Madonna !

By Russ:

Dubbed “The Queen of Pop” (a term Madonna dislikes),  this singer / songwriter is so much more. Actually, her original goal was to be a dancer. 

So far in her music career Madonna has earned 43 Number One hits. Having sold more than 300 million records worldwide, she is recognized as the best-selling female recording artist of all time.

Madonna also became a very astute entrepreneur with net worth in 2017 of $1 Billion. One thing you may notice; she did not achieve all this success single-handed. Very early on she cleverly realized how to leverage with position and skills of others to reach her objectives.

Since there is already a wealth of material on the Internet about Madonna, I will dwell mainly on the early parts of her journey –  just enough stuff to describe the intensity and determination of this focused, hard working woman, and hopefully whet your appetite to explore more.

– Many thanks to and


Madonna  Louise Veronica “Madge” Ciccone


Madonna’s look and style of dressing, her performances, and her music videos have influenced many young girls and women. Her style became one of the female fashion trends of the 1980s.


1982 / Everybody / First Performance in Italy / her first hit single


1984 / Borderline / from her debut album “Madonna”


1984 / Like A Virgin

You might notice a heavy bass pattern that goes through most of “Virgin,” anchoring the song’s disco-funk groove.  You may also notice that this three-note pattern is borrowed from the Four Tops’ similarly enduring and chart-topping “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch),” a subtle and brilliant lift that gives the song an instant familiarity that you might never even be cognizant of if it wasn’t pointed out to you.


1986 True Blue


1986 Open Your Heart


1989 Like A Prayer


1989 Express Yourself


Madonna, The Dancer

Some amazing sequences, strength and boundless energy…


A video summary of Madonna’s Climb to Success

1958–1981: Early life and career beginnings

Singer, performer and actress Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone was born in Bay City, Michigan, on August 16, 1958, to parents Silvio “Tony” Ciccone and Madonna Fortin. Tony, the son of Italian immigrants, was the first of his family to go to college, where he earned a degree in engineering. Madonna’s mother, an x-ray technician and former dancer, was of French Canadian descent.

After their marriage in 1955, the couple moved to Pontiac, Michigan, to be close to Tony’s job as a defense engineer. Madonna was born three years later, during a visit with family in Bay City. The third of six children, Madonna learned early on how to handle her role as the middle child, admitting that she was “the sissy of the family” who often used her feminine wiles to get her way. This skill would prove to be very useful later on as she built her career.

Mother and child: Baby Madonna Louise Ciccone 1958

Her parents’ strict observation of the Catholic faith played a large role in Madonna’s childhood. “My mother was a religious zealot,” Madonna explains. “There were always priests and nuns in my house growing up.

Many elements of Catholic iconography—including her mother’s statues of the Sacred Heart, the habits of the nuns at her Catholic elementary school, and the Catholic altar at which she and her family prayed daily—later became the subject of Madonna’s most controversial works.

Upon being confirmed in the Catholic Church in 1966, she adopted Veronica as a confirmation name. She was raised in the Detroit suburbs of Pontiac and Avon Township (now Rochester Hills).

A heavy influence on Madonna’s early life was her mother, who was diagnosed with breast cancer during her pregnancy with Madonna’s youngest sister. Treatment had to be delayed until the baby reached full term, but by then the disease had grown too strong. On December 1, 1963, at the age of 30, Madonna’s mother passed away. Madonna was only 5 years old at the time of her mother’s death.

1963 Madonna at age 5

The loss of her mother significantly affected Madonna’s adolescence. Haunted by the memories of her mother’s frailty and passive demeanor during her final days, Madonna was determined to make her own voice heard.


I think the biggest reason I was able to express myself and not be intimidated was by not having a mother,” she says. “For example, mothers teach you manners. And I absolutely did not learn any of those rules and regulations.

Her authoritarian father would later employ a succession of housekeepers to care for his children, one of whom – Joan Gustafson – became his second wife.


Madonna fought especially hard against the rules imposed by her stepmother, Joan. She says Gustafson often made her take care of the younger children in the household, a task she greatly resented. “I really saw myself as the quintessential Cinderella,” Madonna later said. “I think that’s when I really thought about how I wanted to do something else and get away from all that.”

Madonna family photo

She rebelled against her traditional upbringing by turning her conservative clothing into revealing outfits, by frequenting underground gay nightclubs and by rejecting her religious background.

