Today in Madonna History: March 26, 1986

Live To Tell - Video Set - Herb Ritts Live To Tell - Canadian Cassette Maxi-Single Cover Live To Tell - Canadian CMS - Inner Sleeve Live To Tell - Canadian CMS - Back Sleeve Live To Tell - Canadian CMS - CassetteOn March 26 1986, Live To Tell was released as a single in North America by Sire Records. The haunting and dramatic ballad, written and produced by Madonna & Patrick Leonard, was the first commercially released collaboration between the pair – a songwriting partnership that is viewed by many fans as one of her most creatively successful.

Leonard had previously been involved with Madonna’s Virgin Tour as musical director, and when Madonna agreed to participate in Live Aid in the Summer of 1985, she asked him to collaborate on a new song for the performance, which evolved into Love Makes The World Go Round.

Although both songs would find their way on to Madonna’s next studio album, True Blue, at the time of Live To Tell’s release the album’s title had not yet been decided. Instead, the song was used to promote Sean Penn’s film At Close Range, in which it was featured alongside an original score composed by Leonard.

He had initially composed the music that evolved into Live To Tell for another film he had been invited to score for Paramount, titled Fire With Fire. The producers of the film passed on the theme. Leonard recalled the subsequent series of events that led to the song’s completion in The Billboard Book of Number One Hits by Random House:

“Madonna said ‘This song would be great for Sean’s new movie.’ She wrote the lyrics–she just wrote them on the spot, which is what we always do. I don’t think we’ve ever taken more than three hours to complete a song from start to finish. She sang it on the demo only once and left with the cassette. That day I went to work with Michael Jackson on some transcriptions for material he was writing for the Bad album. The phone rang at Michael’s and it was Sean. He said ‘I’m over at the director’s house and Madonna just brought the song over. We love it and we’d like to talk to you about it.’ … We recut the song, but we used the same vocal. She only sang it once for the demo and that was the vocal we used because it was so innocent and so shy. She had a legal pad in her hand and you can hear the paper. It’s as raw as raw can be and that’s part of what gave it all its charm.”

When the demo recording of Live To Tell eventually surfaced, it became evident that Madonna had in fact re-recorded the first verse, but all remaining vocals do indeed appear to have been carried over from the demo to the final mix (along with a generously added dose of reverb to smooth over the rough edges of the demo take).

Given the song’s dark undercurrents and unresolved narrative, it was a bold choice for a single release. It marked a dramatic shift from the yearning love song, Crazy For You – her only other ballad to have been issued as a single at the time. But any radio programmers who were hesitant to consider Madonna as a serious artist simply couldn’t deny the artistry of the song and nor could record buyers, with the combined support sending Live To Tell straight to the top of the pop charts. It was also a significant Adult Contemporary crossover success, becoming her first single to reach number-one on Billboard’s Hot AC chart where it reigned for three weeks.

Today in Madonna History: March 25, 1997

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On March 25 1997, Madonna performed You Must Love Me at the 68th Academy Awards. The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Kathleen Guerdo from Billboard said that “Madonna delivers what is by far one of the strongest vocal performances of her career, comfortably scaling to the song’s demanding soprano heights while infusing it with delicate, heart-rending emotion.”

Today in Madonna History: March 24, 1997

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On March 24 1997, Madonna’s version of Another Suitcase In Another Hall  was released as the third and final single from the Evita soundtrack.

The single was only available in the UK, New Zealand, Australia and a small number of European countries.

The lyrics for Another Suitcase In Another Hall were written by Tim Rice, with the music by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

A music video was released to promote the single.  The video was the actual performance sequence from the film Evita, directed by Alan Parker.

Today in Madonna History: March 20, 2012

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On March 20 2012, Madonna’s Girl Gone Wild video was released.

The black-and-white music video was directed by Mert Alan and Marcus Piggott. The video featured Madonna and a number of male models in different looks, dancing with the Ukrainian group Kazaky. It received critical acclaim for the editing and the visuals, while reviewers noted that it took inspiration from several past videos released by Madonna, such as Erotica, Justify My Love, Human Nature and Vogue.

Artur Gaspar from Kazaky recalled:

“By the end of the day on set, our feet were bleeding and we had blisters… But if Madonna can repeat the dancing for the 50th time, why can’t we?”