She's been in the music business for over 30 years, won four consecutive Grammys and has paved the way for female artists everywhere. Not to mention, if you think of Pat Benatar, you almost can't help starting to belt out your favorite of her ballads.
In her new memoir, "Between a Heart and a Rock Place
," Benatar shares her personal love story, the obstacles she faced as a female artist throughout her career and many of the tales behind her songs.
While we had her ear, we also asked her sage advice (she's now a mom to two daughters our age), on life, work and dating -- including whether she still believes love is a battlefield.
Below, an intimate chat with a fearless musician and the inspiration behind so many of our karaoke favorites.
Lemondrop: How is penning a memoir different from writing a song?
Writing a memoir is personal, so it's not observational, or about somebody else's problems. It's a little different in that way. It is confessional, just like songwriting. Some of it is uncomfortable because you've moved on from all the things that happened. I didn't even remember how bad it was. I had to Google myself a lot.How did you get the confidence to quit your day job at a bank to pursue a rock career?
I'm a Capricorn, and I'm pretty focused. Once I make up my mind to do something, I just do it. That's not always a good thing when you're young, but I just assessed the situation and it seemed that it wasn't all that scary, so I went for it.
You found your stage persona after accidentally performing in your Halloween costume, right? We'd read that you got a gig, so you just hopped onstage dressed as a vampire.
I had grown up doing theatrical productions, so it wasn't such a giant leap to be onstage in some ridiculous costume. I had done so many plays and operas that dressing up was actually more normal than not. I felt more comfortable in that get-up than when I was just myself: As soon as the costume came on, it really worked the same way it does when you're taking on a role in a musical. It loosened me up and let me go for it in ways that I wasn't able to do as myself then.
Do you feel Lady Gaga–esque get-ups are necessary for success today?
No, I don't think it's necessary. It's only necessary if you feel that it's part of what you need to do. She obviously feels that it's necessary for her and it works beautifully. I think people need to be who they are. That really is an individual thing. Whatever brings out the inspiration for you as a performer is perfect.
Do you still believe love is a battlefield?
Love is very complicated. It is so complicated and it's so worth it. Listen, you're taking two people who grow up in opposite households, completely different from one another. You bring them together. There is chemistry, there are ideological ideas. Your whole social structure is different. You come from all these different places. Maybe you grew up in different states. Whatever the circumstance is, you fall in love and then you expect this to last for the rest of your life. This is complicated, but it's absolutely attainable.
I think you can have love with someone and maybe it's not supposed to last forever, but it should be good while you're in it. For us [Benatar and husband of 28 years, Neil Giraldo, right] it was absolutely the right thing for us to be together. It's a battle every day. We get along superbly. We are of the same mindset. All our major differences are worked out, but we still have the day to day. We have to live together and raise kids and work together and do all these crazy things. But, it's so worth doing. To get to know someone that intimately on that level, it's an amazing feat.
What advice do you give your daughters about love?
I tell them go right for love. It depresses me that a lot of young women say they don't think they're ever going to find the person like their mothers or their older sisters have. I think it's still attainable. When you find real love it enhances your life in a way that you can't even describe. It's not that you can't be happy the other way -- you can -- love just brings something else to the party.
Do you remember the first time you heard your song on the radio?
Yes. I was in my apartment on the Upper West Side on 77th and Amsterdam. We knew "I Need a Lover" was going to be released that day. We got a ballpark time that the song was going to be on the radio. I remember standing -- I had a wall phone -- and I had the radio on and I was waiting for it to come on. As soon as it started to play the phone started to ring and I would pick it up and say, "I know, I know, let me listen." Knowing that it was going out over the airwaves to all these people in New York was pretty thrilling.
Is there a song that means more to you now then when you first recorded it?
Every record has one or two songs that jump out and stay extra special to me for different reasons. But if I had to choose one song that encapsulates everything that we were trying to do right from day one -- go out there and be strong, get respect and give it back and persevere -- it would be "Heartbreaker." Because "Heartbreaker" is the one song that, even at this age, I can still sing and feel exactly the same way I felt the very first time I sang it because the sentiment still is relevant.
What's one thing you know now that you wish you knew in your 20s?
First of all, relax. It's going to be OK. You're so maniacal and driven and you're worried about so many different things. Just relax because you'll figure it out. Listen to your gut and you will find your way. Make as many mistakes as necessary to figure it out. It's not a crime to make the mistakes. Don't worry about being perfect. Don't worry about doing it right. Just go out there and really have fun. It goes by in a blink of an eye. I remember being 24 and thinking, "I have my entire life ahead of me." From there to now went so quickly. It goes so fast so you should really be present and enjoy every minute and just have fun.
You talk a lot about trusting your gut. You write, in your memoir, "Rock and roll is really about following your passion with no apologies. Following that sound in your head that only you can hear." What's your advice to 20-somethings trying to find that passion and pursue their dreams?
You have to be smart, of course. You can't just go running off to Kuala Lumpur throwing everything away. You don't want to wreck your life in the pursuit of your dream. I have two girls -- my youngest is 16 and my oldest is 25. I'm right in the thick of this with them. They struggle, they're afraid to take a chance, of what people think. You've got to give it up. You have to stop worrying about this. You have to sit down and really examine what it is in your heart that you really want, what makes you happy. And don't hurt anyone else in the process. Don't trample others to have the dream that you want.
I think everyone should go for what they really, really love. You may only get to do this one time. Don't be worried. Don't think that you can't have most of it. I'm of the belief that you cannot have it all. You can try. I think that you always have to make a sacrifice somewhere. I grew up during the women's movement, and they told us we can have everything. It was a lie. You definitely cannot have everything, not 100 percent. You can have it all, but some part of it at different times in your life will have to take a backseat. If you choose to raise your children, your career will take a backseat for a little while. If you choose to pursue your career at a stronger pace, your kids will take a backseat. It's just the ebb and flow of how life is. Don't make yourself crazy thinking you have to be a superwoman. It's not even possible. Think about what you want personally. Don't let other things, don't let the media, don't let anybody tell you what you're supposed to be, because only you know.
Annie Reuter writes music blog, You Sing I Write, where she interviews bands, travels to music festivals and uncovers what it's really like to spend the day with a rock star. Her most recent essay for Lemondrop was "My Younger Sister Got Married First."