Patricia Mae Andrzejewski on January 10, 1953 in Brooklyn, New York
Of Polish and Irish descent, Andrzejewski grew up on Long Island, where the influence of her mother led her to study operatic vocal styles. After graduation in 1971, she married her high school sweetheart, from whom she gleaned the familiar name Benatar, and worked for an unsatisfying while as a bank teller. Relocation to New York City by the mid '70s brought an increase in gigs and a move toward the arena rock style Benatar would become known for. A notable performance at a local club in 1977 soon earned the singer a record deal with Chrysalis. At once Benatar was poised to become a major musical icon of the '80s.
With record deal in hand, Benatar enjoyed immediate success upon the 1979 release of her debut album, In the Heat of the Night. Her first single, "Heartbreaker," quickly established the fierce, tough but distinctly female persona that would characterize the most successful phase of Benatar's career throughout the first half of the '80s. The singer's follow-up LP, Crimes of Passion, was the exact opposite of a sophomore slump, increasing Benatar's exposure and netting her first Top 10 pop hit in the unforgettable "Hit Me With Your Best Shot."
Benatar Maximizes MTV Visibility:
With the launch of MTV in August 1981, Benatar was perfectly positioned to benefit in a big way. With her second album still spawning hits and her third release, Precious Time, waiting in the wings, the singer had a storehouse of songs and video clips she was more than happy to supply to the fledgling cable network. "You Better Run," in fact, was the second video shown on MTV, and the image of the attractive, short-haired, yet utterly feminine Benatar became one of the most distinctive visual cues of the early-'80s rock music landscape.
Personal & Professional Peak:
1982 was a banner year for Benatar, as she married her guitarist and collaborator, Neil Girardo, in February, embarking upon a public and private relationship that (amazingly, for show business) is still going strong today. On a professional level, Benatar released another smash album in 1982's Get Nervous and thereby unleashed a string of her finest and most popular singles, starting with that year's "Shadows of the Night." The singer remained highly vital in 1983 and 1984, registering two brilliant Top 10 hits in the pop/rock hybrids "Love Is a Battlefield" and "We Belong."
Slow & Graceful Descent:
Benatar's success began to wane by 1985 but in a far from drastic way. In fact, the difference between her early-'80s career and her continuing efforts later in the decade can perhaps be summed up by noting that she won Grammy Awards consecutively from 1980-1983 but was only a nominee later on. So, Benatar's decline was a matter of slim degree, as she continued to experience success if a bit more mildly and sporadically. The singer's last major hit of her career, in fact, came in 1989, as "All Fired Up" cracked the Billboard Top 20. It was a chart swan song, but Benatar wouldn't go away entirely.
Continuing Career & Pop Culture Relevance:
More than a quarter-century after she burst on the scene as a gritty hard rock goddess, Benatar continues to write, tour and record with husband Giraldo. Also, through the years she has enjoyed numerous television appearances and flurries of renewed interest in her music and career. Even if it remains a relatively tiny niche, I guess there's always a place for a talented, strong and photogenic woman in rock music. Fortunately, the quality of much of Benatar's material makes it entirely justified that she enjoyed such a solid position within the fabric of the visuals-obsessed '80s music scene.