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MADONNA (Madonna Louise Ciccone) (1958– ) Singer, Actress, Dancer, Songwriter

A pop icon on the level of Elvis Presley and MARILYN MONROE, Madonna was arguably the most infiuential female performer of the late 20th century. Born Madonna Louise Ciccone on August 16, 1958, she was the third of six children in a Roman Catholic family living in Pontiac, Michigan. When Madonna was six, her mother also named Madonna, died of cancer. As the eldest daughter in the Ciccone household, she was largely responsible for taking care of the home and her younger siblings, even after her father remarried. Hemmed in by her religion and her father’s discipline, she later recalled that she “grew up feeling repressed. I was really a good girl.” An honor student and cheerleader, Madonna also studied ballet with instructor Christopher Flynn. He provided Madonna with welcome relief from her oppressive home life by taking her to dance clubs in downtown Detroit. Madonna won a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan. She soon dropped out, however, to seek her fortune in New York. Madonna arrived in the city the summer of 1978 with $37 in her pocket. To earn her rent, she worked as an artists’ and photographers’ model, while performing in the third company of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

In the thick of New York’s underground culture, Madonna soon gravitated toward the music scene. With the encouragement of her live-in boyfriend, musician Dan Gilroy, she began learning to play the drums and the guitar and experimenting with writing songs. She also sang with various bands, having a brief stint in Paris as a singer in a French disco group. Back in New York, her singing caught the attention of Mark Kamis, a disc jockey at Danceteria, then one of the city’s leading clubs. With Kamis’s help, Madonna cut a demo recording of the song “Everybody,” which landed her a contract with Warner Brothers. Her first album, Madonna (1983), initially sold badly. Sales took off only after three of its tracks “Holiday,” “Lucky Star,” and “Borderline” became dance club favorites. Adding to the appeal of her disco-infiuenced pop sound was her fashion sense. In music videos played on the then-fiedgling cable station MTV, Madonna presented herself as streetwise urchin. Badly dyed, teased hair, lace gloves, underwear worn as outerwear, and crucifixes were all hallmarks of her early style. With the success of her first album, Madonna was able to insist on having the best producers and musicians work on her next, Like a Virgin (1984).

The album and two singles from it the title track and “Material Girl”—charted at number one. Again Madonna successfully used MTV to market her music. As in the video for “Like a Virgin,” she wore a white wedding dress to perform the song on the MTV Video Music Awards. Writhing on stage as if in sexual ecstasy, Madonna’s performance was considered shocking at the time. In her music video for “Material Girl,” Madonna was made up as MARILYN MONROE in a clever send-up of the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). Giving up her usual dance club look for a glamorous red ball gown, Madonna went through the first of the many physical transformations that define her career. In 1985 Madonna made her first foray into film with a small part in  Vision Quest. She became a full-fledged movie star with Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), playing a fashionable free spirit, a character who closely resembled herself.

The same year, she made her stage debut in David Rabe’s Goose and Tom-Tom, opposite Sean Penn. Madonna and Penn were married for four tumultuous years before divorcing in 1989. Madonna continued her recording career with two more hit albums, True Blue (1986) and Like a Prayer (1989). Turning to slightly more serious material, she provoked national controversies with several songs. “Papa Don’t Preach,” from True Blue, confounded Madonna’s conservative critics by telling the story of a pregnant teen who opts for motherhood instead of abortion. The title track on Like a Prayer angered the Catholic Church because of the video’s provocative images, which included Madonna kissing an African-American Christ and dancing in a field ablaze with burning crosses. Because of the uproar over the video, Pepsico pulled its sponsorship of Madonna’s upcoming tour, though the singer was able to keep her $5 million fee.

In the late 1980s, Madonna repeatedly struck out at the box office. Her films Shanghai Surprise (1969), Who’s That Girl (1987), and Bloodhounds of Broadway (1989) were all commercial fiops. She had better luck playing the small part of Breathless Mahoney in Dick Tracy (1990), starring Warren Beatty, with whom she had a well-publicized romance. Tying into the film, she released the album  Breathless, featuring the single “Vogue.” Revered in the gay community, Madonna introduced mainstream America to “voguing,” a dance involving posing like a fashion model that was popular in gay clubs in the mid-1980s.

Also in 1990, Madonna released The Immaculate Collection, a greatest hits album. It featured several new songs, including “Justify My Love.” Because of its suggestions of voyeurism, bisexuality, and group sex, its video was banned from play on MTV before 11 o’clock at night. The resulting publicity helped sell some 250,000 copies of the “Justify My Love” videotape and propelled The Immaculate Collection to number one. Madonna also delighted her fans with Truth or Dare (1991), a documentary film she commissioned about her “Blond Ambition” world tour. Presenting Madonna as every inch a star, the film contained Beatty’s memorable assessment of the melding of her life and art: “She doesn’t want to live off camera.”