Rebellious But No Dummy…

Madonna balanced this insubordinate side of her personality with a drive for perfection and high achievement.  She attended St. Frederick’s and St. Andrew’s Catholic Elementary Schools, and West Middle School.

She was known for her high grade point average, and achieved notoriety for her unconventional behavior. She would perform cartwheels and handstands in the hallways between classes, dangle by her knees from the monkey bars during recess, and pull up her skirt during class—all so that the boys could see her underwear.


Madonna enroled at Adams High School, Rochester Hills, Michigan, where she became part of the cheerleading squad, became a disciplined dancer and achieved awards for her academic excellence. She graduated from high school a semester earlier than her peers.


Aged 16 Madonna met homosexual dance teacher Christopher Flynn, the man she described as the first to understand and inspire her. He introduced her to dance, art, classical music and gay subculture, completely changing her outlook on life.

1976 – Madonna at University of Michigan

In 1976, her hard work earned her the attentions of the University of Michigan, which offered her a full scholarship to their dance program. Christopher Flynn persuaded her to leave school early.

Of those times, Madonna says, “Growing up in Michigan, I didn’t really know what a gay man was. He [Christopher Flynn] was the first man-the first human being-who made me feel good about myself and special. He was the first person who told me that I was beautiful or that I had something to offer the world, and he encouraged me to believe in my dreams, to go to New York. He was such an important person in my life. He died of AIDS, but he went blind toward the end of his life. He was such a lover of art, classical music, literature, opera. You know, I grew up in the Midwest, and it was really because of him that I was exposed to so many of those things. He brought me to my first gay club-it was this club in Detroit. I always felt like I was a freak when I was growing up and that there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t fit in anywhere. But when he took me to that club, he brought me to a place where I finally felt at home.”

In 1977, during her undergraduate studies at Michigan, Madonna was awarded a six-week scholarship to study with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City, followed by a rare opportunity to perform with choreographer Pearl Lang in 1978.

Ironically, Madonna never thought of herself becoming a singer.

Her main reason for moving to New York was to work as a professional dancer.


Madonna said of her move to New York, “It was the first time I’d ever taken a plane, the first time I’d ever gotten a taxi cab. I came here with $35 in my pocket. It was the bravest thing I’d ever done.

In New York City she had little money and paid her rent with a handful of odd jobs, including nude art modeling, working as a waitress at Dunkin’ Donuts, serving at the Russian Tea Room.

While performing as a backup dancer for the French disco artist Patrick Hernandez on his 1979 world tour, Madonna became romantically involved with musician Dan Gilroy, who was one of the founding members of a ska influenced pop-punk band called “Breakfast Club“.

Gilroy introduced Madonna to the head of a vaudeville review in Paris, and she spent some time in France working as a showgirl. During this trip she discovered that she loved the combination of dancing and singing.

When she returned to the states in 1980, she joined Gilroy’s band as a guitar player, then its drummer, and later became its lead singer.

Madonna, lead singer in “Breakfast Club” band

In 1981 she left “Breakfast Club” and, over the next few years, with her former boyfriend Stephen Bray as drummer, formed several different bands of her own, including “Madonna & The Sky”, “The Millionairs” and “Emmy”. They began writing songs together.  Stephen wrote her first hit, “Everybody“, and they made a demo recording of it.

But soon Madonna decided to market herself as a solo act and she hired manager Camille Barbone of Gotham Records to help her get her singing career on track. Camille showed Madonna how to navigate the male-dominated world of the music business, and helped put together a tight recording studio band that accentuated the budding star’s hip style and ideas.

1982–1985: Career breakthrough

Madonna, using her brash business approach, got her demo of “Everybody” into the hands of DJ / producer Mark Kamins, and urged him to play it in New York’s Danceteria dance club.

Mark Kamins – Madonna’s ex-boyfriend, and pioneering DJ-producer who helped launch her career,

Kamins was impressed by this track and took Madonna to Sire Records, where  executive Michael Rosenblatt got her signed for a singles deal.  “Everybody” was released on October 6, 1982 by Sire Records as Madonna’s debut single and it went to No. 1 on the dance charts in that year.


By incorporating R&B infused beats in the music and not including her image on the cover art, marketing for the song gave the impression of Madonna as a black artist.

