Today in Madonna History: July 2, 2005

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On July 2 2005, Madonna performed Like A Prayer, Ray Of Light and Music in front of an audience of over 200,000 during the Live 8 benefit concert at London’s Hyde Park. Part of a series of concerts, many of which were held simultaneously at various locations around the world, Live 8 was broadcast live on television and radio to an estimated global audience of two billion.

Madonna is one of only eight acts – and the only female artist – to have been a headlining performer at both 1985’s Live Aid and 2005’s Live 8. Other returning performers were U2, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Sting, The Who, George Michael, and organizer, Bob Geldof. It took a bit of arm twisting on Geldof’s part to win Madonna’s commitment the second time around, as Madonna explained to MTV’s John Norris in a backstage interview after her performance:

Bob Geldof sent me a letter asking ‘will you do Live 8?’ and he didn’t really tell me anything and I went ‘Oh common dude, you gotta do better than that! Prove to me that it’s gonna make a difference and I’ll be there for you.’ And he did!”

In what turned out to be one of the event’s most moving moments, Madonna was introduced to the stage by Geldof with Birhan Woldu – the starving African child featured in the CBC News report twenty years earlier who had prompted Geldof to organize Live Aid. When Geldof had asked Woldu which artist she would like to appear with on stage, she immediately selected Madonna for the simple reason that she was the only artist on the bill that she had ever heard of. In a later interview, Woldu recalled the experience:

The crowd seemed to stretch for miles, but I’d been telling myself not to be nervous. There was just a huge picture of me as a child on the screen. That photo still upsets me. It was taken 20 years ago, when both my mother and sister died. I knew I must be strong for them but when I walked on I could feel my body shaking. Then Madonna took my hand and looked into my eyes, the crowd roared and I realised the world wanted to help my continent. I felt myself grow stronger.”

Madonna’s memorable performance at Live 8 was largely praised by mainstream media and fans alike.

Today in Madonna History: May 25, 2004

On May 25 2004, Rolling Stone magazine published a review of Madonna’s Re-Invention World Tour with the headline, “Madonna Reinvents herself. Amid images of war and peace, pop star shows she can sing.”

Here’s the review by Barry Walters:

After twenty years in the limelight, Madonna is expected to cause controversy and reinvent herself for every new tour. So for the May 24th Los Angeles opening of her Re-Invention world trek, Madonna did the most unexpected thing she could: She came back as a great concert singer.

Even the most diehard Madonna fan will concede that her live performances have almost without exception been plagued by a multitude of missed notes, breathy passages, and, as of late, fake British accents. But while Mariah and Whitney have of been losing the acrobatic vocal dexterity and lung power on which their reputations rest, forty-five-year-old Madonna, whom few have ever taken seriously as a musician, has never sounded better than she did during the first of several gigs in her adopted West Coast home. Whether rocking out with classic black Les Paul in hand during a metallic rendition of her early club hit “Burning Up,” or performing “Like a Prayer” behind a screen-projected gospel choir, Madonna belted, and did not once seemed strained. In the midst of a $1 million production festooned with a walkway that jutted out from the stage and over the audience, massive moving video screens, a dozen dancers, a bagpipe player, a stunt skateboarder and a whole lot of emotionally charged anti-war imagery, the focus was nevertheless on Madonna, and how she’s matured into a truly great pop singer.

Opening with a yoga-trained twist on her famous Louis XIV-inspired MTV Video Music Awards rendition of “Vogue” and ending on a kilt-wearing finale of “Holiday” against a video backdrop of national flags that eventually morphed into one, the show was thematically simpler and more focused than her last several productions.

The barbarism of war and the necessity of love were at the heart of the entire show, and both played off each other, sometimes for ironic and decidedly uneasy effect. The original military-themed video footage of “American Life” that the singer withheld at the start of the Iraq war was finally unveiled, and then expanded upon during “Express Yourself,” where Madonna sang her anthem of unbridled, intimate communication in front of dancers dressed as soldiers and goose-stepping with twirling rifles.

By contrast, Madonna closed an extended acoustic section of the show with a straightforward and thoroughly committed rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine” as images of war and poverty-ravaged children eventually gave way to footage of a Muslim boy and his Israeli counterpart smiling as they walked with their arms wrapped around each other.

The heaviness of much of the imagery was balanced by Madonna’s own presence, which seemed remarkably fun-loving and self-assured for the opening night of her most technically complex production. Only when she strapped on an acoustic or electric guitar during several songs and repeatedly glanced at her left hand to make sure it was playing the proper chords did she seem at all nervous. “How many people out there really think that I am the Material Girl?” she asked during a break in her most iconic early smash as she strummed with much deliberation.

For the last several songs, Madonna and her dancers donned black and white kilts, an apparent nod to husband Guy Ritchie’s Scottish heritage, and black T-shirts that read “Kabbalists Do It Better,” a cheeky reference to both her religious studies and the “Italians Do It Better” T-shirt she wore during her video for “Papa Don’t Preach,” a song that was performed without the “near-naked pregnant women” described in pre-tour reports of the show. In a number dedicated for the “fans that’ve stood by me for the last twenty years,” she sang her earliest hit ballad, “Crazy For You,” earnestly and without contrivance.

Madonna’s continued relevance was impressive, but it was even more striking that she’s putting more love and genuine passion into her spectacle than ever.

