Backstage with the ‘Queen of Pop’ Madonna turns 60

No Lies Radio Music – By Teri Perticone – Sat 22 Sep 2018

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Madonna Louise Ciccone (born August 16, 1958) is an American singer, songwriter, actress, and businesswoman. Referred to as the “Queen of Pop” since the 1980s, Madonna is known for pushing the boundaries of songwriting in mainstream popular music, as well as imagery in music videos and on stage. She has also frequently reinvented both her music and image while maintaining autonomy within the recording industry. Besides sparking controversy, her works have been praised by music critics. Madonna is often cited as an influence by other artists.

Born and raised in Michigan, Madonna moved to New York City in 1978 to pursue a career in modern dance. After performing as a drummer, guitarist, and vocalist in the rock bands Breakfast Club and Emmy, Madonna signed with Sire Records in 1982 and released her eponymous debut album the next year. She followed it with a series of successful albums, including the global bestsellers Like a Virgin (1984) and True Blue (1986), as well as the Grammy Award winners Ray of Light (1998) and Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005). Throughout her career, Madonna has written and produced most of her songs, with many of them reaching number one on the record charts, including “Like a Virgin”, “La Isla Bonita”, “Like a Prayer”, “Vogue”, “Take a Bow”, “Frozen”, “Music”, “Hung Up”, and “4 Minutes”.

Madonna’s popularity was further enhanced by her roles in films such as Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), Dick Tracy (1990), A League of Their Own (1992), and Evita (1996). While the latter earned her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, many of her other films received poor reviews. As a businesswoman, Madonna founded her own entertainment company Maverick, including the label Maverick Records, in 1992. Her other ventures include fashion design, writing children’s books, opening of health clubs, and filmmaking. She contributed in various charities and founded Ray of Light Foundation in 1998 and Raising Malawi in 2006.

Having sold more than 300 million records worldwide, Madonna is recognized as the best-selling female recording artist of all time by Guinness World Records. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) listed her as the second highest-certified female artist in the U.S., with 64.5 million album units. According to Billboard, Madonna is the most successful solo artist in its Hot 100 chart history. She is also the highest-grossing solo touring artist of all time, accumulating U.S. $1.4 billion from her concert tickets. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in her first year of eligibility, Madonna topped VH1’s countdown of 100 Greatest Women in Music. Additionally, Rolling Stone listed her among the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time.

Early life and career beginnings

After her mother died of breast cancer at age 30 on December 1, 1963, Madonna turned to her paternal grandmother for solace. The Ciccone siblings resented housekeepers and rebelled against anyone brought into their home who they thought would try to take the place of their beloved mother. Madonna later told Vanity Fair that she saw herself in her youth as a “lonely girl who was searching for something. I wasn’t rebellious in a certain way. I cared about being good at something. I didn’t shave my underarms and I didn’t wear make-up like normal girls do. But I studied and I got good grades…. I wanted to be somebody.” Terrified that her father Tony could be taken from her as well, Madonna was often unable to sleep unless she was near him.[4]

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In 1966, Tony married the family’s housekeeper Joan Gustafson. They had two children, Jennifer and Mario.[7] Madonna resented her father for getting remarried, and began rebelling against him, which strained their relationship for many years afterward.[4] She attended St. Frederick’s and St. Andrew’s Catholic Elementary Schools, and West Middle School. Madonna was known for her high grade point average, and achieved notoriety for her unconventional behavior. She would perform cartwheels and handstands in the hallways between classes, dangle by her knees from the monkey bars during recess, and pull up her skirt during class—all so that the boys could see her underwear.[10]

Madonna’s father put her in classical piano lessons, but she later convinced him to allow her to take ballet lessons.[11] Christopher Flynn, her ballet teacher, persuaded her to pursue a career in dance.[12] She later attended Rochester Adams High School where she became a straight-A student and a member of the cheerleading squad.[13] After graduating, she received a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan.[14]

