Hell Is For Children

Album: Crimes Of Passion (1980)


  • Benatar wrote this song with her guitarist (and future husband) Neil Giraldo, and her bass player Roger Capps. The song is about child abuse. When we spoke with Giraldo, he explained: "That song was inspired by an article that Patricia read in the New York Times about child abuse. That started the lyric off, and the lyric went from her to Roger. Roger added a few lines to that. And then some form of the melody started being constructed. I got a hold of it and I finished writing the melody and I worked on the chorus, and I did the outro section to build it up, because I wanted the whole song to be very sad as the beginning. I wanted to make it intense so you could really feel the pain of what the song was about. So by the time it ended, you've got to be exhausted. And that was the point. 'Hell is for hell,' like a very powerful moment." (Here's our full interview with Neil Giraldo.)
  • In an interview with Portfolio Weekly, Benatar explained: "I was living in New York when we wrote it and the New York Times did a series of articles about child abuse in America. 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. I said to Neil, 'I want you to do something to the music 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. I always wonder if other people have lofty intentions. I didn't.

    We started a foundation for abused children. Then we had all these grownups writing letters saying no one had addressed this in this way before and that it was so great having someone in rock-n-roll doing this. It turned into this other thing that I don't think any of us foresaw. The anguish is there. Every time I sing it I really remember the afternoon when we talked about it."
  • Many listeners thought Benatar was singing about her own experience with child abuse, but that was far from true. Neil Giraldo told us: "Everybody thought that it was real. They thought that Patricia was abused as a child, which wasn't the case. She had a great upbringing. You couldn't get more Happy Days-like than her. She had the perfect Happy Days life. There was other abuse happening in my family, but it was a different type of thing, more verbal, but not physical like the song depicts.

    I'm glad it turned out the way it did. It's one of my favorite songs that we wrote, and it really has a very powerful effect on people. And it's great to play, it's great to sing, great to hear, great to feel."
  • On the Crimes Of Passion album, this follows "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," a song whose writer, Eddie Schwartz, told us is about empowerment, not masochism or abuse.

Comments: 12

  • Lilly from DelawareI lived this hell and this song for me at 61 years old continues to be an outlet for my pain.
  • Courtney from MichiganI believe and hope that Pat doesn't sing this song to be mean, It's just that she was against child abuse, right?
  • Sandy from Oxnard, CaThis song is like a great song. Oh and Joshua I 2nd your comment.
  • Dusty from St. Louis, MoLiquid Len does have a point. They do have similar ranges. But I don't think this sounds like a Rush song. Rush songs sound fuller. This song sounds like it has something missing. And another reason is that Rush are better musicians.
  • Pat from St. Paul, MnI find it ironic that after "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" was a big hit for Pat Benatar, her next hit was this song. Somehow the two songs have opposing messages, even if "Hit Me" was not meant literally.
  • Cyberpope from Richmond, CanadaThis song, with "Cat's in the Cradle" defined my constant-in-childhood feelings of emptiness and fear
  • James from Riverside, CaThe band Thrash Band Viking did a cover of this
  • Anne from Dodge City, KsYou are awesome in Boulder!! I am crying I am laughing so hard!!
  • Liquid Len from Ottawa, CanadaLike Rush? Um, no. But now that I think about it, Pat Benetar and Geddy Lee have similar ranges and styles. Imagine Pat singing 'Spirit of Radio' or Geddy singing 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot'. I kind of think Pat Benetar has a better voice (not as yelpy!), but Rush have the edge on songs.
  • I'm Awesome from Boulder, Cothis song got scary after i once saw my mom singing along to this....
  • Jim from Dayton, OhNo disrespect, but I have a real hard time drawing a correlation between "Hell Is For Children" and ANYTHING on "Permenant Waves" other than there were guitars, bass and drums used.
  • Joshua from Twin Cities, MnThis sounds almost like a Rush song. Except for the lyrics, it sounds like it would have been right at home on Rush's "Permanent Waves" album which came out the same year.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Mike CampbellSongwriter Interviews

Mike is lead guitarist with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and co-writer of classic songs like "Boys Of Summer," "Refugee" and "The Heart Of The Matter."

Rock Stars of HorrorMusic Quiz

Rock Stars - especially those in the metal realm - are often enlisted for horror movies. See if you know can match the rocker to the role.

Leslie West of MountainSongwriter Interviews

From the cowbell on "Mississippi Queen" to recording with The Who when they got the wrong Felix, stories from one of rock's master craftsmen.

Phone Booth SongsSong Writing

Phone booths are nearly extinct, but they provided storylines for some of the most profound songs of the pre-cell phone era.

Michael FrantiSongwriter Interviews

Franti tells the story behind his hit "Say Hey (I Love You)" and explains why yoga is an integral part of his lifestyle and his Soulshine tour.

Stan RidgwaySongwriter Interviews

Go beyond the Wall of Voodoo with this cinematic songwriter.