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: February 23, 1998

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On February 23 1998, Frozen was released by Maverick records as the lead single from Madonna’s seventh studio album, Ray of Light. The song was written by Madonna & Patrick Leonard and was produced by Madonna, Leonard & William Orbit.

Madonna has mentioned that she considers Frozen as part of a thematic trilogy with The Power Of Good-Bye and To Have And Not To Hold. In an interview with Barry Walters for Spin magazine, Madonna commented on the inspiration behind the song:

“I was so obsessed with the movie The Sheltering Sky and that whole Moroccan/orchestral/super-romantic/man-carrying-the-woman-he-loves-across-the-desert vibe. So I told [Patrick Leonard] that I wanted something with a tribal feel, something really lush and romantic. When he started playing some music, I just turned the DAT on and started free-associating and came up with the melody.”

Initially unsure of which song should be released as the album’s first single, Madonna was eventually convinced by Warner Bros. executives that Frozen would be a perfect way to bridge the Adult Contemporary leanings of her most recent hits (Take A Bow, You’ll See and the singles from Evita) with the more cutting-edge, electronic sounds of Ray Of Light.

Today in Madonna History: December 1, 1963

On December 1 1963, Madonna’s Mother, Madonna Fortin Ciccone died of breast cancer at the age of 30 in Pontiac, Michigan. Madonna was born in Bay City Michigan on July 11 1933 to Willard William Fortin and Elise Mae Fortin.

Madonna Fortin married Silvio Ciccone on July 2 1955 in Bay City, Michigan. Together, Madonna and Silvio had six children: Anthony, Martin, Madonna, Paula, Christopher and Melanie.

These are the lyrics for Promise To Try, written and produced by Madonna and Patrick Leonard for the Like A Prayer album:

Little girl don’t you forget her face
Laughing away your tears
When she was the one who felt all the pain
Little girl never forget her eyes
Keep them alive inside
I promise to try, it’s not the same
Keep your head held high, ride like the wind
Never look behind, life isn’t fair
That’s what you said, so I try not to care
Little girl don’t run away so fast
I think you forgot to kiss, kiss her goodbye
Will she see me cry when I stumble and fall
Does she hear my voice in the night when I call
Wipe away all your tears, it’s gonna be all right
I fought to be so strong, I guess you knew
I was afraid you’d go away, too
Little girl you’ve got to forget the past
And learn to forgive me
I promise to try, but it feels like a lie
Don’t let memory play games with your mind
She’s a faded smile frozen in time
I’m still hanging on, but I’m doing it wrong
Can’t kiss her goodbye, but I promise to try

Today in Madonna History: August 10, 1985

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On August 10 1985, Into The Groove spent the first of four weeks in the #1 position on the UK Singles Chart. It was Madonna’s first chart-topping single in the UK, where she has collected a total of thirteen #1 hits to date.

As an added validation, Into the Groove was Madonna’s first self-produced release (co-produced with Stephen Bray). While artists co-producing their own work is common today, it was relatively unusual at the time, particularly for female artists. The immense success of the single undoubtedly helped convince the powers at Sire/Warner to grant Madonna the artistic freedom to co-produce her next album, True Blue, together with her collaborators Stephen Bray and Patrick Leonard.

Today in Madonna History: June 5, 1993

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On June 5 1993, Just A Dream, written and produced by Madonna & Patrick Leonard and performed by Madonna’s long-time backing singer/dancer Donna De Lory, peaked at number-ten on Billboard’s Dance/Club chart. The song was released as the second single from De Lory’s self-titled 1992 album for MCA Records.

Just A Dream had originally been written and recorded during the Like A Prayer sessions. Although Madonna had clearly intended that the album move beyond the boundaries of pure dance/pop and crossover into other styles, she reportedly felt that including Just A Dream would have tipped the balance too far in the direction of rock. When De Lory approached Madonna a few years later about the possibility of providing a song for her first album, Madonna offered Just A Dream, sensing that the song’s rock-edge would be better suited to Donna’s vocal style than her own. Madonna did, however, allow the use of her own vocals on the track, which can be heard blending with Donna’s in the song’s chorus, bridge and, most prominently, during its fadeout.

While unconfirmed, it is assumed that no new production-work – aside from the addition of De Lory’s lead vocal – took place on the released album version of Just A Dream, with the the original Like A Prayer session tracks carried over to Donna’s version and Madonna’s original lead vocal being mixed down to background vocals. The original cut, featuring Madonna’s complete lead vocal track, has yet to surface.

Check out the video for Donna’s version of Just A Dream at the 13:00 minute mark in the following video interview compilation featuring Donna discussing our favorite topic – Madonna:

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 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.

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

Today in Madonna History: May 15, 1995

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On May 15 1995, Madonna’s I’ll Remember (Theme From With Honors) was honored as one of the Most Performed Songs Of 1994 at the 12th annual ASCAP Pop Music Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California.

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