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Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo & Rick Springfield
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Pat Benatar, she’s always been a rule-breaker and a trail-blazer, she remains a bold and distinctive artist both on stage and on record, and now, after more than three decades in rock ‘n’ roll, she’s a bonafide living legend.
A four-time Grammy winner, Benatar is a classically trained mezzo-soprano. During the 1980s, Benatar had two RIAA-certified Multi-Platinum albums, five RIAA-certified Platinum albums, three RIAA-certified Gold albums and 19 Top 40 singles, including the Top 10 hits, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, “Love Is a Battlefield”, “We Belong” and “Invincible”. During the early days of MTV Benatar was one of the most heavily played artists on the popular music channel. Her hits continue to be as unforgettable now as they were at the dawn of MTV, when Pat emerged, fearless, fighting and forging a path for other female rock stars around the world.
Born Patricia Andrzejewski in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Lindenhurst, Long Island, Pat started singing in elementary school and never stopped, working on her craft throughout her teens. At 19, after six months in college, she dropped out to marry her high school sweetheart Dennis Benatar, an army draftee who trained at Fort Jackson, South. The couple would eventually divorce, in 1979.
In 1973, Benatar quit her job as a bank teller to pursue a singing career full time after being inspired by a concert she saw in Richmond, VA. She got a gig singing with a local lounge band called Coxon’s Army, who soon became regulars at Sam Miller’s Café, in the historic Shockhoe Slip and well known in and around Richmond. In 1975, just as Coxon’s Army was about to break, and against the advice of everyone involved, Benatar quit the band. She packed everything she owned into her car and headed back to NYC alone, with only $2500.00 in her pocket. And she never looked back.
One night in 1975, Benatar decided to try an open mic night at Catch a Rising Star. She was 27th in line to go on and didn’t hit the stage until 2:00am. Benatar’s rendition of Judy Garland’s “Rock A Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody” sent the crowd reeling. Hearing the room explode, the owner of the club, Rick Newman, rushed in to see who could possibly be commanding such a response from the room. He watched the rest of the performance, and when the band was finished, Newman approached Benatar and demanded, ”Who ARE you?” Thus began their relationship as manager and artist; a working relationship which would continue for nearly 15 years.
Catch a Rising Star was not the only break Benatar got in 1975. She also landed the part of Zephyr in The Zinger, Harry Chapin’s off Broadway, futuristic rock musical. The production, which debuted on March 19, 1976, at the Performing Arts Foundation’s (PAF) Playhouse in Huntington Station, Long Island, ran for one month and also featured Beverly D’Angelo and Christine Lahti.
Halloween, 1977, proved a pivotal night in Benatar’s career. Earlier in the evening, she’d dressed up as a character from the cult sci-fi movie “Cat Women of the Moon” and headed with friends down to Café Figaro in the Village. She entered the clubs costume contest…and won. To celebrate, the group all went back uptown to their haunt, Catch a Rising Star and performed in costume. Despite performing her usual array of songs, she received a standing ovation.
It was not her first, but she knew that this spandexed stage persona was a hit. So she repeated the look again the next night and received the same reaction from the crowd. As the nights went by, the outfits were tweaked a bit, the spandex was modified, and the signature look that everyone came to know, was born.
In 1978, in between appearances at Catch a Rising Star and recording commercial jingles for Pepsi Cola, Benatar headlined New York City’s Tramps nightclub, where her performance impressed representatives from several record companies. She was signed to Chrysalis Records by co-founder Terry Ellis. In the spring of 1979, producer and writer, Mike Chapman, introduced Benatar to Neil Giraldo, an up and coming guitarist. Giraldo began his career in 1978, as a key member of the Rick Derringer band, after beating out 200 other guitarists for the position. Chapman felt Benatar needed a musical director and partner who could establish a more aggressive sound and thought Giraldo was the perfect choice. In Giraldo, Benatar found someone as strong as her, someone who could match the same fire-power, someone who could inspire her, while being inspired by her. Their connection was instantaneous… It was indeed, a perfect fit.
In the Heat of the Night, was recorded in June and July 1979. This was the first time the world was introduced to Giraldo and Benatar’s enduring partnership and their rock ‘n’ roll love affair. In The Heat Of The Night, which included the classic “Heartbreaker”, as well as the Giraldo-penned hit, “We Live For Love”, went platinum.
1980 Grammy winning album, Crimes of Passion, saw Giraldo arranging, playing guitar and keyboards and providing vocals on many of the songs. The album included “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and reached quintuple platinum while giving Pat her first Top 10, million selling hit. The following year, Benatar and Giraldo cemented their place in music history forever, by being the first female and first guitarist, respectively, to ever appear on MTV, with the video for “You Better Run”.
