Neil Giraldo has always preferred “being in the shadows.”
“I don’t like having a spotlight on me,” he says. But he’ll be happy to be illuminated alongside his musical partner of 43 years, and wife of nearly 40, Pat Benatar when they’re inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on Nov. 5 in Los Angeles.
“I do think it’s a great honor, and I am humbled by that, truthfully,” Giraldo, who’s been Benatar’s primary producer, songwriter and writing partner, as well as her bandleader and guitarist, tells Billboard. “Every time we talk to somebody, they always focus on the personal side, so nobody really knows our professional partnership in detail.
“From day one, Patricia and I really did this together. I was in the studio every single second. I know where every single note is buried. The greatness of Patricia is she was so extremely secure that when we met she just wanted to sing and she was looking for a partner to kind of do the rest, which I loved. I was happy just to do everything I could to write and produce great records. It was a match made in heaven.
“So being able to tell the true story of what happened in our professional side, which will get revealed as we go through this [Rock Hall] expedition here, is really important to us.”
In a separate interview, Benatar told Billboard that she has spent many years campaigning, in general, for Giraldo to “get the credit he’s due” for the music and success that’s included five platinum-or-better albums, 15 top 40 Billboard Hot 100 singles, and four Grammy Awards, as well as an acknowledged role in breaking down barriers for women in rock. “When we met, that was the catalyst,” Benatar says. “The first song we recorded was ‘Heartbreaker,’ and that set the tone for everything. The synergy that happened between us was what began everything.”
Still, Giraldo insists that, “I wish I could stay in the studio and not have to come out of it. But Patricia says, ‘You have to come along with me.’ She feels it’s that important because we did it together. And that’s true. But that old saying that you don’t know what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit, I truly believe that. I just wanted the product to speak for itself. I don’t need it for myself. I’m very secure about what I do, and that’s true for Patricia too.”
Benatar’s absence has long been considered one of the Rock Hall’s greatest snubs; she’s been eligible since 2000, but wasn’t nominated until 2020. But Giraldo says the couple has not spent much time either feeling slighted or thinking about being inducted. “Sometimes you wonder, ‘Why is that?’ but then it leaves your mind,” he says. “Really, the primary focus every day is to try to write a better song than you wrote yesterday. You’re just trying to make great stuff and keep improving what you’re doing. That’s the truth.” And he adds that he and Benatar are most pleased for the fans who have campaigned for the duo over the years, leading to a third-place finish in the public fan vote with 631,299 votes, according to the Rock Hall.
“The fans put in so much effort and time into this Hall of Fame,” he says. “I see quotes all the time, people are like, ‘I voted for you every single day!’ For you to be on their mind every single day, that’s…I mean, there’s a lot of other things you could be doing, right? But it’s very important to them, and that’s an honor for Patricia and I, certainly. That feels good.”
The induction will be part of a flurry of activity for Benatar and Giraldo, which includes the birth of their third grandchild, expected at the end of October, and production rehearsals for Invincible, a musical adaptation of Romeo & Juliet based on newly orchestrated arrangements of their songs (by Giraldo) along with several new tunes they wrote especially for it. Giraldo is also working on a holiday album of all-original songs, with contributions from “special guests,” and he’s writing a memoir that he says his publisher is pushing for him to finish now that the Rock Hall induction has been announced.
“It’s hard because I don’t think I’m important enough for a memoir,” Giraldo says. “But the story is good, so that’s what I’m writing about and letting people know what really happened.”