Rock HOF Inductees Carly Simon and Pat Benatar Charted Non-Stop Hits in the ’70s and ’80s
Carly Simon was a fixture on the charts in the ’70s. Then, Pat Benatar ruled rock radio throughout much of the ’80s.
Hall of Fame Embraces Two New York City Songbirds
Rich girl, poor girl: it’s certainly an irrelevant distinction when it comes to musical chops. I am giving you living proof.
Carly Simon was born into a publishing fortune on account of her father founding the book powerhouse Simon & Shuster. Pat Benatar was born Patricia Mae Andrzejewski to a beautician mom (who dreamed of becoming an opera singer) and a dad who toiled as a sheet metal worker. Carly and Pat are exactly 10 years apart in age (1943-1953).
Simon and Benatar experienced similar growing pains that led them to grab onto music. Carly Simon experienced adolescent turmoil when she was eight years old in the form of a sexual assault by an older family friend. It caused her to stutter severely. “I felt so strangulated talking,” remembers Carly, “that I did the natural thing, which is to write songs because I could sing without stammering.”
Carly spent the sixties paired with her sister Lucy as a folk music act, even appearing on Hootenanny on April 27, 1963. In 1971, Simon went solo and released a self-titled first album for Electra Records. Her breakthrough hit, “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be,” earned her a Grammy for Best New Artist. In the Rolling Stone review of the album, Timothy Crouse gushed, “Carly’s voice perfectly matches her material [and her] superbly-controlled voice is complemented by deft arrangements.”
Carly Simon was off to the races.
Climbing the Show Business Ladder
Pat Benatar experienced no similar traumatic event that pushed her onto the rock stage. Benatar’s growing pains were the fits and starts she endured while taking the more conventional road to rock stardom.
Consider, for example, her random (and perhaps desperate) choices to perform before an audience: a singing waitress at a bar called the Roaring Twenties; lead singer in a garage band called Coxon’s Army; amateur nights at the Catch a Rising Star comedy club that turned into a three-year gig; and recording commercial jingles for Pepsi.
High Octane Voice
The hustling paid off: while headlining at New York City’s Tramps nightclub, Pat was spotted and signed by Chrysalis Records head Terry Ellis. It was hard not to notice the strength and clarity of a voice packed into a 4′ 11″ female frame.
It turns out that Pat Benatar developed her powerful 4.5-octave mezzo-soprano voice years before while performing musical theater at Lindenhurst High School on Long Island. Pat had big plans to attend Julliard but a girl has to make a living. Nobody could have predicted that Pat’s first album for Chrysalis would contain the sleeper hit, “Heartbreaker.”
Not quite a decade after Carly, Pat Benatar was off to the races.
When announcing its 2022 nominees, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame released a selected discography for Carly Simon: “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be,” Carly Simon (1971) • “Anticipation,” Anticipation (1971) • “You’re So Vain,” “The Right Thing to Do,” “We Have No Secrets,” No Secrets (1972) • “Mockingbird,” Hotcakes (1974) • “Waterfall,” Playing Possum (1975) • “Nobody Does It Better,” The Spy Who Loved Me soundtrack (1977) • “You Belong to Me,” Boys in the Trees (1978) • “Let the River Run,” Working Girl soundtrack (1989).
Here is Carly singing her 1978 hit, “You Belong to Me,” live on Martha’s Vineyard in June 1987, published by Carly Simon via YouTube:
Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo
Selected Rock & Roll Hall of Fame discography for Pat and Neil: “Heartbreaker,” In the Heat of the Night (1979) • “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Treat Me Right,” Crimes of Passion (1980) • “Fire and Ice,” “Promises in the Dark,” Precious Time (1981) • “Shadows of the Night,” Get Nervous (1982) • “Love Is a Battlefield,” Live From Earth (1983) • “We Belong,” Tropico (1984) • “Invincible,” Seven the Hard Way (1985) • “All Fired Up,” Wide Awake in Dreamland (1988).
Here is a live performance of the 1981 hit, “Promises in the Dark,” filmed as a music video, published by Benatar Giraldo via Vevo and YouTube:
Hall of Fame
The 37th annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will air on Saturday, September 19, on HBO. Click here for a complete list of 2022 inductees.
Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo will be inducted by Sheryl Crow. The pair will perform a short set that will include “All Fired Up,” “Love Is a Battlefield,” and “Heartbreaker.” Carly Simon did not attend the taping of the ceremony but Carly’s greeting letter will be read to the audience by singer Sara Bareilles. Sara will perform Carly’s James Bond song, “Nobody Does It Better.”
As of 2020, only 69 of the 888 hall of fame inductees were female, or less than 8%. The women-centric composition of the past two induction classes could mean that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is in correction mode.