Of all the classic pop rock music from the 1980s, Pat Benatar's music is surely one of the most recognized. She was one of the few women in the rock and roll scene during that time, and she made a name for herself by performing gritty, rock-style music with a splash of pop. In recent years, she's made headlines by refusing to sing in concert one of her hit songs, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" to protest gun violence.
Recently, Benatar watched Billie Eilish's documentary, "The World's A Little Blurry", and was struck by how far women in the music industry have come. "It probably never occurred to (Billie) that she couldn't do it. That right there was everything. I don't even think it's in her lexicon of thought that 'I can't be this person.'", Benatar said.
Benatar grew up in a female-heavy household. She was taught from an early age that there was no difference between men and women. She learned once she made it into the world that the ideology she grew up on was not true in reality. "People were patting you on the head but they didn't mean it; they were lying. It was infuriating." Benatar said in an interview.
Her music greatly reflects her strong female-empowering presence. She was the first female artist to be played on MTV with the song "You Better Run". In a day and age where female artists have a blueprint that they stick to in order to become famous (i.e Britney Spears, Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift, etc.), Benatar was splashing onto the rock scene in an industry and genre controlled by men. Unlike most up-and-coming artists of the time, she preferred proving herself through her music rather than appearing on television music shows.
Unlike most female artists on the music scene, she wasn't parading around singing about lost love or being hurt by someone. She was a 26-year-old divorcee who didn't have time to throw pity parties in her lyrics. With songs like "Love Is A Battlefield" where she sings about a complicated relationship but provides a solid outcome about standing strong in solidarity. She also took bold steps in exploring controversial topics with songs like "Rated X" a raunchy track about a wild woman who explores the fantasy of bright lights and freedom.
However, Benatar wasn't like her other peers of the time. She wasn't edgy and punk like Joan Jett, not glamourous like Heart, not hippie-presenting like Stevie Nicks, or showcased masculine energy like Annie Lennox. She was an artist who used her platform as a creative who wanted people to listen to her music and lyrics. Someone who was proud of their work and didn't need other outlets and designs to make that known. She wasn't even technically "pop" as her hits were enhanced by guitarist Neil Giraldo's heavy sounds. She won the Grammy for best female rock vocal performance for four years in a row, from 1980 to 1983.
Benatar was recently announced to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in November of 2022. Having 15 songs on the Billboard Hot 100's Top 40 list and earning six platinum albums over the decades, it seems like it is well overdue for such recognition. With a long and successful career, many notable hits, and an iconic voice and sound, she will leave a lasting legacy in an industry she worked so hard to be a part of, inspiring other women to believe they can too.
Written by Gabrielle Thompson