When it comes to the acknowledgement of women’s presence in rock music, they have been grossly overlooked, or even ignored. The number of female rockers standing at the entrance awaiting their names to be called for enshrinement continues to grow each year. Sure, last year Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharp finally received the call. But, the line remains packed with ladies with far more hit songs and a lasting legacy than those two greats who were let in my Jann Wenner and his cronies. You see, two huge Motown acts remain outside of the velvet rope, Mary Wells, who single-handed kept the label afloat in the early days, and The Marvelettes are the two female Motown acts who still have not been inducted. Not to diminish her contributions, but Laura Nyro, whose songs were hits for OTHERS, was inducted a few years ago.
Other female acts worthy of induction include, and not in any particular order, Patsy Cline, The Shangri Las, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, The Runaways, The Go-Go’s, The Bangles, Chaka Khan and Pat Benatar are but a few of the females who have either have not been inducted nor have been even nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And, that, my friends, is a travesty. The Committee can find the wherewithal to nominate some important yet lesser names such as Simone, Nyro and Tharp, while the commercially successful women of recent times continue to be held for nothing more than personal bias by some on the nominating committee. Recently, I have written about some of these artists and plan to continue to do so until the Hall begins inducting even a few of these deserving ladies. Today, I would like to point the spotlight on that tiny pixie with a voice every bit as powerful as a thousand women, the Rock Queen of the Eighties, Pat Benatar.
Pat Benatar, the diminutive woman with the huge voice, burst onto the rock scene just as Album Oriented Rock, New Wave/Punk and MTV were converging to overturn the apple cart of rock music in 1979. Following the path forged by Heart, Benatar used her operatically trained voice to dominate rock and pop radio from 1979 with her hit “Heartbreaker” and throughout the Eighties, even as she and husband/guitarist Neil Giraldo slowed their career to start a family. And while it has been nearly thirty years since her last Top Twenty hit song, the Giraldos continue to record and tour, especially since their girls are now grown women themselves. Still, from 1979 to 1984, Benatar was a dominate force, not just as a female rocker but as a rocker, period. Her albums during that time period all were Top Twenty mainstays and, at least, platinum sellers. Her success streak began to wane in the late Eighties as she and Giraldo began to attempt to balance their family life with a life of a rock star. And, Pat did finish the Eighties with several Top 40 albums and songs, she was no longer the commercial force that she had been during her five-year reign as the Queen of Rock Music.
One thing that sticks out in my memory is how Benatar combined a masculine toughness, like you cannot, and will not, bull me over, with the femininity of her beauty to jump-start a whole new way for young ladies to act. Along with Debbie Harry of Blondie, the Wilson sisters of Heart and The Runaways, a whole new generation of women were bursting onto the rock scene bringing equal rights to the sexes: the right to rock along side all the “tough” men. Plus, she was not afraid to tackle topics like child abuse, sex abuse and other female topics in her music, putting her at the forefront of women in music in that regard. Without her strong stance as a woman, we may not have been as accepting of Madonna, Lady Gaga and all the other strong female performers who have followed in her wake.
Although she continues to release strong, critically acclaimed albums, those albums are geared directly for her core fans, those loyal followers who believe Pat can do no wrong. Once again, I want to shine the spotlight on an artist who deserves induction into the RRHOF. It’s easy to forget her chart dominance, so I hope my 20 favorite songs by Mrs. Giraldo will jog your memory of her grandeur. On with the countdown!
20. “One Love” (1988)
19. “All Fired Up” (1988)
18. “Oh Oh Song” (1985)
17. “You Better Run” (1980) [Cover of the Young Rascals’ hit]
16. “Invincible” (1985)
15. “Anxiety (Get Nervous)” (1982)
14. “Just like Me” (1981) [Cover of Paul Revere & the Raiders’ hit]
13. “Treat Me Right” (1980)
12. “Fire and Ice” (1981)
11. “Sex as a Weapon” (1985)
10. “I Need a Lover” (1979) [Cover of John Mellencamp hit]
9. “We Belong” (1984)
8. “Promises in the Dark” (1981)
7. “Heartbreaker” (1981)
6. “We Live for Love” (1979)
5. “Shadows of the Night” (1982)
4. “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” (1980)
3. “Hell Is for Children” (1980)
2. “Love Is a Battlefield” (1983)
1. “Little Too Late” (1982)
Yes, I stuck with songs from her most successful era, because, to be honest, I lost track of her music after the Eighties, as I was able to allow myself to grow with her music. I understand that her “blues” album she did in the early Nineties is a great album. I’m sure it is because her voice is one of the five most powerful voices in the history of rock music. That means I hold her up with Aretha Franklin, Ann Wilson of Heart, Tina Turner and Darlene Love as the vocal powerhouses of rock, soul and gospel music. She is definitely one of music immortal figures.