Hit Me with Your Best Shot

Pat Benatar no longer sings her hit song, “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.”  Respect for the victims of mass shootings and their families has driven her to believe that the song no longer is appropriate.

I find her change of heart puzzling.

According to Wikipedia, Pat Benatar “is an American rock singer and songwriter. In the United States, she has had two multi-platinum albums, five platinum albums, and 15 Billboard top 40 singles.“  She recently was selected to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” is considered by many to be her biggest hit over a career that began in 1979.

It puzzles me that Benatar decided not to sing the song her fans most want to hear, because I never thought the song was about firearm violence.  “Hit me with your best shot” doesn’t mean, at least to me, “shoot me.”  If it implies anything violent, it means “strike me as hard as you can.”  The lyrics back me up:

You’re a real tough cookie
With a long history
Of breaking little hearts like the one in me
That’s okay, lets see how you do it
Put up your dukes, let’s get down to it

Hit me with your best shot
Why don’t you hit me with your best shot
Hit me with your best shot
Fire away

You come on with the come on
You don’t fight fair
That’s okay, see if I care!
Knock me down, it’s all in vain
I get right back up on my feet again!

Hit me with your best shot
Why don’t you hit me with your best shot
Hit me with your best shot
Fire away

You’re a real tough cookie with a long history
Of breaking little hearts like the one in me
Before I put another notch in my lipstick case
You better make sure you put me in my place!

Metaphorically, of course, the song means something like “I love you even though you treat me badly,” but the words literally suggest physical beating.  “Put up your dukes” and “knock me down … I get right back up on my feet again.”  That’s not about gunshots; it’s about violent abuse of women.  Yes, the chorus says “fire away!,” but in the context of the entire song, “fire” is akin to “launch,” not shoot.

In its genre, “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” is a rockin’ song.  Powerful beat, full of energy, edgy lyrics.  If you like rock and roll, it’s hard not to like it, but from the day I first heard it, I wondered why a woman would sing a song about encouraging a man to hit her as hard as he can.  Why would she think that thought personally, why would she want to pass that message on to other women, why would she want to encourage other men?    No one expects rock and roll to present consistently uplifting messages, but did we need a song that so clearly promotes abusiveness?

I often wonder whether Tina Turner, who was in fact hit with Ike Turner’s best shots, repeatedly, would sing that song.  I think not.

Women perceive the world differently and I admit, maybe I just don’t get it.  Maybe Benatar’s message of courage and perseverance encourages and motivates women.  Maybe it’s about $omething else.  Still, I don’t see what the song has to do with mass shootings.

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