Today in Madonna History: September 13, 2009

On September 13 2009, Madonna opened the 2009 MTV VMA’s with a heartfelt tribute to Michael Jackson after his untimely passing a few months earlier.

Today in Madonna History: July 21, 1987

On July 21 1987, the Who’s That Girl: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack album was released.

Who’s That Girl was released as the lead single from the soundtrack, it became Madonna’s sixth single to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making her the first artist to accumulate six number-one singles in the 1980s, and the first female performer to earn that many number-ones as a solo act.

The album’s second single, Causing a Commotion, was released on August 25, 1987. In the United States, the single quickly climbed up the chart, ultimately peaking at number two in the week of October 24, 1987, the same week Michael Jackson’s Bad advanced to the pole position. It remained in second position for three weeks, before descending from the chart.

The third song released from the album was the European single The Look of Love. In the United Kingdom, The Look of Love was released on December 12, 1987, and entered the UK Singles Chart at position 15.  The next week, it reached a peak of nine on the chart, her first single to miss the top five since Lucky Star in 1984.

Regarding her contributions to the soundtrack, Madonna said:

“I had some very specific ideas in mind, music that would stand on its own as well as support and enhance what was happening on-screen and the only way to make that a reality was to have a hand in writing the tunes myself… The songs aren’t necessarily about Nikki or written to be sung by someone like her, but there’s a spirit to this music that captures both what the film and the characters are about, I think.”

The only Madonna song not to be released as a single or performed live from the soundtrack was Can’t Stop. Madonna had been performing her three other songs from the soundtrack during the Who’s That Girl World Tour for over a month prior to the album’s release.

Today in Madonna History: May 31, 1986

On May 31 1986, Madonna’s Live To Tell hit #1 for 3 weeks on US Hot Adult Contemporary singles chart.

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 re-cut 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.

Live To Tell was Madonna’s third #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, and her first #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart, where it would reign for three weeks.

Today in Madonna History: January 31, 2005

On January 31 2005, BBC Radio-One asked fans to vote for the Greatest UK Number One Single to celebrate the 1,000th number-one hit in the country. Madonna was the most voted for female artist with two songs in the top ten:

  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

What do you think of the results of the poll? 

Today in Madonna History: December 24, 1983

On December 24 1983, Madonna was named runner-up for Top Dance/Disco Artist Of The Year in Billboard magazine’s year-end issue, while Michael Jackson took top honors.

The double-sided club hit Holiday/Lucky Star peaked at #3 on the Top Dance/Disco Singles Of The Year tally, while Madonna’s second entry at #26 combined points from her first two single releases, Everybody and Burning Up/Physical Attraction.

Today in Madonna History: March 28, 1987

On March 28 1987, the final single from Madonna’s True Blue album, La Isla Bonita, was briefly reviewed in Billboard magazine.

The now-classic song was Madonna’s first sonic exploration into her love of Latin music and culture which would become a recurring inspiration in her body of work. Written by Madonna, Patrick Leonard, and frequent Leonard collaborator, guitarist Bruce Gaitsch, it has been reported that the instrumental demo of the song was initially offered to Michael Jackson, who passed on the track.

While Madonna has said that La Isla Bonita took inspiration from “the beauty and mystery of Latin American people,” she has remained more elusive about the song’s geographical references. Years later, she teasingly commented in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine:

“I don’t know where San Pedro is. At that point, I wasn’t a person who went on holidays to beautiful islands. I may have been on the way to the studio and seen an exit ramp for San Pedro.”

Today In Madonna History: March 25, 1991

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On March 25 1991, Madonna performed Sooner Or Later from Dick Tracy at the 63rd annual Academy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. Sooner Or Later won the Oscar for Best Original Song by Stephen Sondheim; her escort at the awards was Michael Jackson.

Sooner or later you’re gonna be mine
Sooner or later you’re gonna be fine
Baby it’s time that you faced it
I always get my man

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