Today in Madonna History: January 6, 1990

On January 6 1990, Billboard magazine looked back at the top-selling music videocassettes of the 1980’s. All three of Madonna’s qualifying releases charted, with both her self-titled four-video EP and Madonna Live: The Virgin Tour topping the list for the years 1985 and 1986 respectively.

It should be noted that Ciao Italia, which ranked #7 on the 1989 tally, was at a disadvantage for this type of chart due to its mid-year release. Had it been released in early 1988, or even late 1987, it certainly would have fared better.

Today in Madonna History: December 17, 1990

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On December 17 1990, Madonna’s Justify My Love video was the subject of a feature by Steve Dougherty, in People magazine: Madonna Exposes, MTV Opposes: Is her new, naughty video art or just a Boy Toy marketing ploy? 

How does Justify My Love differ from other skin-with-a-beat videos? Let us count the ways. Here’s Madonna, in black bra, stockings and stiletto heels, putting the moves on her real-life boyfriend, model Tony Ward. Moments later she’s lip-synching with Parisian model Amanda Cazalet, 25, who is dressed like a Nazi hooker with suspenders that barely cover her nipples. Now Madonna, Cazalet and Ward are offering free instruction in a certain Kama Sutra technique while two very androgynous gents pat each other more affectionately than football players after a big play. All of which has left fans hot, censors bothered and fearless news programmers lined up to air the forbidden footage. The video single will be on sale before holiday shopping malls close; could it have been teed up better?

Today in Madonna History: December 7, 1990

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On December 7 1990, Madonna’s Justify My Love was released as the first-ever video single, priced at $9.98.

The music video was considered too sexually explicit for MTV and was banned from the network. Madonna responded to the banning: “Why is it that people are willing to go and watch a movie about someone getting blown to bits for no reason at all, and nobody wants to see two girls kissing and two men snuggling?”

On December 3, 1990, ABC’s Nightline played the video in its entirety, then interviewed Madonna live about the video’s sexual content and censorship. When asked whether she stood to make more money selling the video than airing it on MTV, she appeared impatient and answered, “Yeah, so? Lucky me.” She also expressed during the interview that she did not understand why the video was banned, while videos containing violence and degradation to women continued to receive regular airplay. The video was then released on VHS, and became a bestselling “video single” of all time.

Do you still have your VHS copy of Justify My Love?

Today in Madonna History: November 9, 1990

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On November 9 1990, Madonna began filming the Justify My Love video at the Royal Monceau Hotel in Paris, France, directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino.

During a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) segment in September 2013, Madonna told her fans that she considers Justify My Love to be her favourite Madonna music video.

Is Justify My Love the steamiest music video that you’ve ever seen?

Today in Madonna History: October 27, 1990

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On October 27 1990, Madonna’s first dance teacher and mentor from Michigan, Christopher Flynn, passed away from an AIDS-related illness. On the news of his death, Madonna issued the statement: “Christopher Flynn was my mentor, is my higher power, and will remain an eternal inspiration.”

Indeed, Flynn would later serve as the inspiration for one of the characters from Madonna’s directorial debut, Filth And Wisdom, as she explained to Gus Van Sant in the October 2010 issue of Interview magazine:

The character that Richard E. Grant plays in the film I directed, Filth and Wisdom, is this blind professor who was based on my ballet teacher, Christopher Flynn. Growing up in Michigan, I didn’t really know what a gay man was. He was the first man-the first human being-who made me feel good about myself and special. He was the first person who told me that I was beautiful or that I had something to offer the world, and he encouraged me to believe in my dreams, to go to New York. He was such an important person in my life. He died of AIDS, but he went blind toward the end of his life. He was such a lover of art, classical music, literature, opera. You know, I grew up in the Midwest, and it was really because of him that I was exposed to so many of those things. He brought me to my first gay club-it was this club in Detroit. I always felt like I was a freak when I was growing up and that there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t fit in anywhere. But when he took me to that club, he brought me to a place where I finally felt at home. So that character in Filth and Wisdom was dedicated to him and inspired by him.”

Madonna would also recall Christopher’s influence in the second verse of the lyrics of the song, In This Life.

Today in Madonna History: October 22, 1990

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On October 22 1990, Madonna was featured in a public service announcement on MTV’s Rock The Vote in which she was wrapped in the US flag and urged young people to register and vote; the ad caused a controversy with US Veterans of Foreign Wars who were enraged by Madonna’s provocative use of the American flag and said that it bordered on desecration.

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