On January 12 1988, Possessive Love, a song written by Madonna, Patrick Leonard & Jai Winding and performed by Marilyn Martin was released as the lead single from Martin’s second album for Atlantic Records, This Is Serious. Martin is perhaps best known for her chart-topping duet with Phil Collins, Separate Lives. Though Possessive Love failed to make any chart impact, Madonna’s involvement in the song has kept it from being completely forgotten.
In an interview by Breathe Cast writer Timothy Yap, Martin was asked about the circumstances surrounding the song:
I met Pat Leonard when I began the search for a producer for my second album. He’s the one who approached Madonna with the idea of writing a song for me and she graciously agreed. Pat called me one day while he was working on her Like a Prayer album and asked if I would like to come and sing backgrounds [on Cherish]. Talk about an ‘Are you kidding?’ moment! That was the only time I met her. She was impressive to say the least. Very in charge. She absolutely knows her mind and insists on her music being true to her vision. She was very focused and a tad intimidating, but that’s not surprising given her amazing success over the years. I thought it was pretty cool that before agreeing to write Possessive Love for me to sing on my album she asked Pat Leonard if I was a nice person.”
Martin’s claim that the song was written specifically for her rather than being a leftover from one of Madonna’s album sessions is likely accurate, given the fact that Winding was never involved in songwriting sessions for any of Madonna’s albums. Winding’s involvement as a musician in the Who’s That Girl Tour suggests that the song may have been written at some point during the 1987 tour.
The sentiments expressed in Possessive Love appear to align with the issues Madonna was reportedly facing in her marriage to Sean Penn at the time, with reports of their initial separation dominating the tabloids in late 1987. Madonna would revisit and further elaborate on her marital woes on the Like A Prayer album track, Til Death Do Us Part, which was written later in 1988.