 

Today in Madonna History: April 6, 2017

On April 6 2017, CNN published an article explaining why Madonna understands a little something about pulled Pepsi commercials:

In 1989, she starred in a Pepsi commercial that was pulled because of controversy over the music video for Like A Prayer, which featured burning crosses and showed Madonna kissing a black actor portraying a saint.

She reminded the world of this bit of pop culture history Wednesday when she posted on Instagram about the disastrous Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner.

 “When you wake up and realize that SHIT just really doesn’t make sense. Side Note: My Pepsi commercial was pulled 30 years ago because I was kissing a black saint! #ironic.”

 

Today in Madonna History: March 19, 1989

On March 19 1989, Madonna was the featured artist in the Arts section of the New York Times in an article and interview by Stephen Holden.

Like a Prayer, said Madonna, “is the song of a passionate young girl so in love with God that it is almost as though He were the male figure in her life. From around 8 to 12 years old, I had the same feelings. I really wanted to be a nun.”

What follows is a description in Madonna’s own words of what happens in the video:

“A girl on the street witnesses an assault on a young woman. Afraid to get involved because she might get hurt, she is frozen in fear. A black man walking down the street also sees the incident and decides to help the woman. But just then, the police arrive and arrest him. As they take him away, she looks up and sees one of the gang members who assaulted the girl. He gives her a look that says she’ll be dead if she tells. The girl runs, not knowing where to go until she sees a church. She goes in and sees a saint in a cage who looks very much like the black man on the street, and says a prayer to help her make the right decision. He seems to be crying, but she is not sure. She lies down on a pew and falls into a dream in which she begins to tumble in space with no one to break her fall. Suddenly she is caught by a woman who represents earth and emotional strength and who tosses her back up and tells her to do the right thing. Still dreaming, she returns to the saint, and her religious and erotic feelings begin to stir. The saint becomes a man. She picks up a knife and cuts her hands. That’s the guilt in Catholicism that if you do something that feels good you will be punished. As the choir sings, she reaches an orgasmic crescendo of sexual fulfillment intertwined with her love of God. She knows that nothing’s going to happen to her if she does what she believes is right. She wakes up, goes to the jail, tells the police the man is innocent, and he is freed. Then everybody takes a bow as if to say we all play a part in this little scenario.”

Today in Madonna History: February 24, 2016

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On February 24 2016, Madonna performed in the Philippines for the very first time. Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour made a stop at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, performing for a sold out crowd of 15,710 fans.

Ticket prices were above average and ranged from $70 to $1300.

Madonna added Like A Prayer to the set during the first show and added Crazy For You during the second show (February 25).

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Today in Madonna History: February 6, 2005

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On February 6 2005, BBC Radio One announced that Madonna was the most voted for female artist to be included in the UK’s Greatest Number One Singles of all-time.

Madonna had two songs in the top ten: Like A Prayer at #4 and Vogue at #5.

Music landed at #21.

BBC Radio One asked fans to vote for the Greatest UK Number One Single to celebrate the 1000th number one single.

The top ten included:

  1. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
  2. Iron Maiden – Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter
  3. Michael Jackson – Billie Jean
  4. Madonna – Like A Prayer
  5. Madonna – Vogue
  6. Elvis Presley – Jailhouse Rock
  7. Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger
  8. Abba – Dancing Queen
  9. Mariah Carey – Without You
  10. John Lennon – Imagine

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Today in Madonna History: July 2, 2005

madonna live8 8 550 madonna birhan woldu live8 550 madonna live8 5 550 madonna live8 backstage 550 madonna live8 550

On July 2 2005, Madonna performed Like A Prayer, Ray Of Light and Music in front of an audience of over 200,000 during the Live 8 benefit concert at London’s Hyde Park. Part of a series of concerts, many of which were held simultaneously at various locations around the world, Live 8 was broadcast live on television and radio to an estimated global audience of two billion.

Madonna is one of only eight acts – and the only female artist – to have been a headlining performer at both 1985’s Live Aid and 2005’s Live 8. Other returning performers were U2, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Sting, The Who, George Michael, and organizer, Bob Geldof. It took a bit of arm twisting on Geldof’s part to win Madonna’s commitment the second time around, as Madonna explained to MTV’s John Norris in a backstage interview after her performance:

Bob Geldof sent me a letter asking ‘will you do Live 8?’ and he didn’t really tell me anything and I went ‘Oh common dude, you gotta do better than that! Prove to me that it’s gonna make a difference and I’ll be there for you.’ And he did!”

In what turned out to be one of the event’s most moving moments, Madonna was introduced to the stage by Geldof with Birhan Woldu – the starving African child featured in the CBC News report twenty years earlier who had prompted Geldof to organize Live Aid. When Geldof had asked Woldu which artist she would like to appear with on stage, she immediately selected Madonna for the simple reason that she was the only artist on the bill that she had ever heard of. In a later interview, Woldu recalled the experience:

The crowd seemed to stretch for miles, but I’d been telling myself not to be nervous. There was just a huge picture of me as a child on the screen. That photo still upsets me. It was taken 20 years ago, when both my mother and sister died. I knew I must be strong for them but when I walked on I could feel my body shaking. Then Madonna took my hand and looked into my eyes, the crowd roared and I realised the world wanted to help my continent. I felt myself grow stronger.”

Madonna’s memorable performance at Live 8 was largely praised by mainstream media and fans alike.