Pat Benatar

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Pat Benatar : biography

January 10, 1953 –

Life and career

Patricia Mae Andrzejewski was born in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York City. Her Polish father, Andrew, was a sheet-metal worker, and her Irish mother, Mildred, a beautician. Her family later moved to North Hamilton Avenue in Lindenhurst, New York, a village within the Long Island town of Babylon.James, Carolyn. ["Pat Benatar gets key to Babylon Town: Former resident honored for outstanding achievement"], The Beacon, August 22, 2002

Patti (as she was known) became interested in theater and began voice lessons, singing her first solo at age eight, at Daniel Street Elementary School, a song called "It Must Be Spring". At Lindenhurst Senior High School (1967–71), Benatar participated in musical theater, playing Queen Guinevere in the school production of Camelot, marching in the homecoming parade, singing at the annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, and performing a solo of "The Christmas Song" on a holiday recording of the Lindenhurst High School Choir her senior year.

Benatar was cut off from the rock scene in nearby Manhattan. Her musical training was strictly classical and theatrical.

Training as a coloratura with plans to attend the Juilliard School, Benatar surprised family, friends and teachers by deciding a classical career was not for her and pursued health education at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. At 19, after one year at Stony Brook, she dropped out to marry her high school sweetheart Dennis Benatar, an army draftee who trained at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and then served with the Army Security Agency at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, before being stationed at Fort Lee, Virginia. Specialist (E-4) Dennis Benatar was stationed there for three years, and Pat worked as a bank teller outside Richmond, Virginia.

In 1973, Benatar quit her job as a bank teller to pursue a singing career after being inspired by a Liza Minnelli concert she saw in Richmond. She got a job as a singing waitress at a flapper-esque nightclub named The Roaring Twenties and got a gig singing in lounge band Coxon’s Army, a regular at Sam Miller’s basement club. The band garnered enough attention to be the subject of a never-aired PBS special, and the band’s bassist Roger Capps also would go on to be the original bass player for the Pat Benatar Band. The period also yielded Benatar’s first and only single until her eventual 1979 debut on Chrysalis Records: "Day Gig" (1974), Trace Records, written and produced by Coxon’s Army band leader Phil Coxon and locally released in Richmond. Her big break came in 1975 at an amateur night at the comedy club Catch a Rising Star in New York. Her rousing rendition of Judy Garland’s "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody" earned her a call back by club owner Rick Newman, who would become her manager.

The couple headed back to New York following Dennis’ discharge from the army, and Benatar went on to be a regular member at Catch A Rising Star for close to three years, until signing a record contract. She would eventually divorce Dennis Benatar in 1979. Catch A Rising Star was not the only break Benatar got in 1975. She landed the part of Zephyr in Harry Chapin’s futuristic rock musical, The Zinger. The production, which debuted on March 19, 1976, at the Performing Arts Foundation’s (PAF) Playhouse in Huntington Station, Long Island, ran for a month and also featured Beverly D’Angelo and Christine Lahti. Benatar noted: "I was 22 by the time I started to sing rock, so at first I was very conscious of technique and I was overly technical. That proved to be inhibiting so it was a disadvantage until I began to sing intuitively. That’s the only way to sing rock – from your gut level feelings. It’s the instinct that the best singers have."

Halloween 1977 proved a pivotal night in Benatar’s early, spandexed stage persona. Rather than change out of the costume she wore to a Halloween contest at the Cafe Figaro in Greenwich Village that evening, she went onstage at Catch a Rising Star in costume. Benatar said: "I was dressed as a character from this ridiculous B movie called Cat-Women of the Moon." In Style Despite performing only her usual songs, she received a standing ovation.