Here’s another reposted Epinions book review from December 2013. It appears as/is!
Ever since I was a little knothead in Virginia I have admired rock star Pat Benatar. In fact, the very first record I ever purchased with my own money was a copy of Crimes of Passion (1980). I remember struggling to save up about $8, walking down the busy highway next to my house to Murphy’s Mart, and handing over the crumpled bills for that album, which I then proceeded to play over and over again for years. Thinking back on it, times were very different in the early 80s. Anyway, I have always liked Pat Benatar’s music, so I decided to download her 2010 book Between a Heart and a Rock Place: A Memoir. Pat Benatar wisely wrote this book with ghost writer Patsi Bale Cox.
Benatar starts at the beginning, writing about her upbringing in New York, a tiny girl of Polish and Irish extraction among exotice Italian girls in Lindenhurst, Long Island. Early on, she had an interest in music and thanks to dedicated music teachers in her school system, got classical training early. She had a German voice teacher who taught her how to use her voice properly and had her singing like Julie Andrews. But she wanted to rock and roll.
Originally, Pat Benatar wanted to teach sex ed. But teaching sex ed was not her destiny. She dropped out of college after a semester and married her high school sweetheart, Dennis Benatar, who had joined the Army. They moved to South Carolina and Virginia, two states near and dear to my heart. Pat took up a brief career as a bank teller and was actually pretty good at the work. But again, she wanted to rock and roll. A singing waitress job in Richmond got her started and before long, she moved back to New York City and began singing at Catch a Rising Star, a club for up and coming singers. She was soon on her way to rock and roll.
It wasn’t long before someone in the music business noticed Pat’s powerhouse pipes and she soon found herself with a band. She met her husband, Neil Giraldo, when he came to audition for her band. Benatar explains that she was immediately attracted to her guitar playing husband, a man she nicknamed Spyder. She and Benatar divorced and pretty soon, one of the first ladies of rock was on her way to stardom. She eventually married Giraldo in 1982. They are still married and have two daughters, Haley and Hana.
I really enjoyed reading Pat Benatar’s story. Looking on Amazon.com, I see a lot of folks criticized this book for being “boring”. That’s funny, because I didn’t find it boring at all. Benatar does write a lot about the music business, particularly her dealings with Chrysalis Records, the label who issued her first releases. I was especially interested in what she wrote about the label’s co-founder, Terry Ellis. I had read about him in Ray Coleman’s The Carpenters: The Untold Story: An Authorized Biography. Terry Ellis had dated Karen Carpenter and Coleman had dished quite a bit about their relationship. He’d made the British record producer sound like he was charming and fun, which was part of the reason he and Karen didn’t work out (Karen was more of a homebody, while Ellis liked to go out on the town). Pat Benatar’s thoughts about Ellis were not complimentary at all. Their relationship was all about business and apparently, Ellis was very sexist and apparently told Pa that no one came to a Pat Benatar concert to hear her sing… (REALLY???)
Apparently, the contract Benatar had with Chrysalis was brutal. The record company demanded albums in quick succession, whether the band was ready to record or not. Pat Benatar and her band worked very hard in the 1980s and apparently were treated like indentured servants by Chrysalis. When Pat got pregnant, she had to deal with a lot of flak from the record company. The powers that be wanted her to project a sexy vixen-like image, while she felt that wasn’t who she really was. It really gives readers a look at the downside of being a rock star.
Aside from her dealings with Chrysalis, Pat Benatar writes a lot about her love for her family, especially her husband and daughters. She writes about how she and Giraldo discovered Hana, Hawaii, a beautiful, off the beaten path town in Maui. The two were married there and later built a home there, where they were neighbors with Kris Kristofferson.
I am myself a singer, so I also appreciated Benatar’s commentary on singing. I learned something I never knew when Benatar wrote about her first pregnancy. Apparently, pregnancy makes your long muscles relax. Since vocal chords are “long muscles” according to Pat, she found that when she was pregnant, she was able to do things vocally that she never could do before. That almost makes me want to go out and get pregnant, just so I can find out for myself. Unfortunately, at age 41, I’m afraid that ship might have sailed.
This book includes color photos, which I appreciated. There’s one shot of her two daughters, nine years apart in age. They look like they could be twins. By the way, I loved reading about Pat Benatar’s devotion as a wife and a mother. She comes across as very family oriented and grounded. I also loved that she wrote that while she is a very political person, she doesn’t use her status as a rock star to promote her political views. I think that’s a smart policy and I appreciate it.
I like Pat Benatar’s music and I think I would like her as a person, too. I understand that some readers might have picked up this book hoping for juicy stories about celebrities or crazy stories about sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Between a Heart and a Rock Place is not that kind of book; which, in my view, makes it refreshing. Pat Benatar is a hard working woman who has taken good care of herself. So she didn’t do drugs, smoke, drink, or screw her way to the top… that doesn’t make her boring, folks. It makes her smart.
I recommend this book, but only if you want to read about someone who is a worthy role model for young women. Don’t read it looking for cheap gossip.
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