The duo continued in 1981 with Precious Time, which had Giraldo officially on board as producer and arranger; as well as guitar, keyboards and vocals. Precious Time delivered a second Grammy for Benatar, for the lead single, “Fire and Ice”, and went double platinum, outdoing its predecessor by hitting #1. These achievements cemented the Giraldo/Benatar partnership as an increasingly unstoppable force in the music industry.
Of the ten Grammy Award ceremonies in the 1980s, Benatar was nominated nine times; for “We Belong” and “Invincible” in 1984, “Sex as a Weapon” in 1986, “All Fired Up” in 1988 and in 1989 for “Let’s Stay Together”. 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”.
Other platinum albums followed. The team repeated their musical arrangement on Get Nervous in 1982, which featured yet another Top Five hit and Grammy-winner, Shadows of the Night.
1983’s Live From Earth boasted the million selling Gold single, “Love Is A Battlefield”. The single peaked at Number 5 in the US, winning Benatar another Grammy along the way. 1984’s Tropico shined its spotlight on the Top Five as well, charting the Grammy-nominated “We Belong”.
In 1985 Seven The Hard Way would hit the US Top 10 with the #10 single “Invincible” which also became the theme for the movie, The Legend of Billie Jean. “Sex As a Weapon” would climb as high as #28 in January of 1986. The album earned an RIAA Gold certification.
In 1988, Benatar released her 8th album, Wide Awake in Dreamland, primarily recorded in Giraldo’s studio, which spun off the Top 20 hit “All Fired Up.” The album earned her yet another Grammy nomination for “Let’s Stay Together” in 1989. In 1991 came the blues/swing-inspired True Love album, followed in 1993 by the critically-acclaimed Gravity’s Rainbow.
In 1997, Pat released Innamorata on the CMC International label. Then in 1998, further celebrating Benatar’s live prowess, 8-18-80, a live recording of a concert at the Old Waldorf in San Francisco, was released.
In 1999, Benatar and Giraldo opened their private vaults and compiled an extensive three-CD collection, Synchronistic Wanderings: Recorded Anthology 1979-1999. This impressive set includes songs from soundtracks (including Speed), contributions to tribute projects and benefits, previously unreleased live recordings, outtakes and demos, B- sides, and rarities never before available on CD.
In the summer of 2001, Benatar and Giraldo released a thrilling live CD and DVD. The CD, Summer Vacation Soundtrack Live, and the DVD, Summer Vacation Live, featured a 90-minute concert filmed at the Grove Theatre in Anaheim, California. In addition, they debuted four new songs (“I Won’t,” “Girl,” “Out Of The Ruins,” and “Please Don’t Leave Me”) as well as previously unrecorded acoustic versions of “We Belong” and “Love Is A Battlefield.” Summer Vacation Live DVD also included behind the scenes footage and exclusive interviews.
In August 2003, Benatar released Go, her first album of new songs in seven years. Benatar described the record as a “contemporary guitar-driven record” and “the natural progression of where we should be”.
After being inducted into the Long Island Hall of Fame in 2008, Benatar released her long-awaited autobiography in 2010, the appropriately-titled Between a Heart and a Rock Place – which allowed the world a fascinating glimpse into the life and times of one of the most beloved female rock ‘n’ roll icons of all time.
Pat Benatar is acknowledged as the leading female rock vocalist of the ‘80s – a feat marked by her unprecedented winning of four consecutive Grammy Awards between 1980 and 1983, as well as three American Music Awards – but Benatar and Giraldo remain a rock ‘n’ roll powerhouse today, selling out concerts and still wowing audiences after over three decades in music together. Theirs is a chemistry that will, undoubtedly, be thrilling music-lovers forever.
Neil “Spyder James” Giraldo, has been a professional musician, producer, arranger and songwriter for over four decades now, changing the face of the pop charts throughout the 1980s with his collaborator, muse and wife, Pat Benatar. More than just an explosive steel-bending guitar player, Giraldo’s innovative vision helped him create the signature Benatar sound, from its inception.
His impressive back catalog includes more than 100 songs written, produced, arranged and recorded for Benatar, as well as many hits he helped create for John Waite, Rick Springfield (Number One, Grammy-winning classic “Jessie’s Girl” and Top Ten hit “I’ve Done Everything For You” included), Kenny Loggins (Top Twenty hit “Don’t Fight It” – also Grammy-nominated), Steve Forbert, The Del Lords, Beth Hart and countless others.Also scored/composed music for films “Nailed” “Smile”.
