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 17, 1994

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On March 17 1994, the music video for I’ll Remember (Theme From With Honors) premiered on BBC1-TV’s Top Of The Pops in the UK.

I’ll Remember began as a collaboration between Richard Page (of 80’s band Mister Mister) and Patrick Leonard. Leonard had been asked by Madonna to score Alek Keshishian’s film With Honors, and had also been collaborating with Page on an upcoming Toy Matinee album. When Leonard played an early demo of I’ll Remember for Madonna, she loved it and decided to record it with new lyrics she had written. The song was produced by Madonna & Patrick Leonard, with Page providing additional backing vocals.

Madonna had previously crossed paths with Richard Page when he presented her with a trophy at the 1987 American Music Awards.

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Today in Madonna History: January 20, 1988

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On January 20 1988, Madonna’s You Can Dance remix album was certified platinum in the USA for sales of 1,000,000 copies.

Patrick Leonard had this to say about working on the album:

“Remixing is a form of secondary creativity. Dance music elevates the DJ and the mixer to being almost on a level with the musician. In my opinion this is false. Manipulation of pre-recorded sound sources may be creative in a secondary sense, and may be valid in its own field, but it is pseudo musicianship. That’s why we tried to have a fresh approach to the songs for You Can Dance, as if we were developing and composing them for the first time.

 

Today in Madonna History: August 22, 1987

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On August 22 1987, Madonna’s “Who’s That Girl” single (from the soundtrack album of the same name) went to number-one on the US Billboard Hot 100.

Regarding the development of the music for the film, Madonna explained:

 “I had some very specific ideas in mind, music that would stand on its own as well as support and enhance what was happening on screen and the only way to make that a reality was to have a hand in writing the tunes myself.  The songs aren’t necessarily about Nikki [her character name in the movie] or written to be sung by someone like her, but there’s a spirit to this music that captures both what the film and the characters are about, I think.”

Today in Madonna History: June 30, 1986

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On June 30 1986, Madonna’s “True Blue” album was released by Sire Records.  She worked with Stephen Bray and Patrick Leonard on the album while co-writing and co-producing all the songs.

True Blue” was an immediate global success, reaching number one in then record-breaking 28 countries across the world, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. It spent 34 consecutive weeks at the top of the European Top 100 Albums chart, longer than any other album in history. It became the world’s top-selling album of 1986, as well the biggest selling album of the 1980s by a woman and remains one of the best-selling albums of all time with sales of more than 25 million copies worldwide. All five singles released from the album reached the top five on theBillboard Hot 100, with “Live to Tell“, “Papa Don’t Preach“, and “Open Your Heart” peaking at number one.