That impression did not last long as Madonna would later convince Sire executives to shoot a music video for the song. The low-budget video directed by Ed Steinberg showed Madonna and her friends in a club singing and dancing to the song. The video helped to further promote the song and to promote Madonna as an artist.

Everybody” was followed by the double-sided single “Burning Up“/”Physical Attraction,” a No. 3 hit on Dance/Club Play Songs in March 1983.


It was common back then for singles to be promoted as so-called “double-sided” singles, when a vinyl record would be sent to club DJs with a different song on each side.

Both singles became big club hits in the United States, reaching number three on Hot Dance Club Songs chart compiled by Billboard magazine.

Using the success of these club hits as leverage, Madonna convinced Sire Records to produce a full-length (debut) album.

Madonna 1983

1983 Her Debut Album and The Madonna Sound

Production mixing was primarily by Reggie Lucas of Warner Bros. , but Madonna was not happy with the completed tracks and disagreed with Lucas’ production techniques, so she decided to seek additional help.

She moved in with boyfriend John “Jellybean” Benitez, asking his help for finishing the album’s production.

Madonna and John “Jellybean” Benitez

Benitez remixed most of the tracks and produced “Holiday“, which was her third single and her first international top-ten hit.


The overall sound of Madonna was dissonant, in the form of upbeat synthetic disco, using some of the new technology of the time, like the Linn drum machine, Moog bass and the OB-X synthesizer.

The album was released in July 1983 and peaked at number eight on the Billboard 200 six months later, in 1984.

It yielded two more top-ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100, “Borderline” and “Lucky Star“.

Borderline” gave Madonna her first top 10 on the Hot 100. It reached No. 10 on the June 16, 1984, tally. “Borderline” was her first of a record 38 top 10 hits on the Hot 100.  (In second-place on the all-time list: the Beatles, with 34 top 10s.)

The song “Holiday” also earned the singer an appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in 1984.  During her interview on the show, she told Clark that her main ambition was “to rule the world.”

The Madonna Look of the 80s

The Madonna Look, created by stylist and jewelry designer Maripol, consisted of lace tops, skirts over capri pants, fishnet stockings, jewelry bearing the crucifix, bracelets, and bleached hair. Soon, girls all over the country were imitating Madonna’s distinct sense of fashion.

1984 Her Second Album – Like A Virgin


Madonna achieved global recognition after the release of her second studio album, Like a Virgin, in November 1984. It topped the charts in several countries and became her first number-one album on the Billboard 200.

The title track, “Like a Virgin“, topped the Hot 100 chart for six consecutive weeks. It attracted the attention of organizations who complained that the song and its accompanying video promoted premarital sex and undermined family values, and moralists sought to have the song and video banned.

“Like a Virgin” was certified diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America and sold more than 21 million copies worldwide.

The title track, produced by Nile Rodgers, would later be listed as Madonna’s biggest pop hit of all time, with the song remaining on the top of the charts for six weeks.

She had two other top 5 hits from the record: the tongue-in-cheek, empowering “Material Girl” and the dance ditty with bounce, “Angel.”

Madonna 1985

Madonna, the Actress

In 1985 Madonna starred in her first mainstream feature film, Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), and performed the soundtrack’s single, “Into the Groove,” which hit No. 1 on the U.S. dance charts.

Her next single “Crazy for You“, which she performed for the 1985 film Vision Quest, also became a No. 1 hit.

She then started her first music tour, The Virgin Tour, and watched 17 consecutive songs climb into the Top 10 on the Billboard Chart while also creating a wave of iconic music videos, constantly re-crafting her persona.

In the next five years, Madonna’s life was a whirlwind of activity. On August 16, 1985, she married actor Sean Penn and co-starred with him in the film Shanghai Surprise (1986).

Madonna and Sean Penn

She then went on to star in three more movies over the next few years: Who’s That Girl (1987), Bloodhounds of Broadway (1989) and Dick Tracy (1990).

Madonna’s marriage to Penn was a passionate yet violent union, and they split after four years following an incident in which Penn allegedly tied her to a chair for nine hours and attacked her. He was charged with felony domestic assault, but Madonna later withdrew the charge and filed for divorce. ‘It was a miserable marriage,’ Penn said years later. ‘I describe that marriage as loud. I don’t recall having a single conversation in four years of marriage.’

