Audiences who catch Pat Benatar on tour this summer may be surprised to find one of the singer’s most beloved songs absent from her set list.
Benatar, a four-time Grammy winner, tells USA Today she’ll no longer be performing her 1980 smash “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” in protest of gun violence.
“I’m sorry, in deference to the victims of the families of these mass shootings, I’m not singing it,” she told the publication in an interview published Friday.
“[The title] is tongue-in-cheek, but you have to draw the line,” she continued. “I can’t say those words out loud with a smile on my face, I just can’t.”
“Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” off the 1980 album “Crimes of Passion,” was Benatar’s first Top 10 single. Written by Eddie Schwartz, the song includes the refrain: “Why don’t you hit me with your best shot, hit me with your best shot, fire away!”
The track has gone on to become a karaoke bar staple, and was memorably performed by Catherine Zeta-Jones in the movie musical “Rock of Ages.” Kelly Clarkson also covered the song on her 2012 Stronger Tour.
On Friday, Benatar acknowledged fans “are having a heart attack” over her decision to omit the song from her recent concerts. She’s hopeful they’ll console themselves by hearing other big hits from her catalog, like 1979’s “Heartbreaker” and 1983’s “Love Is a Battlefield” ― or by staying home altogether.
“I tell them, if you want to hear the song, go home and listen to it,” she said. “I’m not going to go on stage and soapbox – I go to my legislators – but that’s my small contribution to protesting. I’m not going to sing it. Tough.”
As of Friday, there have been 357 mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Last month, President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan gun safety bill, which includes enhanced background checks for those under 21 and additional funds for mental health.
Still, Biden and other Democrats have conceded that the legislation falls far short of the reforms advocates had hoped for, such as banning assault weapons.
Elsewhere in her USA Today chat, Benatar said the Supreme Court’s June ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade and eliminated the federal right to an abortion was also on her mind as she was planning her tour.
Though her song “Invincible” was released in 1985, she believes its message of self-empowerment will continue to resonate among modern audiences given the current political climate.
“I’m worried, like all of us, about fundamental autonomy rights,” Benatar said. This is a slippery slope. It’s not about abortion for me. I’m concerned that people are not paying attention to what this actually means.”