Every once in a while an individual find a way into our consciousness and they remain there forever. They have this infectious personality, aura, appeal, energy and presence that draw you deep into their world. As a music historian and lover, there is a short list of entertainers, athletes, and scholars that I gravitate to on such a deep level. Madonna Louise Ciccone is one of those individuals. Madonna is universally known as the Queen of Pop but I feel this diminishes her music genius, which places her in a bubble. I will explain this in more detail at some point during this article. At any rate, the musician born in Bay City, Michigan on April 16, 1958 is talented, complicated, sexy, and a wild child. Art imitates life and life is often imitated in art and I truly believe Madonna has maximized both up to this point. Madonna has pushed boundaries for almost 4 decades and while other people were uncomfortable, she did so with a smile.
In 1977, Madonna reportedly moved to New York City to pursue a dance and music career. Of course this was pretty standard during the 70’s and 80’s. At that time Los Angeles, Detroit and New York were melting pots for aspiring entertainers. By 1979, Madonna was in a group called Breakfast Club and then the group Emmy. In both groups Madonna was a guitarist, drummer and of course, a vocalist. I’m not sure how many of you reading this blog knew Madonna could play several instruments. When you have a certain persona, it’s easy to overlook other details within a person’s arsenal. Fans saw the provocative clothes, edgy lyrics, often off stage antics and viewed her mostly as a party girl and wild. I get it though, in the early stages of her career, I didn’t realize the totality of her talent. I enjoyed her music and even liked her on the big screen. The movie “Who’s That Girl” and the title track are each personal favorites of mine. I can’t front, I dig Madonna.
It's funny people often look at Madonna as more of a performer instead of the amazing musician that she is. A lot of readers will be introduced to a fact about her career that is never publicized. Madonna is one of those rare artists that has written and produced most of her own music. I can promise you casual fans are unaware of this reality. As a matter of fact, several of these tracks ended up receiving international fame. The list of these songs include “Vogue”, “Like A Virgin”, “Frozen”, “Papa Don’t Preach”, “Music”, “Like A Prayer”, “Take A Bow” and so many others. To accomplish this level of success with your own writing and producing ability has placed Madonna among the greatest in American Music History. As a musician, Madonna is actually underrated. In the opening paragraph I stated that Madonna is the Queen of Pop. I also made the comment that this title minimizes her skills as an overall artist. Madonna has a diverse style that grew and expanded throughout her career.
Yes, in the beginning of Madonna’s career and debut album, there was a strong Pop and crossover appeal the Record Label searched pushed. Her debut album was a clear attempt to sale albums, produce 5-6 Radio Singles and grow a fan base. I can’t lie; I was drawn to her by the tracks “Holiday” and “Borderline.” In 1983 when this album was released, I was a kid enjoying whatever music my older family members played. I remember listening to the early years of Hip Hop and Run DMC. I also remember listening to Michael Jackson because everyone loved Michael Jackson. I discovered Madonna by mistake. BET was not a popular network and there weren’t a lot of Urban Radio Stations at that time. Madonna along with Hall and Oates became my favorite non black singers. As Madonna started to move into the second phase of her career, tracks like the above mentioned “Frozen” kept me interested in her music. Madonna found a way to balance her Pop Star appeal with deep (poetic) lyrics and visuals on this song. This was 1998 and the album was Ray of Light. The reason I mentioned this album and song is because this was 16 years after her debut album. Over a 16 year span Madonna released 6 albums, played in several movies, world tours and a long list of controversial activities as well. Madonna simply grew as an artist and continued after this project, which became one of her highest selling and most critically acclaimed ventures.
Throughout the years we knew the “Wild Child” would make an appearance. I mean, the Vatican condemned her Song and Video “Like A Prayer” for the visuals that they felt was disrespectful and blasphemous. Madonna’s book SEX also pushed boundaries and the nudity and images caused controversy. Madonna was pretty much the Marilyn Monroe of her generation. Madonna had her share of hostile relationships (Ex: Marriage to Sean Penn) and other relationships and marriages that that ended. Madonna’s childhood was filled with pain as her Mother died while she was a young kid. Psychologist have often stated that this type of pain and cause an individual to carry trauma for a lifetime. I’m not saying her history of rocky relationships is a direct result of her mother dying in her youth. I’m merely stating that it could be a factor. Even with all of the riches, Madonna has dealt with a lot of pleasure and pain.
At the end of the day, Madonna is never going away. Her legacy is one for the ages. After being a young musician inspired by Debbie Harry, David Bowie, Karen Carpenter, Led Zeppelin and others, she has turned out to be the highest selling female artist of all time. Madonna is the fourth highest selling artist of all time following The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. Madonna has been ranked the Top Female in Music by many publications. Madonna has seen success as a Singer, Actor, Author, Model, and continues to tour in 2017. I would love to see her live in concert but honestly, I wished I could have seen her during the mid 90’s. It’s also ironic that in a 15 month time period Prince, Anita Baker, SADE, Michael Jackson and Madonna were born. They are all essentially the same age. I also love each of them as artists and they're pretty much my favorite artists along with Marvin Gaye. It was meant for me to be a fan of Madonna. People that know me are aware that my favorite song is Marvin Gaye's "I Want You" and wouldn't you know, Madonna remade the track and released a video for it years ago. It was a great version. Madonna remains in great company and her genius will transcend time.
Madonna - "I Want You"