Four more hit albums:

  • True Blue (1986),
  • Who’s that Girl (1987),
  • You Can Dance (1987) and
  • Like a Prayer (1989).

In January 1989, Madonna signed an endorsement deal with soft-drink manufacturer, Pepsi. In one of her Pepsi commercials, she debuted her song “Like a Prayer“.

The corresponding music video featured many Catholic symbols such as stigmata and cross burning, and a dream of making love to a saint, leading the Vatican to condemn the video. Religious groups sought to ban the commercial and boycott Pepsi products. Pepsi revoked the commercial and canceled her sponsorship contract.

The song was included on Madonna’s fourth studio album, Like a Prayer, which was co-written and co-produced by Patrick Leonard and Stephen Bray. Madonna received positive feedback for the album, with Rolling Stone writing that it was “as close to art as pop music gets“.

Like a Prayer peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold 15 million copies worldwide, with 4 million copies sold in the U.S. alone. Six singles were released from the album, including “Like a Prayer“, which reached number one, and “Express Yourself” and “Cherish”, both peaking at number two. By the end of the 1980s, Madonna was named as the “Artist of the Decade” by MTV, Billboard and Musician magazine.

More Acting and Performing

Dick Tracy Movie – Madonna and Warren Beatty

In 1990 Madonna starred as the character Breathless Mahoney in the film Dick Tracy, with Warren Beatty playing the title role. Her performance led to a Saturn Award nomination for Best Actress.

While shooting the film, Madonna, perhaps rebounding from the smashing break up with her love, Sean Penn, began a relationship with Beatty, but this fizzled out by the end of that same year.

To accompany the film, she released a soundtrack album,  I’m Breathless, which included songs inspired by the film’s 1930s setting. It also featured the U.S. number-one song “Vogue” and “Sooner or Later“, which earned songwriter Stephen Sondheim an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1991.

In April 1990, Madonna began her Blond Ambition World Tour, which was held until August. Rolling Stone magazine called it an “elaborately choreographed, sexually provocative extravaganza” and proclaimed it “the best tour of 1990“.


The tour generated strong negative reaction from religious groups for her performance of “Like a Virgin“, during which two male dancers caressed her body before she simulated masturbation. In response, Madonna said, “The tour in no way hurts anybody’s sentiments. It’s for open minds and gets them to see sexuality in a different way. Their own and others“. – She could have been a politician.

The Laserdisc release of the “Blond” tour won Madonna a Grammy Award in 1992 for Best Long Form Music Video.

When Madonna landed the lead in the film Evita, her career soared.


Madonna as Evita

For years she’d sought to be taken seriously as an actor – for every “Desperately Seeking Susan” there was a turkey like “The Next Best Thing” – but at last she had a huge cinematic hit. Evita would prove to be one of her finest acting performances.

In preparation for this demanding role, Madonna took some vocal coaching and it she says it extended her voice in areas she had not used before. You can really notice the breadth of a much more mature singer.

Madonna / Lament / from Evita


Madonna / Hello and Goodbye / from Evita

Buenos Aires Tour: “You must love me”/ “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” with Gypsy Folk Group


Madonna – La Isla Bonita (Sticky & Sweet Tour in Buenos Aires)”>Madonna – La Isla Bonita (Sticky & Sweet Tour in Buenos Aires) / Spanish Lullaby


2003 – Madonna plays guitar and sings Mother And Father

Madonna Singles Discography

Pop over to this link if you want a very comprehensive list:

In Summary…

With lots of gaps in this story, we have just touched the surface of Madonna’s trajectory, and hope you enjoyed re-visiting some of her early hits.

Having sold more than 300 million records worldwide, Madonna is recognized as the best-selling female recording artist of all time by Guinness World Records. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) listed her as the best-selling female rock artist of the 20th century and the second highest-certified female artist in the United States, with 64.5 million album units.

Until recently, Madonna was the highest-grossing solo touring artist of all time, earning U.S. $1.31 billion from her concerts since 1990. She became one of the five founding members of the UK Music Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in her first year of eligibility.

Madonna was ranked at number one on VH1’s list of 100 Greatest Women in Music and number two (behind only The Beatles) on Billboards list of Greatest Hot 100 Artists of All Time.


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