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Neil Giraldo

Pat Benatar's guitarist (and husband), Neil Giraldo, proved to be one of the finest yet underrated guitarists of the early-'80s arena rock/MTV generation. Born on December 29, 1955, and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Giraldo picked up the guitar at the age of seven (at the insistence of his father). Influenced early on by such groups as the Yardbirds, Giraldo had begun playing in bar bands by the age of 15, a few of which issued obscure regional singles. By the mid-'70s, Giraldo was playing bass in a local group, when he got word through a friend that Edgar Winter was looking for a bassist. It turned out to be a false alarm, but the same acquaintance mentioned that Rick Derringer was looking for a guitarist. This time, a try-out was secured, as Giraldo immediately landed the gig. But supposedly, Derringer quickly grew intimidated by Giraldo's prominent stage presence and guitar chops, which led the bandleader to limit Giraldo's role on his one and only recording with Derringer, 1979's Guitars and Women (on which Giraldo supplied mostly piano).

Understandably fed up and disappointed, Giraldo began looking for work elsewhere and relocated to New York City. It didn't take the guitarist long to land another gig, as the proprietor of the New York club Catch a Rising Star. Rick Newman and renowned producer Mike Chapman recommended that the guitarist join up with an up-and-coming singer, Pat Benatar. Giraldo's fiery guitar playing complemented Benatar's vocals perfectly, as the new group quickly gelled. A string of hit albums (1979's In the Heat of the Night, 1980's Crimes of Passion, 1981's Precious Time, and 1982's Get Nervous) and singles ("I Need a Lover," "Heartbreaker," "Hit Me with Your Best Shot," "Fire and Ice," "Shadows of the Night") helped establish Benatar as one of the most popular female vocalists in all of rock during the early '80s. With each subsequent release, Giraldo's presence became stronger behind the scenes as well -- he served as songwriter and producer. 1982 would go down as one of the most memorable in Benatar and Giraldo's career, both professionally and personally, as the two were wed in February.

Due to his success with Benatar, Giraldo began lending his guitar talents to recordings by other artists, including Rick Springfield (Working Class Dog) and Kenny Loggins (High Adventure), in addition to producing the solo debut by John Waite, Ignition. Although the hits began to dry up by the late '80s and early '90s, Benatar/Giraldo continued to issue albums and tour on a regular basis, even though the pair also started raising a family around this time. In addition to his work with Benatar, Giraldo continued to work with other artists, penning songs for the Corrs ("Intimacy") and the Real McCoy ("Love Save Me"), plus producing albums for the Del-Lords and Kevin Raleigh. The early 21st century saw Giraldo get involved with composing music for movies, including Last Request and Nailed, in addition to assembling a new side band, the Sicilians, and lending a hand putting together a demo for his and Benatar's daughter, Haley (called *GLO*). With his guitar talents oft-times restrained on studio albums, a pair of fine showcases for Giraldo's playing surfaced in the form of archival live releases: Benatar's 8-15-80 and Derringer's Live at the Paradise Theater Boston, Massachusetts: July 7, 1978.

Giraldo continued to balance his time between soundtrack work and regular tours with Benatar. In 2014, the pair launched a celebratory blowout called the 35th Anniversary Tour, a journey that extended into 2015. A live CD/DVD set commemorating the tour was released in 2015. ~ Greg Prato

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