Pat Benatar Talks 'Dancing' Back Onto Billboard's AC Chart for First Time in 16 Years

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Travis Shinn
Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo

She also discusses being a role model and says it's "unbelievable" sexual harassment is still such a prevalent problem in society.

After a gap of almost 16 years, Pat Benatar returned to Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart in October with “Dancing Through the Wreckage.” The surging ballad, which debuted at No. 28, plays as the end-title track for Served Like a Girl, a documentary about the lack of programs for female veterans returning to the U.S. after their military service.

The Brooklyn-born singer-songwriter is, of course, no stranger to the charts. Between 1979 and 1988, Benatar scored 17 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including such top 10 titles as “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” (No. 9 in 1980), “Love Is a Battlefield” (No. 5 in 1983) and “We Belong” (No. 5 in 1985), which also reached No. 34 on the AC tally in December 1984. Prior to “Dancing’s” appearance, Benatar’s last returned to the AC list in January 2002 with “Christmas in America,” which reached No. 22.

On the latest, Nov. 25-dated AC survey, "Wreckage" re-enters at No. 22, a new peak for the song and tying Benatar's personal best on the chart.

Billboard spoke with Benatar about her new chart success, how she felt when she earned her first Hot 100 hit and her thoughts on current women’s issues.

How did you feel about your recent return to our Adult Contemporary chart?

​Always fun to be back on the charts! We’re most excited that the amazing film Served Like a Girl is being so well received. The struggle that female veterans face when they return to civilian life is addressed in the film, with the end goal of bringing change and assistance to our forgotten veterans.

What is the genesis of “Dancing Through the Wreckage” and how did it became part of the soundtrack of Served Like a Girl?

Linda Perry, [my husband] Neil [Giraldo] and I had worked earlier in 2017 on a project that I’d begun with Tricia Clarke-Stone [CEO of Narrative, a marketing and technology agency]. We wrote a song in response to the outpouring of unease and frustration that birthed the Women’s March in January. That song was “Shine.” While we were finishing the song, Linda mentioned she was involved in another project, about female veterans. When she showed me footage from the documentary Served Like a Girl and told me the facts, I was stunned. I was completely ignorant that there were that many female veterans and that they were struggling with so many issues when they returned to their civilian lives. Linda invited Neil and [me] to work with her on a song that was going to be a part of the film and soundtrack, which led to “Dancing Through the Wreckage.” I’m grateful I got to be the one to sing it.

Are you a chart-watcher? Did you regularly check the Billboard charts to see how your singles and albums were doing?

Ha-ha! No, not me personally, but there are lots of other people who keep me informed.

Going back to 1979, do you remember how you felt when “Heartbreaker” became your first hit on the Hot 100?

Oh, yes! It was such an exciting time. Neil and I would wait at our local newsstand to get a copy [of Billboard] the day it came out and check the chart positions. Seeing it in print made it seem more real.

Your biggest Hot 100 hits are “Love Is a Battlefield,” “We Belong,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and “Invincible.” Do you have favorites among your many hits, or is that like asking who your favorite child is?

It’s definitely like being asked to choose your favorite child. Each song has its own history and sentiment. “Heartbreaker” will always be number one for me because it was the song that conveyed the idea, musically and thematically, that Neil and I were going for.

Are there songs which you must sing at every live performance?

We have a song list that we lovingly call The Holy 14. These are the 14 songs we must try to play every night, in some fashion, or face a barrage of Facebook unhappiness. We do our best to include them, while inserting deep cuts and new compositions. Spyder [Neil] is always messing with the arrangements. He’s a mad scientist in this department. Nothing is out of the realm of possibilities. I love it, because it keeps things fresh for us as well as the audience.

After an era of sensitive singer-songwriters, you were a strong female voice in music. How did you feel about being a role model for female artists who were inspired by you?

I try to help people understand that as an artist you do not spend time analyzing how you got to be who you became or when it happened. You were simply being. I wasn’t thinking about the bigger picture, not until much later. I was completely self-absorbed in expressing how I was feeling as young woman in the 1970s ... I was feeling the general unrest that most American women were feeling. I was simply part of the sisterhood that was emerging from the earlier women’s movement. Those women were the role models.

At the moment, women are speaking up more than ever before about sexual harassment and other issues. Have times changed since the 1980s? Are things better today or is there still a long way to go?

[It’s] unbelievable that we’re still having this conversation. The EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] has pretty clear guidelines and sexual harassment is illegal. That being said, the behavior continues. I think it’s always important to speak up -- imperative. The only way to change bad behavior is to expose it to the light. I applaud the men and women who have courageously come forward.


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