In 1978, Madonna dropped out of college and relocated to New York City.[15] She had little money while working as a waitress at Dunkin’ Donuts and with modern dance troupes, taking classes at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and eventually performing with Pear Lang Dance Theater.[16][17][18] Madonna said of her move to New York, “It was the first time I’d ever taken a plane, the first time I’d ever gotten a taxi cab. I came here with $35 in my pocket. It was the bravest thing I’d ever done.”[19] She started to work as a backup dancer for other established artists. Madonna claimed that one night, while returning from a rehearsal, a pair of men held her at knifepoint and forced her to perform fellatio. She later found the incident to be “a taste of my weakness, it showed me that I still could not save myself in spite of all the strong-girl show. I could never forget it.”[20]

While performing as a backup singer and dancer for the French disco artist Patrick Hernandez on his 1979 world tour, Madonna became romantically involved with musician Dan Gilroy[10] and they lived in an abandoned synagogue in Corona, Queens.[21][22] Together, they formed her first rock band, the Breakfast Club, for which Madonna sang and played drums and guitar.[23] In 1980[7] or 1981[24] she left Breakfast Club and, with her then boyfriend Stephen Bray as drummer, formed the band Emmy. The two began writing songs together, but Madonna later decided to promote herself as a solo act.[25] Her music impressed DJ and record producer Mark Kamins who arranged a meeting between Madonna and Sire Records founder Seymour Stein.[24]

1982–1985: Madonna, Like a Virgin, and first marriage

After Madonna signed a singles deal with Sire, her debut single, “Everybody”, was released in October 1982, and the second, “Burning Up”, in March 1983. Both became big club hits in the United States, reaching number three on Hot Dance Club Songs chart compiled by Billboard magazine.[26] After this success, she started developing her eponymous debut album, Madonna, which was primarily produced by Reggie Lucas of Warner Bros. However, she was not happy with the completed tracks and disagreed with Lucas’ production techniques, so decided to seek additional help.[27]

Madonna moved in with boyfriend John “Jellybean” Benitez, asking his help for finishing the album’s production.[27] Benitez remixed most of the tracks and produced “Holiday”, which was her third single and her first international top-ten hit. The overall sound of Madonna was dissonant and in the form of upbeat synthetic disco, using some of the new technology of the time, like the Linn drum machine, Moog bass and the OB-X synthesizer.[27][28] The album was released in July 1983 and peaked at number eight on the Billboard 200 six months later, in 1984. It yielded two top-ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100, “Borderline” and “Lucky Star”.[29][30]


Madonna – Borderline (Official Music Video)

Madonna’s look and style of dressing, her performances, and her music videos influenced young girls and women. Her style became one of the female fashion trends of the 1980s. Created by stylist and jewelry designer Maripol, the look consisted of lace tops, skirts over capri pants, fishnet stockings, jewelry bearing the crucifix, bracelets, and bleached hair.[31][32] Madonna’s popularity continued to rise globally with the release of her second studio album, Like a Virgin, in November 1984. It became her first number-one album in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, the UK, and the US.[29][33] Like a Virgin became the very first album by a female to sell over five million copies in the U.S.[34] It was later certified diamond, and has sold over 21 million copies worldwide.[35]


Madonna – Like A Virgin

The album’s title track served as its first single, and topped the Hot 100 chart for six consecutive weeks.[36] It attracted the attention of conservative organizations who complained that the song and its accompanying video promoted premarital sex and undermined family values,[37] and moralists sought to have the song and video banned.[38] Madonna received huge media coverage for her performance of “Like a Virgin” at the first 1984 MTV Video Music Awards. Wearing a wedding dress and white gloves, Madonna appeared on stage atop a giant wedding cake and then rolled around suggestively on the floor. MTV retrospectively considered it one of the “most iconic” pop performances of all time.[39] The second single, “Material Girl”, reached number two on the Hot 100 and was promoted by a music video recreating Marilyn Monroe’s performance of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” from the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. While filming this video, Madonna started dating actor Sean Penn. They married on her birthday in 1985.[40]


Madonna – Material Girl (Official Music Video)

Madonna entered mainstream films in February 1985, beginning with a brief appearance as a club singer in Vision Quest, a romantic drama film. Its soundtrack contained two new singles, her U.S. number-one single, “Crazy for You”, and another track “Gambler”.[43] She also played the title role in the 1985 comedy Desperately Seeking Susan, a film which introduced the song “Into the Groove”, her first number-one single in the UK.[44] Her popularity relegated the film as a Madonna vehicle, despite not having lead actress billing.[45] The New York Times film critic Vincent Canby named it one of the ten best films of 1985.[46]