In 1992, Madonna signed a seven-year, $60 million contract with Time Warner that gave her nearly total creative control over her recordings and films. It also gave her her own record label, Maverick. Unlike most vanity labels fronted by stars, it would become highly profitable, signing such artists as Alanis Morissette, Candlebox, and Me’Shell Ndegéocello. In the wake of her Time Warner deal, Madonna’s Sex (1992) was released. The $50 coffee table book contained photographs of a mostly nude Madonna acting out her sexual fantasies. Though condemned as an attention-getting stunt by her critics, the book’s first run sold out quickly.

Her album Erotica (1992), however, was a disappointment, suggesting to some in the music industry that Madonna’s popularity was fading. Her movie career provided further evidence. Though she appeared in a small role in the successful  A League of Their Own (1992), her star vehicle Body of Evidence (1993) was a disaster.

Perhaps sensing that she had gone too far, Madonna displayed a softer, more soulful sound on the album Bedtime Stories (1994). A year later, she released Something to Remember, a collection of her hit ballads. Hoping to finally establish herself as a movie draw, she also lobbied hard for the role of Eva Perón in the musical Evita. Although the movie received a lukewarm response from critics and audiences, it helped to establish Madonna as a credible actress.

During the filming, Madonna became pregnant by her boyfriend and personal trainer, Carlos Leon. On October 14, 1996, she gave birth to Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon and later described the experience to People magazine as “the greatest miracle of my life.” In addition to motherhood, Madonna publicly embraced the Jewish kabbalah and Far Eastern religions and culture. She showcased her new spiritual side on Ray of Light (1998), which many critics consider her best album.

Madonna had another success with her next album, Music (2000), which marked a return to the playful dance songs that had made her a star. A month before its release, she had her second child,Rocco. Madonna married Rocco’s father, British film director Guy Ritchie, in December 2000. The following year, her Drowned World tour—the first tour since 1993—sold out across Europe and the United States.

In an MTV interview, Madonna once said, “The whole reason I got into show business wasn’t because I thought I had a spectacular voice. It was because I thought I had something to say.” Since her early days as a performer, the public has been listening. A worldwide sensation for more than two decades, Madonna now has generations of fans who consider her the last word on what’s next in popular culture.


