Today in Madonna History: September 30, 1995

On September 30 1995, Billboard magazine featured an exclusive interview with Madonna in a piece by Timothy White to promote her upcoming ballads collection, Something To Remember.  Focusing primarily on the connection between Madonna’s introspective ballads and the loss of her mother, the article (which appears in an abridged version below) was titled “‘Something’ In the Way She Grieves.”

“Listening to this record took me on my own journey,” says Madonna with a sad smile, shifting on the couch in her apartment overlooking Central Park. “Each song is like a map of my life. I don’t really listen to my records once I’ve done them, I’m onto the next thing. And I think most of the time when my records come out, people are so distracted by so much fanfare and controversy that nobody pays attention to the music. But this is, for the most part, a retrospective, and I just wanted to put it out in a very simple way. The songs, they choke me up, and I wrote them. Isn’t that weird? I can’t tell you how painful the idea of singing Like A Virgin or Material Girl is to me now. I didn’t write either of those songs and wasn’t digging deep then. I also feel more connected emotionally to the music I’m writing now, so it’s more of a pleasure to do it.”

Madonna has included three new songs on Something To Remember: a moody cover of Marvin Gaye’s 1976 hit I Want You, which was suggested and subsequently produced by Nellee Hooper and features Massive Attack, and two bittersweet serenades (You’ll See and One More Chance), co-created with David Foster during the third weekend of September in a whirlwind writing/recording session. Shortly after this talk, she was to leave for London to start recording the music for the film version of Evita, the musical that was the toast of Broadway in 1979–the year Madonna wrote her first song in the basement of a dormant Queens, NY synagogue.

“I remember calling up my father back in Detroit and making him hear it on the tape recorder over the phone,” she confides, blushing. “He said, ‘Oh, that’s very nice.’ I felt proud. The song was called Tell The Truth.”

A self-assessed “roller-coaster Catholic,” Madonna grew up sharing the middle bunk in a three-tier bed with two of her sisters. “I didn’t have any free time as a child,” she says. “My mother died of breast cancer when I was 7, and then my father remarried when I was 10. I had a lot of responsibility, taking care of my younger brothers and sisters.”

Like her siblings, Madonna was obliged to study music, specifically piano. “But I couldn’t sit still, and I begged my father to let me take dance lessons,” which served as a means of escape. Madonna was in the church choir and acted in school musicals, while sharing her mother’s mantra-like habit of idly intoning her favorite tunes. “As a teenager, I loved Aretha Franklin’s A Natural Woman, and in high school I worshiped Joni Mitchell and sang everything from Court And Spark, my coming-of-age record.”

But her pivotal developmental trial was the death of her mother, and as Madonna passes this fall afternoon discussing the themes behind her often acutely wistful ballads, she ultimately says, “My mother is part of a lot of my music.”

Although love songs, such as Live To Tell, One More Chance and I’ll Remember, also invoke the early fever of a failed marriage to Sean Penn, tensions with a stepmother who could not replace her lost parent, or later relationships that fell short, a larger phantom overshadows each mourning of life’s missed linkages.

“I think about my mother and a certain emptiness–a longing–in my songs. There are tragic, traumatic moments where I think ‘I wish that I could call my mother.’ It’s this primal thing that has been a springboard for the work I do.”

How did she learn her mother was gone?

“I was at my grandmother’s house. The phone rang, and it was my father, and he told my grandmother that my mother had died. I’d just seen her in the hospital. The rest of the day I blocked out–I probably went outside and played. I was majorly into denial and didn’t really understand. And it unfortunately wasn’t something that my father ever really prepared us for or discussed afterward. I suddenly developed a strange throwing-up disease, where every time I would leave the house, I would throw up. If I was away from my father, I threw up. It was a nervous condition.”

In recent years, when Madonna was under attack for her frank Erotica album and Sex book, the artist says she drew strength from her late parent’s nonjudgmental “fervor” for fulfilling one’s personal vision: “She had an unbelievable level of tolerance and forgiveness. She was tremendously religious in a really passionate–almost sexual–way, like she was in love with God. If you read the letters she wrote, even when she was sick and dying, she was completely happy about everything. It was frightening, there was just that faith of hers. My mother loved to take care of people. My older brothers and I were sometimes brutal to her, and she never complained.”

It sounds like the materfamilias had an essential serenity. “Exactly,” says her daughter. “And I could probably use more of it in my life.”

