Top 10 Pat Benatar Songs (1979-1988)

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Just as disco was setting off into the horizon, Pat Benatar burst through the dancing queens and pervaded a new wave with her operatic voice and some hammering rock. 

Born Patricia Mae Andrzejewski in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Lindenhurst in Long Island, New York, Benatar started performing as a child, giving her first performance at the age of 8, and continued on with more school productions into high school.

Later dropping out of college to move to Virginia with her high school sweetheart and first husband, Benatar returned back to New York and hit the club scene as a performer before signing with Chrysalis and releasing her debut, In the Heat of the Night, in 1979 with the breakout hit “Heartbreaker.”

As one relationship ended, the close of her first marriage, a new one began with guitarist Neil Giraldo, who would become her co-writer, arranger, and musical (and life) partner—the two married in 1982. Over the next five years since her debut, Benatar released five more albums and won four consecutive Grammy Awards, including three for hits “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” “Fire & Ice” and “Love is a Battlefield.”

Following her 1991 release True Love, Benatar’ released three more albums, including her 11th Go in 2003. In 2015 Benatar released the holiday song called “One December Night,” and collaborated with Linda Perry for the protest song “Shine” in support the Women’s March in 2017.

Still making music together, Benatar and Giraldo premiered their stage production of Invincible – The Musical, a contemporary take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet set to a soundtrack of their catalog of music in 2022, the same year they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Here’s a look back, in order of release, at 10 great Benatar songs from 1979 through her final output in the late ’80s.

1. “Heartbreaker” (1979)
Written by Geoff Gill and Cliff Wade

Benatar reworked some of the lyrics to “Heartbreaker,” a song first recorded by British singer Jenny Darren in 1978, and released it on her debut, In the Heat of the Night. Written by Geoff Gill and Cliff Wade and produced by early Benatar collaborator Mike Chapman—who would go on to co-write Benatar’s 1983 hit “Love is a Battlefield”—and Peter Coleman, “Heartbreaker” ended up being her breakthrough single. The song spent four and half months on the charts and peaked at No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100. 

Your love is like a tidal wave, spinning over my head
Drownin’ me in your promises, better left unsaid
You’re the right kind of sinner to release my inner fantasy
The invincible winner and you know that you were born to be

2. “We Live for Love” (1979)
Written by Neil Giraldo

Also off In the Heat of the Night, “We Live for Love” opened side two of the album and showcased Benatar’s enchanting falsetto. The last track recorded for the album, “We Live for Love” was also one of the first songs Neil Giraldo wrote for Benatar. “I had some words scribbled out, I had a little melody and I thought it was kind of good,” said Giraldo in a 2015 video with Benatar, sharing the story of behind the song. Giraldo also admitted that the song, which was released as the second single off the album, was not about Benatar.

“The content of the song is not about you,” said Giraldo to Benatar, “but the idea of the song was for you.” Of the song, Benatar joked “That’s impressive. I love that, regardless of who it was written for.”

Your love’s contagious, one kiss is dangerous
I have more to risk than you to lose
I feel passion growing, I know that love is only
Just one inch away, it’s dragging us

3. “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” (1980)
Written by Eddie Schwartz

Released on Benatar’s second album, Crimes of Passion, “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” became Benatar’s first Top 10 hit. Crimes of Passion remained at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 for five weeks and the album gave Benatar her very first Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. The album also features a captivating cover of Kate Bush‘s 1978 classic, “Wuthering Heights,” while the video for Benatar’s cover of The Rascals’ “You Better Run,” was the second-ever to be aired on MTV in 1981, following The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

You’re a real tough cookie
With a long history
Of breaking little hearts like the one in me
That’s okay, lets see how you do it
Put up your dukes, let’s get down to it

Hit me with your best shot
Why don’t you hit me with your best shot
Hit me with your best shot
Fire away

In early 2022, Benatar cut “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” from her touring setlist as a show of respect for the victims of mass shootings.

4. “Hell Is For Children” (1980)
Written by Neil Giraldo, Pat Benatar
, Roger Capps

Inspired by several New York Times articles Benatar read about child abuse, “Hell Is For Children” was one of several co-writes with Giraldo on Crimes of Passion. Written by Benatar, Giraldo, and bassist Roger Capps, the song was also featured in the 1981 animated film, American Pop, and has even been covered by a number of harder rock bands over the decades, including Children of Bodom in 2009 and on Halestorm‘s Reanimate 2.0: The Covers EP in 2013.

