Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo
One of the most memorable and influential musical partnerships of the 1980s will soon be visiting soon! Pat Benatar and husband Neil Giraldo have collaborated both personally and professionally for over 30 years, blazing a trail along the way and proving themselves to be an unstoppable force. Over the years, their creative partnership has yielded 14 albums, 9 Grammy nods, and 4 Grammy Awards. Full Access Magazine spoke to them shortly after the start of their 35th Anniversary Tour.
Benatar, most recognized by her signature style and distinctive, powerhouse vocals in songs like “Heartbreaker,” “Love Is A Battlefield,” and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” is quick to make it very clear that without Giraldo, (“Spyder” as she affectionately calls him), none of the magic would exist. “The great thing about Spyder is that he pushes hard because I’m kind of lazy,” she says with a laugh, as she throws herself under the bus. “He really gets in there and knows better than even I know what I’m capable of. I’ll stop at 97%, but he’s really talented at finding that niche and pushing it as far as it can go. He’ll give 110% and that’s how all of that magical stuff happens.” Their partnership began in 1979, although they did not marry until 1982. Giraldo, a talented young musician whose influences included British guitar-driven bands like The Yardbirds, The Who, and The Kinks, was an assertive guitar player with an innovative vision. He was also the perfect element to extract the passion from Benatar’s impeccable voice. They say the rest is history, with a little help from MTV, of course. Throughout the 80s, they worked at a breakneck pace touring, shooting videos, and making albums every 9 months as they were contractually obligated to do. Explains Giraldo, “If we would have had a choice, we would have done it every two years.” Benatar adds, “It’s so much better to have time to let records evolve naturally but we were constantly being forced to put out products. We were young and we had a lot of energy, but yeah, physically and creatively, it was exhausting!” Although the two are quick to dismiss terms like ‘pioneers,’ ‘legends,’ and ‘icons,’ saying they were merely ‘doing their jobs,’ Benatar acknowledges, “I don’t think it ever occurred to us at any moment in time until people started to say that to us; that we were having some kind of impact.” When asked how they’ve remained so grounded, Benatar, who quit her job as a bank teller to pursue her dream, references their upbringing and similar backgrounds. “We grew up on the East Coast. We came from working class families and a really normal family life with a normal childhood and normal friends. My father was a sheet metal worker. Spyder’s dad was a contractor and a carpenter. My mother was a hairdresser. You are who you are. It doesn’t leave you. You just happen to have a really good gig.” She adds that she and Giraldo were lucky to have been able to navigate celebrity life together, saying “we could protect ourselves from all the stuff that was coming from the outside.”
The pair are also quite frequently asked what their secret is to sustaining such a long-lasting personal relationship, to which Benatar credits good old-fashioned ‘work.’ “It’s not a big struggle. You’re kinda wired the way you’re wired. It’s not like we’re so smart or so good at this. It’s just the way we are. Luckily for us, we started everything together, so it’s the only way we know how to do it. I mean, listen, it’s work! Every relationship is work. You have to be committed and put the time in and you have to want the same things. It’s not without struggles and conflict, but it’s all very important to us so we work it out, whatever it is.”
It is clear their relationship is strong and respectful. They clearly ‘like’ each other. When the two are not touring and are able to enjoy some down time, Giraldo, who has played the guitar since the age of 6, likes to perfect his golf game, yet writing songs fills his days as well, which is quite alright with him. Benatar playfully interjects, ‘…and drinking wine! He forgot to add that’! Benatar readily admits that they are both ‘big foodies,’ explaining “We cook like crazy at home in the kitchen because when we’re on the road we eat three meals a day on the go.” The two also enjoy renovating old houses and spending time with their two adult daughters. Says Benatar, “Raising two kids and having them turn out to be decent human beings is what I’m most proud of. Musically, it was all good! Winning is great…but the connection is the most important thing.”
Currently, however, their time is spent traveling across the U.S. to the delight of their diehard fans, which when speaking of, Benatar sweetly reflects, “They’re great. They’re darling!” According to Benatar, audiences who attend their shows “can expect to hear as many of the hits as we can shove in there. We did a poll before we left for a Top 10 Wish List. We’ll interject the new songs too. It’s a good 100-110 minutes. Everybody has fun, especially us! So everybody come on out! It’s really fun and we’re happy to see them all!” She then quickly adds, “We’re just glad they show up!” and Giraldo can be heard chuckling in the background. They are also excited that the release of their commemorative CD/DVD package coincides with their tour, both of which celebrate the milestones the pair have made together throughout three decades in the music industry. The lead-off single from this live CD/DVD set, “Promises in the Dark,” originally released in 1981, holds special meaning as it was the very first song they wrote together.
As far as what lies ahead, Benatar and Giraldo plan to continue honing their new songs and recording once their Summer Tour is over. Giraldo is also working on a few book projects. Now in their 60s, both Benatar and Giraldo seem as vibrant, driven, and invincible as ever! Borrowing a lyric from their hit song “We Belong,” (a period Benatar describes as a very beautiful time in their lives), it seems ‘whatever we deny or embrace, for worse or for better, we belong, we belong together’ not only sums up their own relationship perfectly, but also that of their relationship with their adoring fans from all over the world.