A brisk September breeze catches the leafy scent rising from the freshly mowed lawns of Central Park, the tangy end-of-season smell betokening the coming solstice. Madonna shivers slightly as she sips the last of her tea.

“I think my mother made people angry, because they couldn’t shake her beliefs,” she concludes in a near whisper. “And she was just 32 when she died–just a baby, Madonna Louise. So basically, I’m here to take her place.”

Today in Madonna History: September 7, 1995

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On September 7 1995, Madonna won Best Female Video for “Take A Bow” at the 12th annual MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY. Madonna also presented the award for Best Rap Video.

Later, a post-show chat with Kurt Loder to promote her upcoming ballads collection Something To Remember quickly went off the rails when Courtney Love infamously interrupted the interview. While it may have been Liz Rosenberg’s worst nightmare, the hilarious encounter certainly gave viewers something to remember!

Today in Madonna History: August 20, 1995

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On August 20 1995, Human Nature was released in Europe as the final single from the Bedtime Stories album.

In North America, Human Nature had been rush-released two months earlier in an attempt to re-engage radio programmers after a particularly poor reception to the Bedtime Story single – which had been virtually ignored by most stations who instead kept their focus on Madonna’s previous radio smash hit, Take A Bow.

Today in Madonna History: August 17, 1995

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On August 17 1995, Madonna attended a private party at the Delano Hotel in Miami, Florida in celebration of her 37th birthday.

South Florida daily newspaper the Sun-Sentinel covered the bash:

Last Thursday night one of the most famous women in the world had a glittering birthday party in what is probably by now one of the most famous hotels in the world. Madonna, uber pop singing sensation, strolled into the lobby of Miami Beach’s Delano Hotel for her big bash in a tight long pink Versace dress with a big smile on her face and a new beau on her arm.

Among the guests waiting inside were Gloria and Emilio Estefan, actor Andy Garcia, Cuban musician Cachao, Donatella Versace and Estefan protegee Albita, who sang a rousing Latino version of Happy Birthday. Ms Ciccone uncharacteristically stopped and chatted with the press, who had all been alerted about the private party, causing crowds to close down the surrounding streets.

Among her revelations were the favorite gift so far (a diamond-and-gold name bracelet from her beau, Carlito); and the pleasure she was getting from having her birthday party in her very own restaurant, the Blue Door, located in the rear lobby of the Delano. News of the party, with the chic new hotel as a stunning backdrop, was seen on every national entertainment and tabloid show in America, and perhaps the world.

Today In Madonna History: July 15, 1995

On July 15 1995, Madonna’s Human Nature single peaked at #46 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.

Human Nature was written and produced by Madonna and Dave Hall, with its bass and percussion parts sampled from the track What You Need by Main Source.

The North American Human Nature single was backed with the album version of Sanctuary, which was produced by Madonna & Dallas Austin with additional remixing by Nellee Hooper.

Sanctuary was originally written by Anne Preven and Scott Cutler of the short-lived 90’s band, Ednaswap, best known for Nathalie Imbruglia’s cover of their original song, Torn. Madonna was passed a demo tape of Sanctuary by a friend of Preven and Cutler, who heard an early version of it and thought “Madonna would love this song!” Madonna’s version came out before Ednaswap had even signed a record deal, and the song deviated significantly from the demo. Preven originally thought Madonna had ruined the song, going so far as meeting with Madonna to plead for changes. However, upon hearing the song as part of the whole album, Preven had a change of heart and “understood what [Madonna] was going for.”

The most significant change was Austin and Madonna’s interpolation of Sanctuary with an instrumental demo Austin had created which centers around a looped sample from Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man (the funk-based arrangement from his 1973 album, Head Hunters). Madonna also provided additional lyrical and melodic contributions.

While Austin’s instrumental demo that was worked in to Sanctuary later leaked to the internet, Ednaswap did not release their own version of the song and their original demo recording has yet to surface online.

Today in Madonna History: April 9, 1995

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On April 9 1995, Madonna’s Bedtime Story single peaked at number five in Australia, where it stayed in that position for three weeks. It fell out of the top ten in the fifth week, and eventually exited the charts after a total run of nine weeks, falling to 44 on its last week in the charts. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine praised the song, claiming that the song had unfulfilled potential and that it “could have been the next Vogue“.

Today in Madonna History: March 25, 1995

On March 25 1995, Madonna’s Bedtime Story music video was featured in an article in Billboard magazine.

The article focused on Warner’s decision of previewing the video in movie theaters, which was a new marketing strategy that had not been attempted previously.

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