Today in Madonna History: June 7, 1986

On June 7 1986, Madonna’s Live To Tell hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA, giving Madonna her third #1 single.

Written by Madonna and Patrick Leonard, Live To Tell was Madonna’s fourth soundtrack song in two years (Crazy For You, Into The Groove, Gambler + Live To Tell), and it was also the lead single from Madonna’s True Blue album.

What is your favourite Madonna soundtrack song?

Today in Madonna History: November 11, 1987

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On November 11 1987, Who’s That Girl, starring Madonna, was released on home video by Warner Bros.

Here’s what Madonna had to say about the performance of the film in North America:

“I think the movie did badly in America because I upstaged it with my tour. People were confused about the connection between the record, the tour and the movie because they all had the same title. I also think there are people who don’t want me to do well in both fields. I had to really fight to get any respect from the music business and now I guess there are some people who feel that I ought to be grateful for that respect and stick to music.”

Here’s what James Foley (Director of Who’s That Girl) had to say about his decision to make the film:

“I was young, I was twenty-eight. So, being given the opportunity to work on a Warner Bros. film with a huge star was attractive to me for all the wrong reasons. Everyone has a bit of Hollywood lust in them. Warner Bros. approached me because they knew I knew Madonna and she had asked for me, and was convinced to do it. At Close Range was a dark film, and going towards comedy was totally the wrong direction. But I didn’t care.”

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Today in Madonna History: April 17, 1986

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On April 17 1986, Madonna and Sean Penn attended the Los Angeles premiere of his film At Close Range at the Bruin Theater.

Sporting a new cropped, platinum blonde hairstyle, Madonna and her notoriously media-shy husband paused to speak with various media outlets as they made their way down the red carpet.

The film, which co-starred Christopher Walken and Mary Stuart Masterson, featured Madonna’s latest single, Live To Tell, along with an original musical score by Patrick Leonard comprising mostly of motifs inspired by Live To Tell‘s minor chord changes. Its director, James Foley, helmed several of Madonna’s music videos for the True Blue album and directed her next film, Who’s That Girl.

Today in Madonna History: March 26, 1986

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On 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: February 20, 1986

On February 20 1986, Madonna and Sean Penn attended the premiere of his film At Close Range at the Berlin Film Festival in Berlin, Germany.

Madonna contributed Live To Tell to the At Close Range soundtrack. Live To Tell was written by Patrick Leonard and Madonna, and was released as the first single from her True Blue album in March 1986.

Today in Madonna History: June 7, 1986

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On June 7 1986, Madonna’s Live To Tell hit #1 in the USA.

This beautiful video shows Madonna collaborator Patrick Leonard playing a solo piano version of Live To Tell:

Today in Madonna History: May 18, 1987

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On May 18 1987, Madonna was honored for Best Songwriting for Live To Tell at the 4th annual ASCAP Pop Music Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, CA; the award was accepted on her behalf by brother-in-law Christopher Penn.

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