Setlist History: Pat Benatar Debuts "Hell is for Children" in NYC

Pat Benatar live debuted her often-misunderstood song "Hell is For Children" on July 25, 1980 in Central Park.

The song was inspired by a series of New York Times feature articles about child abuse in the USA that opened the eyes of the singer.

"I came from a really small town on Long Island and I had no idea that this existed, not in the little gingerbread place I came from. I was stunned. It affected me so much. I was moved by the articles. Whenever that would happen I would write," she told Portfolio Weekly.

Pat Benatar explains "Hell is for Children" in 2001

So she told her husband and guitarist Neil Giraldo, "I want you to do something to the music so that it sounds like pain. I want the intense pain that's happening to these children in the notes,' and so he did and it turned out just great. It became an anthem."

The song was placed on Benatar's second album, Crimes of Passion, but the tune was never released as a single. The 1980 album was not lacking for hits as "You Better Run," "Treat Me Right," and "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," catapulted the hard-edged singer into success of all sorts.

It's common knowledge that The Bugle's "Video Killed The Radio Star" was the first video MTV played. This Pat Benatar song from Crimes of Passion was the second.

The album was the 5th best selling record of the year, she won a Grammy, and (attention trivia buffs) "You Better Run" was chosen to be the second video ever played on MTV.

Crimes of Passion was such a compelling album, FM DJs began playing "Hell is For Children,"  topping at #7 on the Tunecaster chart of airplay.

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In 1982's Fast Times at Ridgemont High, one of the jokes was about how many of the high school girls adopted Benatar's look.

The song is her #4 most-performed tune. The live-debut of the anthem was at the 1980 Dr. Pepper Music Festival, a NYC staple held in Central Park at the Wollman Rink Theater.

Before it was sponsored by the soft drink, the summer festival was hosted by a beer brand going back to the late '60s when groups like Led Zeppelin, Count Basie, and The Who entertained New Yorkers.

From the program of the 1980 Dr. Pepper Music Festival. Bands like Devo, Hall & Oates, The Talking Heads, and Roxy Music were some of the acts that year.

Benatar, who turned 70 in January, was elected into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2022 and holds the distinction of winning the Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance four consecutive years in a row from 1980 and 1983. 

A week after Benatar played the Dr. Pepper festival, the Ramones took the stage.

She has been an inspiration for many, most notably other female singers who appreciated her brash, confident, powerful style and pop rock sensibilities.

Pat at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction

Someone who clearly grew up and was influenced with her music is P!nk, who Benatar will be opening for in stadiums in Boston, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee and L.A. Those tickets can be snapped up on P!nk's site.

P!nk segues into "Heartbreaker" after "Just Like Fire" in her current tour. Could she bring out Pat during the six shows they play together?

Meanwhile Pat, Neil and the band are headlining around the US this summer as well. Those tickets are available on Pat's website.

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Last updated: 18 Jul 2024, 01:53 Etc/UTC