Releases (from oldest to newest):
    Everybody (Single, Maxi) < (11 versions)
    Borderline (Maxi, Single) < (14 versions)
    Burning Up / Physical Attraction (Maxi, Single) < (8 versions)
    Holiday (Maxi, Single) < (24 versions)
    Lucky Star (Maxi, Single) < (9 versions)
    Madonna (Album) < (29 versions)
    Angel (Maxi, Single) < (14 versions)
    Like A Virgin (Album) < (39 versions)
    Like A Virgin (Maxi, Single) < (16 versions)
    Like A Virgin & Other Big Hits (Maxi, EP) < (6 versions)
    Madonna (Comp) < (3 versions)
    Material Girl (Single, Maxi) < (20 versions)
    Crazy For You (Maxi, Single) < (17 versions)
    Dress You Up (Maxi, Single) < (20 versions)
    Gambler (Single, Maxi) < (11 versions)
    Into The Groove (Single, Maxi) < (14 versions)
    Madonna Mix (12", Mixed)
    Over And Over / Borderline (12")
    The First Album (Album) < (7 versions)
    The Virgin Tour Live < (3 versions)
    Cosmic Climb (Maxi) < (9 versions)
    La Isla Bonita (Maxi, Single) < (20 versions)
    Live To Tell (Single, Maxi) < (18 versions)
    Lucky Star/Like A Virgin (7", RE, Single)
    Open Your Heart (Maxi, Single) < (13 versions)
    Over And Over (7")
    Papa Don't Preach (Maxi, Single) < (26 versions)
    True Blue (Album) < (44 versions)
    True Blue (Maxi, Single, EP) < (20 versions)
    Causing A Commotion (Maxi, Single) < (15 versions)
    In The Beginning (EP) < (3 versions)
    Into The Groove / Everybody (12", Promo)
    It's That Girl (Cass, Promo)
    Non Si Nasce Mai Una Volta Sola / Causing A Commotion (7", Single)
    The Look Of Love (Maxi, Single) < (8 versions)
    True Blue Super Club Mix (Cass, EP)
    Where's The Party / Spotlight (12", Promo)
    Who's That Girl (Maxi, Single) < (18 versions)
    Wild Dancing (12")
    You Can Dance (Album) < (25 versions)
    Ciao Italia: Live From Italy < (5 versions)
    Spotlight < (2 versions)
    Cherish (Maxi, Single) < (16 versions)
    Dear Jessie (Single, Maxi) < (8 versions)
    Express Yourself (Maxi, Single) < (17 versions)
    Into The Groove (Cass, Single, Car)
    Into The Groove / Who's That Girl / Causing A Commotion (Maxi) < (2 versions)
    Keep It Together (Maxi, Single) < (12 versions)
    Like A Prayer (Album) < (29 versions)
    Like A Prayer (Maxi, Single) < (24 versions)
    Like A Prayer/Oh Father (Cass, Single)
    Lucky Star / Borderline (Maxi) < (2 versions)
    Oh Father (Maxi, Single) < (9 versions)
    On The Street (Maxi) < (3 versions)
    Pray For Spanish Eyes (7", Promo)
    Remixed Prayers (MiniAlbum) < (3 versions)
    The Early Years (Comp) < (2 versions)
    Time To Dance (Maxi) < (3 versions)
    Blond Ambition World Tour Live < (4 versions)
    Hanky Panky (Maxi, Single) < (18 versions)
    I'm Breathless - Music From And Inspired By The Film "Dick Tracy" (Album) < (20 versions)
    Into The Groove / Dress You Up (CD, Single)
    Justify My Love (Maxi, Single) < (29 versions)
    Justify My Love / Vogue (From MTV's Video Music Awards) (Comp) < (2 versions)
    Rescue Me (Maxi, Single) < (23 versions)
    Shake < (2 versions)
    The Immaculate Collection (Album, Comp) < (36 versions)
    The QSound Experience (Excerpts From Madonna's Immaculate Collection) (CD, Single, Promo)
    The Royal Box (CD + VHS + Box)
    The Very Best Of Madonna (Comp) < (3 versions)
    Vogue (Maxi, Single) < (27 versions)
    Get Down < (2 versions)
    Give It To Me < (3 versions)
    The Holiday Collection (Maxi) < (2 versions)
    Bad Girl (Maxi, Single) < (15 versions)
    Cosmic Climb (Album) < (2 versions)
    Deeper And Deeper (Maxi, Single, EP) < (20 versions)
    Erotica (Maxi, Single) < (28 versions)
    Erotica (Album) < (21 versions)
    Fever (Maxi, Single) < (6 versions)
    Rain (Maxi, Single) < (17 versions)
    Shine A Light (Single) < (3 versions)
    This Used To Be My Playground (Single) < (10 versions)
    Wild Dancing (Album) < (2 versions)
    Bye Bye Baby (Maxi) < (6 versions)
    Deeper And Deeper EP (Maxi, EP) < (3 versions)
    Fever / Rain (2x12")
    Rain (Cass, Single, Car)
    Rain EP (EP) < (2 versions)
    The Best Of & The Rest Of - Volume 2 (CD, Album)
    The Girlie Show - Live Down Under < (5 versions)
    Toy Boy (CD, P/Mixed)
    Wild Dancing (CD, Maxi)
    Bedtime Stories (Album) < (17 versions)
    Bedtime Story (Maxi, Single) < (22 versions)
    Favourite Mixes No. 1 (CD)
    I'll Remember (Maxi, Single) < (14 versions)
    Secret (Maxi, Single) < (21 versions)
    Take A Bow (Maxi, Single) < (20 versions)
    The Girlie Show (CD, Maxi)
    Human Nature (Maxi, Single) < (23 versions)
    La Isla Bonita / Human Nature (CD, Mini)
    One More Chance (Maxi, Single) < (5 versions)
    Something To Remember (Comp, Album) < (23 versions)
    Wild Dancing (Album) < (3 versions)