Beginning in April 1985, Madonna embarked on her first concert tour in North America, The Virgin Tour, with the Beastie Boys as her opening act. She progressed from playing CBGB and the Mudd Club to playing large sporting arenas. The tour saw the peak of Madonna wannabe phenomenon, with lots of female attendees dressing like her.[47] At that time, she released two more hits, “Angel” and “Dress You Up”, making all four singles from the album peak inside the top five on the Hot 100 chart.[48] In July, Penthouse and Playboy magazines published a number of nude photos of Madonna, taken in New York in 1978. She had posed for the photographs as she needed money at the time, and was paid as little as $25 a session.[49] The publication of the photos caused a media uproar, but Madonna remained “unapologetic and defiant”.[50] The photographs were ultimately sold for up to $100,000.[49] She referred to these events at the 1985 outdoor Live Aid charity concert, saying that she would not take her jacket off because “[the media] might hold it against me ten years from now.”[50][51]

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1986–1991: True Blue, Who’s That Girl, Like a Prayer, and Dick Tracy.

In June 1986, Madonna released her third studio album, True Blue, which was inspired by and dedicated to Sean Penn.[52] Rolling Stone magazine was generally impressed with the effort, writing that the album “sound[s] as if it comes from the heart”.[53] Five singles were released from the album—”Live to Tell”, “Papa Don’t Preach”, “True Blue”, “Open Your Heart”, and “La Isla Bonita”—all of which reached number one in the United States or the United Kingdom.[43][54] The album topped the charts in 28 countries worldwide, an unprecedented achievement at the time, and became her best-selling studio album of her career with sales of 25 million copies.[55][56] True Blue was featured in the 1992 edition of Guinness World Records as the best-selling album by a woman of all time.[57]


Madonna – Papa Don’t Preach

Madonna starred in the critically panned film Shanghai Surprise in 1986, for which she received her first Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress.[58] She made her theatrical debut in a production of David Rabe’s Goose and Tom-Tom; the film and play both co-starred Penn.[59] The next year, Madonna was featured in the film Who’s That Girl. She contributed four songs to its soundtrack, including the title track and “Causing a Commotion”.[30] Madonna embarked on the Who’s That Girl World Tour in July 1987, which continued until September.[60][61] It broke several attendance records, including over 130,000 people in a show near Paris, which was then a record for the highest-attended female concert of all time.[62] Later that year, she released a remix album of past hits, titled You Can Dance, which reached number 14 on the Billboard 200.[29][63] After an annulment in December 1987, Madonna filed for divorce from Penn in January 1989, citing irreconcilable differences.[40]

In January 1989, Madonna signed an endorsement deal with soft-drink manufacturer, Pepsi. In one of her Pepsi commercials, she debuted “Like a Prayer”, the lead single from her fourth studio album of same name. The corresponding music video featured many Catholic symbols such as stigmata and cross burning, and a dream of making love to a saint, leading the Vatican to condemn the video. Religious groups sought to ban the commercial and boycott Pepsi products. Pepsi revoked the commercial and canceled her sponsorship contract.[64][65] “Like a Prayer” topped the charts in many countries, becoming her seventh number one on the Hot 100.[30][43]

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Madonna co-wrote and co-produced Like a Prayer with Patrick Leonard, Stephen Bray, and Prince.[66] Music critic J. D. Considine from Rolling Stone hailed the album “as close to art as pop music gets … proof not only that Madonna should be taken seriously as an artist but that hers is one of the most compelling voices of the Eighties.”[67] Like a Prayer peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold 15 million copies worldwide.[29][68] Other successful singles from the album were “Express Yourself” and “Cherish”, both peaked at number two in the US, as well as the UK top-five “Dear Jessie” and the US top-ten “Keep It Together”.[30][43] By the end of the 1980s, Madonna was named as the “Artist of the Decade” by MTV, Billboard and Musician magazine.[69][70][71]


