Between a Heart and a Rock Place (William Morrow, $25.99), Pat Benatar’s account of her childhood, early career, and fame is firmly anchored in family as well as rock music, which made it an interesting departure from the typical tale of rock debauchery. Benatar’s reflections on growing up in a working-class family in a small town, and the doomed first marriage that gave her that now-famous surname read like the back-story for a Billy Joel song rather than the tale of a boundary-pushing, leather-clad woman rocker.

Born Patricia Mae Andrzejewski in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Benatar began taking voice lessons at a young age. She credits that classical training as a coluratura soprano with steering her away from the hard-partying excesses that are so often part of a typical rock star’s rise to fame. She’s been determined to protect and nurture her voice, with a discipline that preserved her vocal range—and rock career—well into her 50s, touring with her band and her family every summer.

What’s left of a rock biography once you strip out the drugs and debauchery? Benatar has plenty to say about the music industry, and the determination it takes to have both a family and a rock life. Her rise to fame tells two stories—her own struggle to be taken seriously as a rocker, not a sex object, and a larger story about the music business itself.

Benatar’s fierce, punk-edged stage look came about as a happy accident of timing: she played an early gig in New York City without changing out of the short dress and black tights she’d worn to an earlier Halloween party. The crowd went wild. Once she and her band were signed to Chrysalis Records, how sexy she looked became a conflict-riddled marketing issue. She wanted to keep singing raw rock lyrics with an image to match, while the record label organized photo shoots and wardrobe choices that made her feel exposed and furious—for instance, a poster that made it appear that she was naked.

The multi-Grammy-winning Benatar’s account of filming music videos and navigating her edgy image with the record company is a great, dishy look behind the scenes. When MTV first went live, her video for “You Better Run” was the second one to air. And as she describes the filming of the dance-intensive “Love is a Battlefield” video, she confesses that the same woman who could strut across a stage as if she owned it was a tremendous klutz when it came to learning actual choreography.

The fights that she and her band had with Chrysalis Records seem to overtake a good chunk of the book, with misunderstanding and vitriol getting in the way of rock and roll fantasies on both the creative and financial sides. Benatar not only had to fight to keep her image sexy on her own terms, the record company set them a production and touring schedule that made it hard to think, much less write songs for the next album. For years, Chrysalis refused to give Benatar’s husband, Neil “Spyder” Giraldo, production credit on albums, which took a toll on the band financially as well as driving a wedge into Benatar and Giraldo’s relationship. Writing about it years later, Benatar’s anger still seethes off the page, with even more emotional resonance than in her recounting of her first marriage and its dissolution.

The book’s conclusion—with the band now working with an independent label—brings Benatar and her musicians into 2001. At that point, she’s the almost-50-year-old mother of two daughters, one already in her 20s. Even now, Benatar and her band still tour. Over the years, she’s navigated what might seem to be an improbable balancing act: love, motherhood, business, and rock and roll. Even if Pat Benatar isn’t one of your rock music idols, Between a Heart and a Rock Place showcases her sheer, determined classiness in a business that, for women, can be intensely tough to navigate.

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