Friday, August 14, 2015

Book: "Between a Heart and a Rock Place" by Pat Benatar

Pat Benatar's first album, "In the Heat of the Night," came out in 1979, just as I was graduating high school and starting university. To say it was a huge hit would be an understatement. She quickly became THE female rock star of the era -- lithe, sexy, fierce, and wow, what a voice!! As proof of her influence, her video of "You Better Run" (a cover of a 1960s Young Rascals song that was on one of the first albums my sister & I owned as kids) was the second video ever played on MTV (right after "Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Buggles).  

Much as I loved Benatar's music back in the day, I hadn't thought much about her lately -- until I recently watched a video clip where she and her husband/guitar player, Neil Giraldo (also known as "Spyder"), talk about the first time they met. (It was love at first sight.)  That reminded me that I had Benatar's 2010 memoir, "Between a Heart and a Rock Place," in my gargantuan to-read pile (the digital one, on my e-reader). I was looking for something light to read on my e-reader while waiting for SIL at a lengthy dental appointment recently -- and I finished it later the same day. (It's not a long nor difficult read.)  The meeting that Benatar describes in the video also forms the introduction of her book, and led to a partnership that has lasted more than 35 years.

Any respect I already had for Benatar was magnified by the time I finished reading this book. In some ways, this is not your typical celebrity/rock star memoir. There's rock & roll, for sure, but very little sex and no drugs -- she cheerfully admits she's boring. (Probably the biggest trouble she admits to getting into was as a teenager, when a clam boat she was on got into an accident and had to be towed by the Coast Guard, making her four hours late for supper.)

Benatar does, however, have plenty to say about her battles with the music industry, over everything from contracts to proper recognition for Giraldo's contributions to her albums to the blatant sexism she endured.  She clashed multiple times with the record company over the sex-kitten image they were determined to promote on her behalf, fended off invitations to sit on radio DJs' laps and was even chased around a piano by an ardent industry executive. She drove the label executives nuts by refusing to keep her romance with Giraldo a secret (female rock stars were supposed to project "availability"), and then getting pregnant. When Benatar started, radio stations wouldn't play two women singers back to back;  in the 1990s, she played some dates on Lilith Fair tours, where she proudly connected with a new generation of strong female music stars who had been inspired by her example.

Eventually, Benatar & Giraldo were able to take control of their career and use some hard-won lessons to their advantage. As Benatar herself says near the book's end, "While I made a pretty good rock star, I made an even better businesswoman."

Over a 35+-year career/professional partnership/marriage, Benatar & Giraldo have managed to stay focused on their music and on maintaining a normal family life. In later years, tours were limited to the summer months to accommodate their kids' school schedules.

Perhaps they value family so much because theirs was hard won. Yes -- what do you know???  Pat Benatar is "one of us." She does not mention fertility treatments, but she and Giraldo tried to have a baby for two years before their daughter Haley was born;  it took nine more years to conceive their second daughter, Hana, with an ectopic pregnancy in between.

Pat, you were a hero to me 35 years ago, and you're even more of a hero to me now that I've read your story. :)

This was book #20 that I've read to date in 2015 (which equals the total number of books I read in all of 2014!)


  1. I LOVE Pat Benetar! I'm not typically a memoir person, but I may just have to pick this one up!

  2. I just heard Invincible on the radio yesterday - Pat Benetar is the best! I had no idea she was such a rebel. She fit the sex-kitten image pretty well, but appearances can obviously be deceiving.