Between A Heart And A Rock Place: A Memoir, by Pat Benatar with Patsi Bale Cox
I have long enjoyed the music of Pat Benatar and have long had an interest in her place among the great rockers of her generation . This book gave me an increased appreciation in her as an artist, and helped me confirm some of my impressions of her approach. After reading this book, a lot more of her musical choices and her persona made more sense. For example, the author’s working class background is something that I can definitely relate to in my own, and her cautious approach certainly makes sense in light of the caution that is naturally felt by people from our background. The author talks about her struggle to be respected and taken seriously by sexist label executive, other rock & roll musicians, as well as station personnel when she was doing promo work. The book has a strong feminist tone to it, but not the sort of feminist tone that demonstrates a hate towards others, but rather one that demands respect for the author and for her competence as a musician and in her insights as a person, and that is certainly easy enough to respect. The book is framed in such a way that it is easy to respect the author and to empathize or sympathize with her struggles for respect and fair treatment in an unjust and corrupt music business.
This book is about 250 pages long and contains twelve chapters that discuss the life of an artist who has not really gotten her due praise as a major influence on women in Rock & Roll and pop music as a whole. The book begins with a prologue in 1979 that made a decisive break with expectations and an insistence in having a solid rock guitarist in her mix that ended up bringing her a creative and personal relationship with her second husband, Neil “Spyder” Giraldo. After that the author goes back to the beginning to discuss her family background and growing up as a working class girl in New York and marrying soon after high school to a PTSD-suffering Vietnam vet, which ended about as well as one can expect (1). After separating from him she found her voice singing in New York’s clubs and developing friendships with other young people on the rise (2). This led to a record contract and to struggles to put herself forward with the right kind of image that conveyed powerful femininity but also someone worthy of respect (3) in a male-dominated field. The author discusses rock & roll’s dirty little secret about rampant sexism (4), her marriage to Neil and the making of the “Get Nervous” album (5), as well as her fondness for music video theater and the way that it got her music far more exposure in the early days of MTV (6). This is followed by her commitment to having children while being an active musician (7), the recording of Seven The Hard Way (8), a near-disaster that nearly wrecked her career (8), as well as her decision to go independent (10), recapture a love of making music (11), and living life her way (12) with no apologies, after which the book ends with acknowledgements.
Overall, this book gives a very honest tale of a life that in one hand might be considered boring because Pat Benatar managed to live her life without the sort of rock star excesses that other people engaged in way past the age that one would expect that to be a remotely appropriate response to fame and adulation. Reading this book made Benatar’s persona as a musician make more sense than it did before, and that was definitely a good thing. Her background in theater and classical music explains the theatricality of some of her music videos (see especially “Love Is A Battlefield”), and her willingness to transcend the basic mindset of rock & roll when it came to music, including jump blues and classically tinged pop (like in “We Belong”) demonstrates a complex approach to music honed from years as a classically trained soprano. Above all, the book is a testament of the author’s love for her birth family as well as for her second husband, who she speaks about with considerable bluntness and obvious affection.
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