Patricia Mae Andrzejewski was born in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York City. Her Polish father, Andrew, was a sheet-metal worker, and her Irish mother, Mildred, a beautician. Her family later moved to North Hamilton Avenue in Lindenhurst, New York, a village within the Long Island town of Babylon.
Patti (as she was known) became interested in theater and began voice lessons, singing her first solo at age eight, at Daniel Street Elementary School, a song called "It Must Be Spring". At Lindenhurst Senior High School (1967-71), Benatar participated in musical theater, playing Queen Guinevere in the school production of Camelot, marching in the homecoming parade, singing at the annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, and performing a solo of "The Christmas Song" on a holiday recording of the Lindenhurst High School Choir her senior year.
Benatar was cut off from the rock scene in nearby Manhattan. Her musical training was strictly classical and theatrical.
Training as a coloratura with plans to attend the Juilliard School, Benatar surprised family, friends and teachers by deciding a classical career was not for her and pursued health education at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. At 19, after one year at Stony Brook, she dropped out to marry her high school sweetheart Dennis Benatar, an army draftee who trained at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and then served with the Army Security Agency at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, before being stationed at Fort Lee, Virginia. Specialist (E-4) Dennis Benatar was stationed there for three years, and Pat worked as a bank teller outside Richmond, Virginia.
In 1973, Benatar quit her job as a bank teller to pursue a singing career after being inspired by a Liza Minnelli concert she saw in Richmond. She got a job as a singing waitress at a flapper-esque nightclub named The Roaring Twenties and got a gig singing in lounge band Coxon's Army, a regular at Sam Miller's basement club. The band garnered enough attention to be the subject of a never-aired PBS special, and the band's bassist Roger Capps also would go on to be the original bass player for the Pat Benatar Band. The period also yielded Benatar's first and only single until her eventual 1979 debut on Chrysalis Records: "Day Gig" (1974), Trace Records, written and produced by Coxon's Army band leader Phil Coxon and locally released in Richmond. Her big break came in 1975 at an amateur night at the comedy club Catch a Rising Star in New York. Her rousing rendition of Judy Garland's "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody" earned her a call back by club owner Rick Newman, who would become her manager.
The couple headed back to New York following Dennis' discharge from the army, and Benatar went on to be a regular member at Catch A Rising Star for close to three years, until signing a record contract. She would eventually divorce Dennis Benatar in 1979. Catch A Rising Star was not the only break Benatar got in 1975. She landed the part of Zephyr in Harry Chapin's futuristic rock musical, The Zinger. The production, which debuted on March 19, 1976, at the Performing Arts Foundation's (PAF) Playhouse in Huntington Station, Long Island, ran for a month and also featured Beverly D'Angelo and Christine Lahti. Benatar noted: "I was 22 by the time I started to sing rock, so at first I was very conscious of technique and I was overly technical. That proved to be inhibiting so it was a disadvantage until I began to sing intuitively. That’s the only way to sing rock - from your gut level feelings. It's the instinct that the best singers have."
Halloween 1977 proved a pivotal night in Benatar's early, spandexed stage persona. Rather than change out of the costume she wore to a Halloween contest at the Cafe Figaro in Greenwich Village that evening, she went onstage at Catch a Rising Star in costume. Benatar said: "I was dressed as a character from this ridiculous B movie called Cat-Women of the Moon." Despite performing her usual array of songs, she received a standing ovation.
Between appearances at Catch a Rising Star and recording commercial jingles for Pepsi Cola and a number of regional concerns, she headlined New York City’s Tramps nightclub from March 29 - April 1, 1978, where her performance impressed representatives from several record companies. She was signed to Chrysalis Records by co-founder Terry Ellis the following week. Benatar recorded her first album, In the Heat of the Night, in June and July 1979.
She won an unprecedented four consecutive Grammy Awards for Best Female Rock Performance from 1980 to 1983 for her second LP, Crimes of Passion, and the songs "Fire and Ice", "Shadows of the Night", and "Love Is a Battlefield". Of the ten Grammy Award ceremonies in the 1980s, Benatar was nominated for Best Female Rock Performance eight times, including for "Invincible" in 1984, "Sex as a Weapon" in 1986, "All Fired Up" in 1988 and in 1989 for "Let's Stay Together".
She married guitarist and producer Neil Giraldo on 20 February 1982 at Hana, Hawaii. They have two daughters.
Benatar also earned Grammy Award nominations in 1984 for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female with "We Belong" and in 1986 for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Duo or Group as a member of Artists United Against Apartheid for their single, "Sun City". Benatar is also the winner of three American Music Awards: Favorite Female Pop/Rock Vocalist of 1981 and 1983, and Favorite Female Pop/Rock Video Artist of 1985.
Pat Benatar was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame at the Second Induction Award Ceremony and Fundraising Gala held October 30, 2008. ClearartWide ThumbFanart Banner User Comments