Personalities | Madonna | Eighties | Rock

The most successful female recording artist of all time, Madonna also reigns supreme as top female producer and songwriter. Madonna Louise Ciccone (b. 16 August 1958) spent her formative years in Detroit.

After graduating from high school in 1976, she won a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan but dropped out after two years to seek a career in dance in New York. She sang and played guitar and drums in two rock groups before recording the demos that brought her to the attention of Sire Records, who initially offered her a singles-only contract in 1982.

Singled Out For Success

The first fruits of this, ‘Everybody’ and ‘Burning Up’, made little impact on the mainstream American charts but were dance hits and proved sufficient to convince Sire to sanction an album. Madonna (1983) (subtitled ‘The First Album’ on re-issue in 1985) was a collection of disco/pop songs remixed by John ‘Jellybean’ Benitez as the singer was unhappy with the initial outcome. The album was not a major success on original release, although it received good reviews and ‘Holiday’ was a British Top 20 hit.

Like A Virgin (1984) established Madonna as an international star, its title track becoming her first worldwide smash. Her material was given a commercial sheen by producer Nile Rodgers (of Chic fame) and the album featured another massive hit in ‘Material Girl’. Madonna’s first UK No. 1 single ‘Into The Groove’ (from the movie Desperately Seeking Susan) was added to the re-release in 1985, the year when she truly became a phenomenon with the runaway success of the album and her domination of the singles charts.

On True Blue (1986), the newly crowned ‘Queen of Pop’ took full control of her music, writing or co-writing all the songs and acting as co-producer. The album, featuring ‘Papa Don’t Preach’, ‘Open Your Heart’ and ‘La Isla Bonita’, displayed a new maturity and, predictably, was another blockbuster.

In Vogue

Next, Madonna starred in the 1987 film Who’s That Girl and the soundtrack album featured four of her songs. Her next album proper, Like a Prayer (1989), was an adventurous project, incorporating elements of rock, dance, pop, soul and funk into a multi-platinum package. The video for the title track invited controversy over its use of religious imagery, providing Madonna with priceless publicity.

1990 was another busy year, as Madonna appeared in the movie Dick Tracy and released I’m Breathless. Described as ‘music from and inspired by’ the film, the album contains the singles ‘Vogue’ and ‘Hanky Panky’. The Immaculate Collection (1990), her first greatest hits album, featured two new songs, ‘Justify My Love’ and ‘Rescue Me’, whilst other tracks were remixed and edited. It became one of the best-selling greatest hits compilations ever.

Erotica (1992), an album themed around sexuality, was largely overshadowed by the furore over Sex an ill-judged coffee table book, featuring soft-core photography and Madonna’s explicit prose. On Bedtime Stories (1994) she reacted with a more mainstream work, which was...

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, general editor Michael Heatley


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