Giraldo began his career in 1978, as a key member of the Rick Derringer band, after beating out 200 other guitarists for the position. It wasn’t long before Rick discovered Neil’s piano-playing prowess and quickly put those skills to work in the studio as well, while recording Guitars and Women.
In the spring of 1979, producer and writer, Mike Chapman, introduced Giraldo to an up and coming singer who had recently signed to Chrysalis Records. While impressed with the young vocalist, Chapman felt she needed a musical partner who could establish a more aggressive sound. The vocalist was, of course, Pat Benatar and, in Giraldo she found someone as strong as her, someone who could match the same fire-power, someone who could inspire, while being inspired by her.
Shortly afterwards, the world was introduced to Giraldo and Benatar’s enduring partnership and rock ‘n’ roll love affair via her platinum 1979 debut album, In The Heat Of The Night, which included the classic “Heartbreaker”, as well as the Giraldo-penned hit, “We Live For Love”.
The following year, Benatar and Giraldo cemented their place in music history forever, by being the first female and first guitarist, respectively, to ever appear on MTV, with the video for “You Better Run”, taken from 1980’s Crimes of Passion – an album that also included the Grammy-winning, gold-certified single, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”.
1981’s Precious Time outdid its predecessor and with Giraldo now officially at the helm as producer, it delivered a second Grammy for Benatar. The Giraldo/Benatar partnership continued to be an increasingly unstoppable force with Get Nervous, which featured yet another Grammy-winner, Shadows of the Night.
After their wedding in 1982, the pair released their biggest hit yet with the Grammy-winning “Love Is a Battlefield”, taken from the Live From Earth album, which featured Giraldo’s most innovative production to date, creating a thundering, rock ‘n’ roll soundscape out of what had started as a somber, acoustic demo.
They closed off the decade with 1989’s True Love – an ahead of its time, ultra-stylized recording for the contemporary market, inspired by the sound of the Count Basie Band – one of Giraldo’s piano-playing idols – and by the Big Joe Turner/Roomful of Blues record, 1984’s Blues Train.
Thus, Giraldo and Benatar took over radios, TVs, jukeboxes, turntables and car stereos around the world, throughout the 1980s and beyond, exciting fans and selling millions of copies of their twelve original albums, as well as two live records and an anthology.
Neil Giraldo was born in 1955 in Cleveland, Ohio. Eternally immersed in the Sicilian culture of their ancestry, parents Anthony and Angela bought Neil his first guitar at the age of six, in the hope that he and big sister Priscilla might serenade the family with songs from the old country. Neil’s Uncle Tim, who was only four years older, had different ideas, however, and introduced Neil to bands like The Yardbirds, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones and all the other great guitar-driven rock ‘n’ roll bands of the 1960s. It was a move that was to change Neil’s path forever.
Finding new and innovative ways to shadow path his way into songs, Giraldo formed a habit early on of, not just playing along with his favorite artists, but writing different parts for himself within those tracks. At the same time, the budding guitar wizard also became proficient on piano by playing along to Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis records, and played drums to Simon & Garfunkel albums to explore how different rhythms could change the complexion of the songs. These were habits and practices that would go on to give Benatar’s biggest hits – like “Love is a Battlefield” and “We Belong” – their truly unique identity.
Today, Giraldo’s career is as dynamic as ever. He is in the process of completing two books – one an auto-biographical novel, and a motivational book on the psychology of creating.A collection of original songs written for a Holiday/Christmas record featuring guest artists is scheduled for release later in 2017.He is further expanding his Bel Chiasso entertainment company which develops a variety of television and film projects.Hopes to have 2 screenplays completed by the end of this year as well as scoring/composing new film directed by Jeff Kramer “The Same Sky” which is currently in pre production .His collaboration with long time friend Scott Kempner from the “del Lords”/”dictators” has begun work on new record.Produced,along with Linda Perry,new song “Shine” for Benatar.New material for Benatar/Giraldo should be coming later in 2017.
Over the past three decades, Rick Springfield has worn many hats as an entertainer and performer. The creator of some of the finest power-pop of the ’80s, he’s a Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, and musician who has sold 25 million albums and scored 17 U.S. Top 40 hits, including “Jessie’s Girl,” “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” “An Affair of the Heart,” “I’ve Done Everything for You,” “Love Somebody,” and “Human Touch.” He’s an accomplished actor who most recently starred opposite Meryl Streep in the feature film Ricki and the Flash and gave a chameleonic performance as the creepy Dr. Pitlor in HBO’s prestige drama True Detective. He’s also a talented author — both his candid 2010 memoir Late, Late at Night (which Rolling Stone named one of the 25 greatest rock memoirs of all time) and his 2014 comedic novel Magnificent Vibration earned rave reviews and spots on the New York Times Best Sellers’ list. In 2013, Springfield wrote and recorded “The Man That Never Was” with Dave Grohl for the soundtrack to Sound City — the Foo Fighters’ frontman’s documentary about the San Fernando Valley recording studio that was Springfield’s home away from home (his manager owned the building). Rolling Stone called Springfield’s touching interview in the film its “breakout story.” In 2014, Springfield was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located around the corner from the first apartment he lived in when he first arrived in the U.S. from Australia in 1971.
