On June 28 1986, Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach single debuted at #42 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA. Eight weeks later it would reach #1 on the same chart.
Shortly after its release, the song caused heated discussions about its lyrical content. Women’s organizations and others in the family planning field criticized Madonna for encouraging teenage pregnancy, while groups opposed to abortion saw it as a positive pro-life message.
In July 1986, shortly after the release of the video for Papa Don’t Preach, Madonna commented on the controversy surrounding the song, to music critic Stephen Holden from The New York Times:
“Papa Don’t Preach is a message song that everyone is going to take the wrong way. Immediately they’re going to say I am advising every young girl to go out and get pregnant. When I first heard the song, I thought it was silly. But then I thought, wait a minute, this song is really about a girl who is making a decision in her life. She has a very close relationship with her father and wants to maintain that closeness. To me it’s a celebration of life. It says, ‘I love you, father, and I love this man and this child that is growing inside me’. Of course, who knows how it will end? But at least it starts off positive.”
On June 1 1990, Madonna was controversially featured grabbing her crotch and breast on the cover of Interview magazine.
Madonna was interviewed by Glenn O’Brien at the Disney Studios, where she was rehearsing the Blond Ambition Tour. Here’s a snippet from the interview:
Glenn: Let’s talk about your show.
Madonna: Let’s not. Today was a horrible day. That was the worst rehearsal.
Glenn: Well, I liked it, but I haven’t seen it when you thought it was good. I loved the number where you’re lying on the piano singing a torch song.
Madonna: You saw only one segment of the show. I’ve created five different worlds, and the set is all based on hydraulics. One is going down and another is coming up. The world changes completely. I think of it more as a musical than as a rock concert. There is a straightforward Metropolis section, like my Express Yourself video – that set with all the gears and machinery; it’s very hard and metallic. That’s the heavy-duty dance music. Then the set changes and it’s like a church. We call it the temple ruins. It’s all these columns, trays of votive candles, a cross. I do Like a Virgin on a bed, but we changed the arrangement, so it sounds Indian. Then I’m being punished for masturbation on this bed, which is, as you know, what happens. Then we do the more serious, religious-type material – Like a Prayer, Papa Don’t Preach… Then it changes to what you saw, this Art Deco ’50s-musical set. That’s when we do three songs from Dick Tracy, and then after that we do what I call the camp section. Then it gets really serious again and we go into our Clockwork Orange cabaret set.
On May 4 2005, a jealous Boy George lashed out at Madonna in the press for her ambitious nature:
“If Madonna were a drag queen, she would be called Ruth Less.
I don’t think the word ‘warm’ comes to mind with Madonna. Ice is the word that springs to mind.”
What drag queen name would you give Madonna?
On April 5 2003, an Australian interview aired that demonstrated Madonna’s quick change of heart regarding the American Life music video.
During the interview with Richard Wilkins, the following dialog takes place:
Wilkins: “You’re going to get all sorts of criticism I think.”
Madonna: “Why. Tell me why!”
W: “People are going to say it’s inappropriate to show bombs going off and planes bombing people.”
M: “Why? That’s on the news every five minutes! I’m just using news footage that’s already been seen by everyone.”
W: “I’m suggesting that some people are going to think maybe it’s ill-timed.”
M: “But in a way it’s perfect timing, because it’s what we are experiencing right now – so, it’s American life. It’s very current and appropriate I think.”
Wilkins may have convinced Madonna to go cold on the idea.
“Maybe I did, perhaps I caused her to think again,” he said. “She is very proud of the video, as she should be because it’s incredible.”
By the time the interview aired (a week later), Madonna had already pulled the American Life video and made a statement regarding her choice.
You can read the statement and watch the full music video here.
On January 25, 1989, following eight months of negotiations, Pepsi announced that they had signed Madonna to a year-long endorsement contract, for which they would pay her $5 million. In return, Madonna would appear in a series of television commercials and Pepsi would sponsor the Like A Prayer World Tour, tentatively slated for later that year.
Pepsi was undaunted by Madonna’s image in the tabloids. “Her appeal is in her music and her acting. That’s where people’s interests are,” announced Pepsi spokesman Tod MacKenzie.
If the Like A Prayer World Tour had gone ahead as planned, do you think it would have been drastically different from Blond Ambition? What would have changed? Vogue and all the songs from Dick Tracy (or I’m Breathless) would have been omitted. What else?
On January 21 1992, a lawsuit was filed against Madonna by 3 ex-dancers: Oliver Crumes, Kevin Stea and Gabriel Trupin – they charged her with invasion of privacy, fraud and deceit, intentional misrepresentation, suppression of fact, and intentional infliction of emotional distress for exposing their private lives in her 1991 film documentary Truth or Dare.
In a commercial for MTV’s Rock the Vote campaign later that year, Madonna joked about the lawsuit, saying, “You’re probably thinking that’s not a very good reason to vote… So sue me! Everybody else does.”
In October 1994, after more than two years of litigation, the suit was withdrawn and an undisclosed settlement was reached.