Today in Madonna History: December 12, 1986

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On December 12 1986, Open Your Heart was released in North America as the fourth single from True Blue. The song was written by Madonna, Gardner Cole & Peter Rafelson and produced by Madonna & Patrick Leonard.

The single’s worldwide b-side, White Heat, an album track from True Blue, developed a relatively high profile due to its inclusion as the flip-side to two of Madonna’s #1 hits–the aforementioned Open Your Heart and 1987’s Who’s That Girl, released only six months apart. Gaining further exposure as a set-list staple during the Who’s That Girl Tour, the live performance of White Heat foreshadowed some of the dramatic elements that Madonna would expand upon in future tours.

White Heat’s original submission for copyright was registered to Madonna & Leonard under the working title Get Up, Stand Tall with a 1985 date of creation. Notes from the registration on file also list the title Dangerous–but it is likely just another working title that was being considered rather than a separate recording.  White Heat is thought to have been among the earliest songwriting collaborations between Madonna & Leonard to be completed, coming shortly after their first composition, Love Makes The World Go Round, surfaced during Live Aid in the summer of 1985. The sequence of the registration numbers for the two songs suggests that they may they have been completed within a month or two of each other. Madonna’s version of Open Your Heart (which she revised from the Cole/Rafelson demo) is also thought to have been recorded with Leonard during the same time period.

The liner notes of True Blue dedicated White Heat to actor James Cagney, who in 1949 played ruthless, deranged gang leader Arthur “Cody” Jarrett in the Warner Brothers film, White Heat. Several clips of Cagney’s dialogue from the original motion picture were used in the song for dramatic effect.

Today in Madonna History: November 28, 1998

On November 28 1998, Madonna’s The Power Of Good-Bye hit #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart in the USA. The hit single from Ray Of Light was written by Madonna and Rick Nowels; produced by Madonna, William Orbit and Patrick Leonard.

Rick Nowels had this to say about his experience writing the song with Madonna:

It was a career-changing experience for me. Before that I had always done my co-writing with friends. But working with Madonna. It was the first time I had ever written one-on-one with a great artist/writer. After that I changed gears a little, and now I mostly collaborate directly with artists.

Today in Madonna History: October 24, 1989

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On October 24 1989, Oh Father was released in North America as the fourth single from the Like A Prayer album. France, Japan, the Philippines and Australia also opted to issue the single in 1989, while other European markets waited for Madonna’s 1995 ballads compilation, Something To Remember, to promote the song. Oh Father was written and produced by Madonna & Patrick Leonard.

According to the song’s string arranger, Bill Meyers, Oh Father was recorded in a “dingy studio” in New York City’s Garment District while Madonna was appearing in the play, Speed-The-Plow. Since the bulk of the album would be completed in California after the completion of her Broadway run, this would suggest that Oh Father was likely the first song recorded for the project. Leonard recently provided further evidence of this when he shared an image of a demo tape sleeve containing working titles of songs from the latter sessions on his Instagram, noting that Oh Father was not among the tracks listed because it had been completed earlier.

Leonard recalled the recording of the track in a 2014 interview with Billboard Magazine:

My favorite thing that we ever recorded, ever – or wrote – is Oh Father. That to me is the best thing we ever did. So, it didn’t surprise me because we knew when we did it, that there was something about this that was in a way kind of the most real thing.

For that song, the ‘record’ button was only pressed three times. It was pressed to do the track, live, with her singing live. Then we did the orchestra. And then we did a double of her vocal when we were mixing. That’s it. So it’s real. It’s something that I really wanted to do and she was kind enough to say “let’s try this,” and it was not easy.

There’s two or three guitar players playing. I’m playing keyboards. Jai Winding was playing keyboards. There was a percussionist and a drummer – and she’s singing – all at the same time.

These days, people go “wow, that seems crazy.” Those days it wasn’t uncommon for everybody to be playing together even though you’re not a band. But it was one of those things where the arrangement was tricky enough, that it really took some working out to get it all right.

Even all those weird synth overdubs and things – all those things were being done live. We worked out all the parts, had all the sounds. I remember that we cut it live, and then put the orchestra on. You’re not doubling the orchestra, so it’s one pass for the orchestra.

When I say [the ‘record’ button was] pressed three times, it might have gotten pressed 10 times that day, but it was ultimately one that stayed there. If you see what I’m saying. When we were mixing it, [mixer] Bill Bottrell suggested that we double the choruses. I remember even being a little upset about it (laughs). Like, look, “we’ve got an amazing record that we only pressed the record button twice – can’t we leave it?” He said, “three isn’t exactly shameful.” We doubled the lead vocal on the choruses, and that was it.

Today in Madonna History: September 22, 1998

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On September 22 1998, The Power of Good-Bye was released as the third North American single from the Ray Of Light album. It was the fourth single in international markets that opted to release Drowned World/Substitute For Love as the album’s third single.

In the UK, the release was promoted as a double A-side single with Little Star.

The Power Of Good-Bye was written by Madonna & Rick Nowels and was produced by Madonna, William Orbit & Patrick Leonard. An earlier demo version of the track, believed to have been produced by Madonna & Leonard prior to Orbit’s involvement in the project, leaked in 2002.

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 number-one 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 number-one hits to date.

As an added validation, Into the Groove was Madonna’s first attempt at co-producing a song. 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: August 1, 1989

On August 1 1989, Madonna’s Cherish single was released as the third single from her Like A Prayer album. The hit single was written and produced by Madonna and Patrick Leonard.

Watch the HD version of the Cherish music video, re-released on August 1 2021:

Today in Madonna History: June 30, 1986

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On June 30 1986, Madonna’s True Blue album was released by Sire Records. She worked with Stephen Bray and Patrick Leonard on the album while co-writing and co-producing all the songs.

True Blue was an immediate global success, reaching number one in then record-breaking 28 countries across the world, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. It spent 34 consecutive weeks at the top of the European Top 100 Albums chart, longer than any other album in history. It became the world’s top-selling album of 1986, as well the biggest selling album of the 1980s by a woman and remains one of the best-selling albums of all time with sales of more than 25 million copies worldwide. All five singles released from the album reached the top five on the Billboard Hot 100, with Live to Tell, Papa Don’t Preach, and Open Your Heart peaking at number one.

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