Day 124: A song by your favorite female vocalist.*

“Wuthering Heights” – Pat Benatar

CrimesOfPassionLots of women rockers have Pat Benatar to thank for their careers. She was one of the first female rockers to have any success and gain any respect in the music industry.

This was not without trial and tribulation, as a view of her “Behind The Music” will tell you. But, in the end, she did all right for herself.

Crimes Of Passion, her 1980 release, was among the first LPs I bought. This had nothing to do with “You Better Run” being the second video played on MTV. I bought the album after that happened, but before I knew that particular bit of trivia. Which is saying something, because I’m a music trivia nut.

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No, it was for the rest. “Treat Me Right” was one of my roller-skating songs. (For more on roller-skating songs, visit here.) While “Hell Is For Children,” was not a major single, it was an AOR station staple in the early 80s.  And “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”? Well, that was the trifecta. (Roller-skating song, hit, and AOR staple for those keeping track or those who don’t know what a trifecta is.)

So, somewhere along the line I came across the album at my local Strawberries, and since it met my long-standing “I like three songs” album-purchase criteria (which was in effect for most of my life), I bought it.

One of the songs on the album that I didn’t know when I purchased was “Wuthering Heights,” written and originally recorded by Kate Bush. It was much later, sometime after the release of Peter Gabriel’s So (on which Kate Bush appears), that I put together her name and the writing credit from “Wuthering Heights”;  I was unaware of the connection until then.

You see, on her early albums, Benatar had a habit of including a couple of covers (such as the aforementioned “You Better Run” on Crimes Of Passion and a cover of John Cougar’s “I Need A Lover” on the previous album). I’ve never come across an explanation of why that is, since the band seemed to have pretty good writing chops on their own. Maybe they simply didn’t have enough ideas of their own to pull of an entire album?

Either way, Pat’s version of “Wuthering Heights” sucked me in, almost from the first listen. Her voice was sweet and powerful at the same time. Neil Geraldo’s guitar on the choruses provided the right combination of melody and grit. The whole thing just struck me the right way. In some ways the song didn’t fit with the rest of the album, but for me, I think that was a benefit instead of a drawback. Subsequent exposure to the original has shown me that not only could Benatar’s opera-trained voice hit the high notes better than Kate Bush, her band gave the song a heavier treatment than the original, as well.

Crimes Of Passion was the second in a string of dominant, platinum-selling albums from Benatar throughout the 80s. She scored hit after hit after hit. I have no idea how many times I roller skated to one of her songs, including stuff from other albums like “Heartbreaker” and “Fire And Ice.”

Truthfully, she peaked around 1983. (That awful video for “Love Is A Battlefield” may have had something to do with that.) Her desire to change her sound and image meant that by the mid-80s things were starting to trail off, popularity-wise. But I have all of those albums, so she qualifies as at least one of my favorite female vocalists if not the favorite.

Kate Bush, incidentally, does not come close to making that cut. Sorry, Kate. But “Don’t Give Up.” (That’s a joke, son.)

* For the purposes of this post, I’m defining “vocalist” as someone who is known for singing rather than playing an instrument (even if they play one). It can be a standalone artist or lead singer in a band. Paul McCartney wouldn’t count since he plays bass (and everything else, really). Michael Bolton would count… Scratch that, he wouldn’t count either, he’s awful. Let’s say Stephen Page from Barenaked Ladies would count because he’s known mostly for his singing, even though he plays guitar.