Madonna – Express Yourself

Madonna starred as Breathless Mahoney in the film Dick Tracy (1990), with Warren Beatty playing the title role.[72] The film went to number one on the U.S. box office for two weeks and Madonna received a Saturn Award nomination for Best Actress.[73][74] To accompany the film, she released the soundtrack album, I’m Breathless, which included songs inspired by the film’s 1930s setting. It also featured the U.S. number-one song “Vogue”[75] and “Sooner or Later”.[76] While shooting the film, Madonna began a relationship with Beatty, which dissolved by the end of 1990.[77]


Madonna – Vogue

In April 1990, Madonna began her Blond Ambition World Tour, which was held until August.[78] Rolling Stone called it an “elaborately choreographed, sexually provocative extravaganza” and proclaimed it “the best tour of 1990”.[79] The tour generated strong negative reaction from religious groups for her performance of “Like a Virgin”, during which two male dancers caressed her body before she simulated masturbation.[60] In response, Madonna said, “The tour in no way hurts anybody’s sentiments. It’s for open minds and gets them to see sexuality in a different way. Their own and others”.[80] The live recording of the tour won Madonna her first Grammy Award, in the category of Best Long Form Music Video.[81]

The Immaculate Collection, Madonna’s first greatest-hits compilation album, was released in November 1990. It included two new songs, “Justify My Love” and “Rescue Me”.[82] The album was certified diamond by RIAA and sold over 30 million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling compilation album by a solo artist in history.[83][84] “Justify My Love” reached number one in the U.S. becoming her ninth number-one[43] Its music video featured scenes of sadomasochism, bondage, same-sex kissing, and brief nudity.[85][86] The video was deemed too sexually explicit for MTV and was banned from the network.[85]

In December 1990 Madonna decided to leave Jennifer Lynch’s film, Boxing Helena, which she had previously agreed to star in, without any explanation to the producers.[87] Around this time, Madonna had an eight-month relationship with rapper Vanilla Ice; he ended their relationship because of Madonna’s Sex book.[88] Her first documentary film, Truth or Dare (known as In Bed with Madonna outside North America),[89] was released in May 1991. Chronicling her Blond Ambition World Tour, it became the highest-grossing documentary of all time (surpassed eleven years later by Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine).[90]

1992–1997: Maverick, Erotica, Sex, Bedtime Stories, Evita, and motherhood

In 1992, Madonna starred in A League of Their Own as Mae Mordabito, a baseball player on an all-women’s team. It reached number one on the box-office and became the tenth highest-grossing film of the year in the U.S.[91] She recorded the film’s theme song, “This Used to Be My Playground”, which became her tenth Hot 100 number-one hit, the most by any female artist at the time.[43] The same year, she founded her own entertainment company, Maverick, consisting of a record company (Maverick Records), a film production company (Maverick Films), and associated music publishing, television broadcasting, book publishing and merchandising divisions. The deal was a joint venture with Time Warner and paid Madonna an advance of $60 million. It gave her 20% royalties from the music proceedings, the highest rate in the industry at the time, equaled only by Michael Jackson’s royalty rate established a year earlier with Sony.[92]

The first two projects released simultaneously from the venture were Madonna’s fifth studio album, Erotica, and her coffee table book, Sex. Consisting of sexually provocative and explicit images, photographed by Steven Meisel, the book received strong negative reaction from the media and the general public, but sold 1.5 million copies at $50 each in a matter of days.[93][94] The widespread backlash overshadowed Erotica, which ended up as her lowest selling album at the time.[94] Despite positive reviews, it became her first studio album since her debut album not to score any chart-topper in the U.S. The album entered the Billboard 200 at number two and yielded the Hot 100 top-ten hits “Erotica” and “Deeper and Deeper”.[29][43] Madonna continued her provocative imagery in the 1993 erotic thriller, Body of Evidence, a film which contained scenes of sadomasochism and bondage. It was poorly received by critics.[95][96] She also starred in the film Dangerous Game, which was released straight to video in North America. The New York Times described the film as “angry and painful, and the pain feels real.”[97]

