How a Shocking Stat About Female Homeless Vets Became a Pat Benatar Song

David Needleman
“She’s one of the biggest female empowerment women out there,” says Perry (above) of Benatar.

The singer and Linda Perry open up about their tune "Dancing Through the Wreckage," from the documentary 'Served Like a Girl.'

There are 55,000 homeless female vets in the U.S. This statistic hit songwriter/producer Linda Perry like a tidal wave when her friend Lysa Heslov, who directed the documentary Served Like a Girl, made her aware of the appallingly high numbers.

Even if these members of the military had homes to return to, many of the women faced incredible challenges as they attempted to assimilate into civilian life after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That was the backdrop for "Dancing Through the Wreckage," the song, written by Perry, Neil Giraldo and Pat Benatar and performed by Benatar, that anchors the documentary. In addition to being bandmates, Benatar and Giraldo have been married for 35 years.

The trio were working on "Shine," an anthem for January's Women's March, when Perry, a longtime Benatar fan, instantly thought of the female rocker as a tough yet compassionate voice for these veterans.

"I was completely ignorant of the facts [about female vets] and frankly, I was stunned," says Benatar. "Once I was aware of the issues, I knew I had to be part of this cause. When I told [Neil] about the film, he, of course, joined as well."

"Dancing Through the Wreckage," a power ballad Perry had started before she brought in Giraldo and Benatar, swells into a resounding tale of strength and redemption. It was important to all involved that the lyrics represent the soldiers' stories but also lift up anyone going through a difficult time.

"I don't ever get too literal," Perry explains. "It's more about being inspired by the emotion and the feeling. The song's message goes across the board on so many levels."

Says Benatar: "One of the most rewarding aspects of songwriting is creating the common thread. You begin writing about a specific subject but end up creating a broader narrative. This is the power and beauty of songwriting."

When asked to pick the part of the song of which she is most proud, Benatar simply replies, "all of it. To be able to contribute in some small way to raise awareness for this cause and possibly change lives for the better is the best part."

This story first appeared in a November stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.