Thanks to her powerful set of pipes and her diminutive stature, five-foot-two country superstar Martina McBride has often been compared to another rafters-blasting singer, Eighties rock icon Pat Benatar. While Benatar is a mere two inches shorter than McBride, she’s been a giant in the recording industry for more than 35 years, and was certainly a major influence on the “Independence Day” singer before young Martina Schiff moved to Nashville.
In 2003, the pair swapped several of their respective hits when they performed together on an explosive episode of the genre-hopping series CMT Crossroads. It was only the second time since the show’s 2002 debut that two female acts had been showcased side-by-side (Dolly Parton and Melissa Etheridge were first). Other distaff pairings since have included Wynonna and Heart, Reba McEntire and her future daughter-in-law, Kelly Clarkson, and Kacey Musgraves and Katy Perry.
In addition to Benatar proving her country mettle with “Independence Day” and the 2001 hit single “When God-Fearin’ Women Get the Blues,” Crossroads gave McBride, who used to perform Benatar’s songs in local bands in her native Kansas, a chance to dust off rock smashes like “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Promises in the Dark” and “We Belong.”
“When I sing Pat’s songs. . . I hear myself sounding kind of like her,” McBride told CMT at the time. “It’s not something I do on purpose, but it just comes out that way.”
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Benatar and McBride stand toe-to-toe when it comes to their respective awards tallies as well: The former is a four-time Grammy winner with seven platinum albums to her credit, while McBride has been named CMA Female Vocalist of the Year four times and has earned eight platinum albums. And the women also share the musical support of their husbands. Songwriter and guitarist Neil Giraldo has been an integral part of Benatar’s live band since 1980, when she debuted with the churning rock hit “Heartbreaker.” McBride and her husband, sound engineer John McBride, launched Blackbird Studio in Nashville in 2002, where the two collaborate on Martina’s albums, including last year’s Everlasting.
McBride, who wowed the crowd at the ACM Awards this past weekend, returns to the road on May 15th, while the Benatar/Giraldo 35th Anniversary Tour is currently underway, with a May 13th stop (and perhaps a McBride/Benatar reunion?) at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.