I can’t, for the life of me, understand why Pat Benatar isn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
One of the prime rockers of the ‘80s, Benatar, a little package of rock ‘n’ roll dynamite, has a classically trained powerhouse voice and 19 Top 40 singles, including generation spanners “Love is a Battlefield,” “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” “Heartbreaker” and “Hell is for Children.”
An MTV icon, Benatar’s video for “You Better Run” was the second video broadcast on the music channel, and made her husband and musical collaborator Neil Giraldo the first guitarist to appear on MTV.
That made Benatar a style setter as well — to wit, this passage from the 1982 movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”:
“That girl looks just like Pat Benatar.”
“I know. Wait! There are three girls here at Ridgemont who have cultivated the Pat Benatar look.”
To top things off, Benatar was acclaimed within the music industry, winning four consecutive Grammy Awards for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
Benatar hasn’t made an album since 2003. But last year, the outspoken feminist recorded the song “Shine” to support the Women’s March.
And she and Giraldo continue to tour, sometimes as a duo and sometimes with a band, as will be the case when they stop at Pinewood Bowl on Sunday.
That ought to check all the boxes for an easy Rock Hall induction. But that hasn’t happened. In fact, Benatar, now eligible for induction for 14 years, has never been nominated.
It starts with the fact that '80s “arena rock” gets very little respect and attention from the hall’s nominating committee — made up of about 25 people, like Seymour Stein, the longtime head of Sire Records; Bruce Springsteen’s manager Jon Landau; journalists and writers including Rolling Stone’s David Fricke, Sirius XM’s Alan Light and Holly George-Warren; and musicians such as Dave Grohl, Paul Shaffer and Questlove.
That committee winnows a nomination list of about 50 artists down to 15 — and has, over the years, proven resistant to hard rock and metal. Ballots are sent to more than 600 “historians, members of the music industry and artists — including every living Rock Hall inductee,” and the five performers receiving the most votes are inducted into the hall.
In short, you’ve got to get on the ballot to get in, and Benatar’s never had a shot.
That makes her a prime example of a deserving woman who’s been snubbed by Rolling Stone publisher and hall co-founder Jann Wenner’s boys club cabal. Its track record is, to say the least, abysmal.
Of the 322 hall inductees, only 44 are women. That total includes the likes of ABBA, which, of course, is half male-half female. That’s a whopping 13.6 percent of inductees that are women.
Burrowing deeper into that list, which tellingly fits on a single legal pad sheet, there are even fewer women who I’d tag as rockers: Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt, The Pretenders (fronted by Chrissie Hynde), Blondie (fronted by Debbie Harry), Patti Smith, Heart and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.
That’s seven who fit my take on rock — and of those seven, there are exactly three who are of Benatar’s era — Smith, Jett and The Pretenders.
Smith, the high priestess of punk, comes right up the voter’s alley; Jett's been a rock 'n' roll trailblazer since the '70s with the Runaways, then her solo work; and The Pretenders were a shoo-in with the combination of the force of nature Hynde and their hits.
None of those three, who are among my faves, has had the commercial success of Benatar — who has two multi-platinum albums (“Crimes of Passion” and “Precious Time”), five platinum albums and three gold albums. That’s likely more than Smith, Jett and The Pretenders combined.
Arguments that Benatar was only popular for a few years in the '80s and didn’t have the “influence” required for inclusion in the hall are nonsense. Those criteria are thrown up to justify the snub, and clearly aren’t applied to all nominees.
Of late, the committee has been doing a better job nominating women: Nine of the 44 women have been inducted in the last decade, and there have been multiple women on the ballot the last few years.
So perhaps Benatar’s name will turn up in the next year or two, and the voters will do the right thing and put her in the hall — where she’s deserved to be for years.
Near the end of Lion Babe’s Lincoln Calling closing set Saturday, Jillian Hervey began to sway and swoop her hands back and forth, leading into “The Wave,” Lion Babe’s ‘70s funk infused R&B song of the summer.