That Springfield has not only enjoyed longevity, but remained vibrant and relevant at a time when many veteran artists would be resting on past laurels led Rolling Stone to dub this stage of his career “The Rickonaissance.” “I guess it may appear like that, but in my head, I’ve never really left,” Springfield says. “I think it’s really important to stay connected to the vitality of your career. I have a certain pride that I’m not a total nostalgia act. I’ve never been the guy who hung the platinum albums on my walls because, to me, it was looking back. I’m very passionate about moving forward. I have to write new music. I have to record. I’m always working on the live shows. I have to always be working, otherwise I think I’d just turn to smoke and disappear.”
Springfield’s latest musical effort is Rocket Science, his 18th studio album, which he will release in February through Frontiers Music. Written largely with his longtime collaborator and former bass player Matt Bissonette, the album delivers the expertly crafted wide-ranging pop-rock songs Springfield is known for. “I wanted the album to be very open and electric — rock and roll with some country elements, and always with great hooks,” he says. The lyrics largely address matters of the heart with the irreverence, wit, and dark humor that has always permeated his work. “The songs usually start with titles for me,” Springfield says. “A title will catch my eye and inspire a lyric. Both Matt and I are happily married, but there’s some heartache on this one. You can’t just write about how everything is all good and bore people out of their minds. When different emotions come up, I just go with that. I don’t set out to write about anything in particular. I just look for something that feels true and that I can hopefully say in an interesting way.”
While on a rare vacation in Tahiti, Springfield wrote the rollicking first single “Light This Party Up,” which he describes as “a song about redemption and how life sometimes feels like one long fall from grace.” He wrote “Down,” a song about disillusionment and commitment, with Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus while traveling on DeMarcus’ tour bus to Atlanta, where the two were filming an episode of Drop Dead Diva. “Jay came up with the title ‘Down’ and we were off to the races,” Springfield says. “By the time we were halfway to Nashville the melody and structure of the song were complete, as if by magic. I love it when that happens.” Written with Bissonette, “That One” has a vulnerability characteristic of Springfield’s most emotionally resonant songs. “Who of us hasn’t had some heartless lover crap on us and our tender feelings?” he says. “This song hits home for me both as the protagonist and the victim. I have been both the crapee and the craper, I’m ashamed to admit.” A dobro guitar lends down-home flair to the rock stomper “Miss Mayhem,” which Springfield wrote with The Hold Steady’s Tad Kubler. “Ah, Miss Mayhem,” he says. “We have all met her or him at some point in our romantic past. A burning hot, amazing-in-bed, beautiful/handsome, wack-job!” Songs like “Pay It Forward,” “Crowded Solitude,” and “We Connect” are imbued with a sense of spirituality that has been reflected in Springfield’s songwriting since his album Living in Oz. “I’ve been sneaking it in there since 1983,” he says.
Music has always been a healing force in the Australian-born Springfield’s life. The son of an Army officer, Rick and his family moved every two years. “Which meant every time I made a friend, I knew I’d be leaving him,” he says. “It was super stressful for me. I’d go to a new school and go through the trauma of trying to fit in.” Books and records became his savior. Then at age 11, he encountered his first guitar. “This kid brought one to a Christmas fair at my school in England and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen,” Springfield recalls. “He let me hold it. I hit two strings and the two strings happened to be the first couple of notes of the theme song to my favorite cowboy show at the time, Cheyenne. I realized instantly I could play the guitar. Some guys fall in love with cars, some with football teams. I fell in love with guitars.”
It has been a long and fruitful affair, and one that has gifted him with a powerful connection to his legions of devoted fans, who pack his annual fan getaway events, as well as the nearly 100 shows a year he performs both with his band and solo in an intimate “storyteller” setting that he captured on the 2015 CD/DVD and concert film Stripped Down. Though too self-deprecating to discuss his immense appeal, he will acknowledge that the fans connect with him through the music. “I guess they think I’m honest,” he says. “They must like my approach, what I write about. I think they like that I have a sense of humor in it at times. Because the ‘cute’ thing isn’t going to last forever.”