They cry in the dark
So you can’t see their tears
They hide in the light
So you can’t see their fears
Forgive and forget
All the while
Love and pain become one and the same
In the eyes of a wounded child

5. “Fire & Ice” (1981)
Written by Pat Benatar, Tom Kelly, Scott St. Clair Sheets

The lead single off Benatar’s third album, Precious Time, “Fire & Ice” peaked at No. 2 on the Mainstream Rock chart and earned her a second Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. Precious Time also birthed other powerhouse hits like “Promises in the Dark” and closes with a Benatar cover of The Beatles’ 1968 hit, “Helter Skelter.”

Movin’ in for the kill tonight
You got every advantage when they put out the lights
It’s not so pretty when it fades away
‘Cause it’s just an illusion in this passion play

6. “Shadows of the Night” (1982)
Written by Rachel Sweet and David Leigh Byron

Though “Shadows of the Night” was originally written for the 1980 film Times Square, about two teen runaways in New York City, the song never made the film but was released on Benatar’s fourth album, Get Nervous. Within a three-year span, Benatar was on a Grammy roll, winning her third Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for “Shadows of the Night.”

We’re running with the shadows of the night
So baby, take my hand, you’ll be alright
Surrender all your dreams to me tonight
They’ll come true in the end

7. “We Belong” (1984)
Written by Eric Lowen, Dan Navarro

The lead single off Benatar’s fifth album, Tropico, the mid-tempo power ballad “We Belong” tells the story of two lovers who are two attached to part ways with one another. Reaching No. 5 on the Hot 100, “We Belong” also earned Benatar another Grammy nomination. Nearly 35 years since it was first released, “We Belong” saw a surge in popularity again when it was featured in the 2018 Ryan Reynolds superhero movie Deadpool 2

We belong to the light, we belong to the thunder
We belong to the sound of the words we’ve both fallen under
Whatever we deny or embrace for worse or for better
We belong, we belong, we belong together

8. “Love is a Battlefield” (1983)
Written by Holly Knight and Mike Chapman

Released as one of two studio recordings on Benatar’s Live from Earth album, “Love is a Battlefield” was originally written as a mid-tempo song by Holly Knight and Mike Chapman. Neil Giraldo started playing around with the arrangement and eventually picked up the speed on the song.

Just in time for the epoch days of MTV, the video for “Love is a Battlefield,” directed by Bob Giraldi, helped make the song an even bigger hit. Following the story of a teenage runaway (played by Benatar) who rises up against a seedy nightclub owner with other women, the nighttime street dance-off, choreographed by the late Michael Peter—who also worked on Michael Jackson‘s “Thriller” and Lionel Richie‘s “Hello” videos—was also one of the first videos of the era to feature dialogue.

We are strong
No one can tell us we’re wrong
Searching our hearts for so long
Both of us knowing
Love is a battlefield

Benatar won her fourth Grammy with “Love is a Battlefield” for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

9. “Invincible” (1984)
Written by Holly Knight and Simon Climie

Written by Holly Knight, who had already co-written Benatar’s earlier hit “Love is a Battlefield,” and Simon Climie, ”Invincible” was used as a theme song for the 1985 drama, The Legend of Billie Jean. Released on Benatar’s sixth album, Seven the Hard Way, “Invincible” reached No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was used as the title of her 2022 stage production with Giraldo.

We can’t afford to be innocent
Stand up and face the enemy
It’s a do-or-die situation
We will be invincible

And with the power of conviction
There is no sacrifice
It’s a do-or-die situation
We will be invincible

10. “All Fired Up” (1988)
Written by Kerryn Tolhurst

Wide Awake in Dreamland was Benatar’s final album in the 1980s and her last full rock album before her bluesier follow-up, True Love, in 1991. First recorded and released by Australian country-rock group Rattling Sabres (and written by guitarist Kerryn Tolhurst) in 1987, “All Fired Up” became a bigger hit when Benatar covered it in 1988 and earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female in 1989.

Ain’t nobody livin’, in a perfect world
Everybody’s out there, cryin’ to be heard
Now I got a new fire, burnin’ in my eyes
Lightin’ up the darkness, movin’ like a meteorite

Photo by Amy Sussman/WireImage

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