Today in Madonna History: April 25, 1988

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On April 25 1988, Spotlight was released as a single by Warner-Pioneer. Issued exclusively in Japan, it was the only commercial single release from the remix album You Can Dance. The song was written by Curtis Hudson, Madonna and Stephen Bray and was produced by Stephen Bray. Madonna wasn’t given a co-producer’s credit on the track – odd considering it was a leftover from the True Blue album sessions, for which she co-produced every song. The track was remixed by John “Jellybean” Benitez for its inclusion on You Can Dance.

In a 2012 interview with blogcritics.com writer Justin Kantor, Curtis Hudson recalled the circumstances surrounding the creation and release of Spotlight:

“During the time right after Holiday, when we’d go to her place and write, I presented Spotlight. I gave her a complete song, Spotlight. I had actually written it in case Warner Bros. asked her for another Holiday. She said she loved it and felt spiritual about it. But she didn’t use it or contact me again about it. It sort of popped up out of nowhere when she was getting ready to do You Can Dance. Her lawyer contacted our manager and said we needed to talk. We went over and met with him. She and Stephen Bray had already done the song; but I hadn’t even heard the version they had done.They took the demo I had given her and worked it into a different song. They gave me credit since I had the original song copyrighted. I would’ve collaborated and made changes. But I was told, ‘Well, she’s too busy. She’s overseas doing a movie.’ I was okay with it, though, because they gave me credit. But the original song had a certain magic, and the changes took that essence away. The original Spotlight was another Holiday—the rhythm, the basic groove. I think they were trying to get away from that sound. Sometimes artists don’t want their sound to be identified with specific writers.”

Today in Madonna History: March 3, 1989

On March 3 1989, Madonna’s Like A Prayer single and music video were released.

Happy 30th anniversary to one of Madonna’s most enduring and beloved songs. It still takes us there!

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: August 5, 2008

On August 5 2008, Madonna’s Give It 2 Me was released as an eight track CD maxi-single by Warner Bros. Records in the U.S. It included amazing club remixes by Eddie Amador, Paul Oakenfold, Fedde Le Grand, Tong & Spoon, Jody den Broeder, and a ragga mix by Sly & Robbie.

The single was also issued in the U.S. as a double-vinyl 12-inch set, a 12-inch vinyl picture disc and as a double-vinyl 7-inch set coupled with her previous single, 4 Minutes. Though no Canadian pressings of the single were issued, the U.S. CD maxi-single was distributed to Canadian retailers with a Warner Music Canada special import sticker.

Give It 2 Me was the second single from Hard Candy. It was written by Madonna & Pharrell Williams with production by Madonna & The Neptunes.

Today in Madonna History: July 14, 2003

On July 14 2003, Madonna’s Hollywood was released as the second single (excluding Die Another Day, which was released as a single to promote the soundtrack of the same name) from the American Life album.

Hollywood was written and produced by Madonna & Mirwais Ahmadzaï. The music video was directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino.

Today in Madonna History: June 11, 1986

On June 11 1986, Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach single was released.

The single and its music video, which made its debut a week later, caused controversy due to its focus on the issue of teenage pregnancy. Perhaps if the media had paid a little closer attention to the video, they would have found that it contained a few other points of interest. While Danny Aiello’s inclusion in the video was duly reported, the same can’t be said for Madonna’s breasts, which also made several brief cameo appearances in the clip.

We imagine Madonna must have had a good laugh over the fact that these scenes flew under the radar of MTV, the media, and by all but the most perceptive of fans at the time.

Today in Madonna History: April 13, 1995

On April 13 1995, Bedtime Story was released by Maverick/Sire as the third single from the album Bedtime Stories in North America. The song was written by Björk, Nellee Hooper & Marius DeVries and produced by Madonna & Nellee Hooper. In both the U.S. and Canada the single and CD maxi-single were backed by the album opener, Survival.

The commercial maxi-single featured remixes by Junior Vasquez and Orbital. Additional promo-only remixes by Mark Picchiotti & Teri Bristol were also later serviced promotionally to clubs.

Bedtime Story was released in the UK in February following a poor reception to the album’s second single, Take A Bow.

It was the opposite situation in North America, where the third single was delayed for several months due to the prolonged chart-topping reign of Bow. Bedtime Story‘s more experimental, minimalist sound failed to gain traction on U.S. radio but did earn Madonna another #1 hit on the Hot Dance/Club chart.

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