On May 31 1986, Madonna’s Live To Tell hit #1 for 3 weeks on US Hot Adult Contemporary singles chart.
The song was Madonna’s third number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100, and her first number-one on the Adult Contemporary chart.
In an interview about the song, Madonna said, “I thought about my relationship with my parents and the lying that went on. The song is about being strong, and questioning whether you can be that strong but ultimately surviving.”
In a review of the album True Blue, Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic called it a “tremendous ballad that rewrites the rules of adult contemporary crossover”.
Jim Farber from Entertainment Weekly called the song “her best ballad to date”.
In a review of her compilation album The Immaculate Collection, David Browne from Entertainment Weekly magazine called it “one of her few successful shots at being a balladeer”.
Alfred Soto from Stylus Magazine felt that “the song’s set of lyrics remain her best” and that the vocals “seethes with a lifetime’s worth of hurts which she nevertheless refuses to share”.
Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine called the song “striking” adding that it “rewrote the rules of what a pop song was supposed to sound like”.
Edna Gundersen from USA Today called the song “a moody heart-tugger, may be her best song ever.”
In my years as a devoted fan,Madonna has taught me that life is a celebration and a performance to be treasured, savored and cherished! Every time I’ve watched Every Tour from Who’s That Girl? to Rebel Heart, I start crying and tears start falling! That how good and brilliant Madonna is! She has never left and will never leave me! Our Lady-Her Ladyship-Madonna Ciccone-is the best live performer rock & roll will ever see in its lifetime, history and existence! So it is with sadly beautiful Rock ballad Live to Tell-every time I Hear It, I start crying but I feel happy inside! Madonna believes her life will get better even as she goes through a catharsis-she feels a whole lot better as she lets the cry out! For Madonna, the key phrase is Hope! Rolling Stone calls Live to Tell “Her ballad of battered hope!”