Switching careers can be wrenching, but 27-year-old Holly Knight has managed the change beautifully. A successful songwriter who co-wrote such hits as Better Be Good to Me (for Tina Turner) and Love Is a Battlefield (for Pat Benatar), Knight is now playing and singing her own songs with a band of her own, Device. The group’s first single, Hanging on a Heart Attack, had its world premiere in May as a video on MTV, an unusual way for a band to make its debut. Heart Attack is included on Device’s first album, titled 22B3. Money wasn’t the motivator for Knight’s change from writing to performing: Holly, who drives a Maserati, has earned more than $100,000 in royalties from her tunesmithing. Rather, she says, “I just wanted to record my own songs on my own terms and not have them changed.”
The Manhattan-raised daughter of an anesthesiologist, Knight studied classical piano as a child and, after two years at the Boston School of Electronic Music, played keyboards and sang with an unsuccessful New York rock band. She shifted her goals after a chance meeting with ex-Blondie producer Mike Chapman in 1978 convinced her she should pursue songwriting. Knight moved to L.A. five years ago and since then has collaborated with Chapman and other writers on songs like The Warrior for Patty Smyth and Obsession for Animotion.
Given her plans to make a second Device album soon, Knight knows she must begin stockpiling her work. Recently she had to hedge when Tina Turner asked for a new song. But the stars don’t seem to be holding it against her. Says Heart’s Nancy Wilson, “Knowing how talented Holly is, I think it’s natural that she have her own band, and we wish her the best.”