Interview: Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo

Wow.  What a voice.  Even now.

However, that’s not what impressed me most as I watched Pat Benatar and Neil “Spyder” Giraldo perform at Pechanga Resort and Casino.  They belong together.  It’s just that simple.

Everyone is a unique combination of special talents and abilities.  Those who find a perfect place in life to maximize those talents are very fortunate.  Benatar and Giraldo found their perfect place 36 years ago.  Even more special, they found the perfect partner to join them along the way.

Pat & NeilWhile I was interviewing them earlier in the evening, they bickered like an old married couple…which is exactly what they are.  As Forrest Gump would describe them, they fit together like peas and carrots. Their connection is obvious after talking to them for 30 seconds.

As I ask the same questions they’ve been asked a million times, they employ a few of the old tried and true interview techniques.  Musician A compliments the talents of Musician B and Musician B reciprocates.  It’s a way to remind the interviewer of their talents without sounding like they’re bragging.  (Side note:  I was convinced long before this interview.)

However, it doesn’t take long before the true nature of their relationship reveals itself.  I ask how they met.

Benatar to Giraldo, “I’ll tell it because I tell it better.”

Giraldo says, “Tell the truth this time.”

Benatar replies, “I always tell the truth.  You’re the one who tells it wrong.”

As they talk about their first meeting, they squabble over the exact details.  Benatar says she was looking to hire a guitar player.  Giraldo, already an established musician, says he was asked to form a partnership with a young, unknown singer.  Benatar calls that first get-together an “audition.”  Giraldo calls it a “meeting.”

“He didn’t even bring his guitar,” Benatar adds incredulously, “I mean come on.”  She sounds like a wife who can’t believe her husband left his socks on the floor….AGAIN!  However, instead of stinky clothing, they’re discussing the creation of one of music’s most successful careers.

There’s no malice, of course.  They just seem to enjoy the back and forth.  As I watch them rehash that first meeting for the umpteenth time, one thought pops into my mind.  They’re flirting with each other.  That’s how they keep the sparks flying after all these years.

Sparks are one thing they can both agree on.  There were definitely sparks from day one.  “Love at first sight” as some might call it, but it wasn’t that simple.  Benatar was a military spouse.  She was married to a soldier.  As her career heated up, her marriage began to end.  Playing guitar right next to her was Giraldo.

Their musical chemistry was immediate as well.  From the very first time they sat down to create music, it just worked.  Giraldo was the guitar player Benatar desperately wanted to find. Benatar was the singer of Giraldo’s dreams.  They were and continue to be each other’s muse to this very day.

However, their story is not without its challenges.  When you read the lyrics of their songs, you see the story of a couple who faced and overcame many difficulties.  “Heartache to heartache, we stand.”  Song after song, you begin to realize how hard they worked to stay together.  “You want to be lovers.  You want to be friends.  I’m losing my patience.  You’re nearing the end.”  Through everything, they found a way to stay where they belonged.  Together.  The hardest fought victories are always the sweetest and most cherished.

The opening notes of, “We Live for Love,” explode across the audience.  I was hoping they would play this song tonight.  It’s one of their lesser hits, but it’s probably my favorite.  As Benatar and Giraldo perform, they interact with each other a great deal.  They sound great.  They look happy.  The strength of their relationship is obvious to all who watch them.  They are two people who were meant to spend a lifetime together.  I am witness to one of rock and roll’s great love stories.

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo are currently performing across the United States on their 35th Anniversary Tour.

George Maurer, Contributing Writer
George Maurer, Contributing Writer