    You'll See (Maxi, Single) < (17 versions)
    Buenos Aires (Maxi, Single) < (4 versions)
    CD Single Collection (40xCD, Mini, Single + Box, Ltd)
    Don't Cry For Me Argentina (Maxi, Single) < (19 versions)
    Love Don't Live Here Anymore (Single, Maxi) < (11 versions)
    Pre-Madonna (1980-´81 New York City - Unauthorized) (Album) < (2 versions)
    Wild Dancing (CD, Shape, Ltd)
    Wow! (CD, Shape, Ltd)
    You Must Love Me (Maxi, Single) < (8 versions)
    Another Suitcase In Another Hall (Maxi, Single) < (4 versions)
    Drowned World / Substitute For Love (Maxi, Single) < (11 versions)
    Frozen (Single, Maxi) < (22 versions)
    Frozen / Take A Bow (7")
    Little Star (CD, Promo)
    Nothing Really Matters (Maxi, Single) < (30 versions)
    Ray Of Light (Maxi, Single) < (27 versions)
    Ray Of Light (Album) < (28 versions)
    Ray Of Light (Special Limited Edition) (VHS)
    The Power Of Good-Bye (Maxi, Single) < (19 versions)
    Words + Music (CD, Maxi, Promo)
    Beautiful Stranger (Maxi, Single) < (10 versions)
    The Video Collection 93:99 (Comp) < (6 versions)
    American Pie (Maxi, Single) < (20 versions)
    Best 'Music' (CD)
    Don't Tell Me (Maxi, Single) < (21 versions)
    GHV2 The Dance Remixes (3xLP, Promo)
    Impressive Instant < (3 versions)
    Music (Maxi, Single) < (41 versions)
    Music (Album) < (23 versions)
    Skin (CDr, TP)
    The Ultimate Collection (Comp) < (2 versions)
    Amazing (CD, Single, Promo)
    Don't Tell Me (CDr, Promo, clo)
    Drowned World Tour 2001 < (3 versions)
    Early Years (CD)
    GHV2 (Album, Comp) < (19 versions)
    GHV2 < (4 versions)
    GHV2 Remixed (The Best Of 1991-2001) (2xCD, Promo)
    Lo Que Siente La Mujer (CD, Single, Promo)
    Music (Dan-O-Rama Remix) (VHS, PAL, Pro)
    Ray Of Light / Beautiful Stranger (7")
    Thunderpuss GHV2 Megamix (Maxi) < (5 versions)
    What It Feels Like For A Girl (Maxi, Single) < (23 versions)
    2 CD Hit Collection (Erotica / Madonna) (CD, Album + CD, Album, RM + , RE)
    Die Another Day (Maxi, Single) < (25 versions)
    Die Another Day - Music From The Motion Picture < (6 versions)
    True Blue / Like A Virgin (Coffret 2 CD Originaux) (Box + 2xCD, Album)
    A New Groove. A New Jean (Into The Hollywood Groove) (CD, Single, Promo)
    American Life (Maxi, Single) < (24 versions)
    American Life (Album) < (19 versions)
    Hollywood (Maxi, Single) < (25 versions)
    Into The Hollywood Groove (CDr, Single, Promo)
    Love Profusion (Maxi) < (14 versions)
    Me Against The Music (Maxi, Single) < (12 versions)
    Nobody Knows Me (Remixes) (12", Promo)
    Nothing Fails (Maxi) < (11 versions)
    Remixed & Revisited (EP, Maxi) < (7 versions)
    Un Nouveau Groove. Un Nouveau Jean. (Into The Hollywood Groove) (CD, Single, Promo)
    House Music (Volume 1) (CD, Comp, Dig)
    House Music (Volume 2) (CD, Comp, Dig)
    Who's That Girl: Live In Japan (Mitsubishi Special) (DVD)
    2CD (American Life / Music) (2xCD, Album)
    3CD (American Life / Music / Ray Of Light) (3xCD, Album)
    Confessions On A Dance Floor (Album) < (19 versions)
    Dance To The Beat (CD)
    Hung Up (Maxi, Single) < (21 versions)
    The Girlie Show in Japan (DVD-V, Dig)
    Confessions Remixed (3x12", Ltd)
    Get Together (Maxi, Single) < (16 versions)
    I'm Going To Tell You A Secret < (6 versions)
    Jump (Maxi, Single) < (15 versions)
    Sorry (Maxi, Single) < (20 versions)
    Hey You (File, MP3, 128)
    The Confessions Tour (Album) < (6 versions)
    4 Minutes (Single, Maxi) < (25 versions)
    4 Minutes / Give It 2 Me (2x7", Single, Whi)
    Give It 2 Me (Single, Maxi) < (21 versions)
    Hard Candy (Album) < (16 versions)
    Miles Away (Single, Maxi) < (16 versions)
    Celebration (Album, Comp) < (11 versions)
    Celebration (Single, Maxi) < (17 versions)
    Celebration - The Video Collection (Comp) < (5 versions)
    Revolver (One Love Remix) (CDr, Single, Promo)
    3 For One (The First Album / Like A Virgin / True Blue) (3xCD, Album)
    Classic Party Rockers Vol. 3 - The Madonna Edition (12")
    Golden Madonna (Cass, Comp)

Further Reading
Benson, Carol, and Allan Metz, eds. The Madonna Companion:  Two Decades of Commentary. New York: Schirmer Books, 1999.
Bego, Mark. Madonna: Blonde Ambition. Updated edition. New York: Cooper Square Press, 2000.

Recommended Recorded and Videotaped Performances
Evita (1996). Hollywood Pictures Home Video, DVD/VHS, 1998.
The Immaculate Collection (1991). Warner/Electra, DVD/VHS, 1991/1999.
The Immaculate Collection.Warner Brothers, CD, 1990.
Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991). Artisan Entertainment, DVD/VHS, 2000/2001.
Ray of Light.Warner Brother, CD, 1998.


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