In September 1993, Madonna embarked on The Girlie Show World Tour, in which she dressed as a whip-cracking dominatrix surrounded by topless dancers. In Puerto Rico she rubbed the island’s flag between her legs on stage, resulting in outrage among the audience.[60] In March 1994, she appeared as a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman, using profanity that required censorship on television, and handing Letterman a pair of her panties and asking him to smell it.[98] The releases of her sexually explicit book, album and film, and the aggressive appearance on Letterman all made critics question Madonna as a sexual renegade. Critics and fans reacted negatively, who commented that “she had gone too far” and that her career was over.[99]

In the 1996 musical, Evita, Madonna played the title role of Eva Perón.[106][107] For a long time, Madonna had desired to play Perón and wrote to director Alan Parker to explain why she would be perfect for the part. She said later, “This is the role I was born to play. I put everything of me into this because it was much more than a role in a movie. It was exhilarating and intimidating at the same time. And I am prouder of Evita than anything else I have done.”[108] After securing the role, she had vocal training and learned about the history of Argentina and Perón. During filming Madonna became ill several times, after finding out that she was pregnant, and from the intense emotional effort required with the scenes.[109] After Evita’s release in December 1996, Madonna’s performance was praised by film critics.[110] Zach Conner from Time magazine commented, “It’s a relief to say that Evita is pretty damn fine, well cast and handsomely visualized. Madonna once again confounds our expectations.”[111] Madonna won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for the role.[112]

The Evita soundtrack, containing songs mostly performed by Madonna, was released as a double album.[113] It included “You Must Love Me” and “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”; the latter reached number one in countries across Europe.[114] Madonna was presented with the Artist Achievement Award by Tony Bennett at the 1996 Billboard Music Awards.[115] On October 14, 1996, she gave birth to Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon, her daughter with Leon.[116] Biographer Mary Cross writes that although Madonna often worried that her pregnancy would harm Evita, she reached some important personal goals: “Now 38 years old, Madonna had at last triumphed on screen and achieved her dream of having a child, both in the same year. She had reached another turning point in her career, reinventing herself and her image with the public.”[117] Her relationship with Carlos Leon ended in May 1997 and she declared that they were “better off as best friends”.[118][119]

1998–2002: Ray of Light, Music, second marriage, and touring comeback

2003–2006: American Life and Confessions on a Dance Floor

2007–2011: Filmmaking, Hard Candy, and business ventures

2012–2016: Super Bowl XLVI halftime show, MDNA, and Rebel Heart


Madonna – Take A Bow

2017–present: Upcoming 14th studio album and other projects

In February 2017, Madonna adopted four-year-old twin sisters from Malawi named Esther and Stella,[252][253] and she moved to live in Lisbon, Portugal in summer 2017 with her adoptive children.[254] In July she opened the Mercy James Institute for Pediatric Surgery and Intensive Care in Malawi, a children’s hospital built by her Raising Malawi charity.[255] The live album chronicling the Rebel Heart Tour was released in September 2017, and won Best Music Video for Western Artists at the 32nd Japan Gold Disc Award.[256][257] That month, Madonna launched MDNA Skin in select stores in the United States, after getting “tired of hearing people complain here that they can’t get it in America”.[258] A few months earlier, the auction house Gotta Have Rock and Roll had put up Madonna’s personal items like love letters from Tupac Shakur, cassettes, underwear and a hairbrush for sale. Darlene Lutz, an art dealer who had initiated the auction, was sued by Madonna’s representatives to stop the proceedings. Madonna clarified that her celebrity status “does not obviate my right to maintain my privacy, including with regard to highly personal items”. Madonna lost the case and the presiding judge ruled in favor of Lutz who was able to prove that in 2004 Madonna made a legal agreement with her for selling the items.[259]

In January 2018, Madonna announced on Instagram that she had started working on her 14th studio album, which she later clarified would be infused with Portuguese fado music.[260][261] Four months later, she appeared at the 2018 Met Gala and performed a new song called “Beautiful Game”, along with “Like a Prayer” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.[262] Her other projects include directing the MGM film, Taking Flight, based on ballet dancer Michaela DePrince’s memoir, as well as adapting author Andrew Sean Greer’s novel, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, for film.[263] At the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards, Madonna paid tribute to singer Aretha Franklin, who had died the previous week.[264]

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Posted by Teri Perticone for No Lies Radio Music

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