and "Dancing Through the Wreckage," which appeared on the soundtrack to the documentary Served Like a Girl. ~ Timothy Monger & Greg Prato
A look at some of the biggest albums with the artists who recorded them