Thursday, August 16, 2012

Origins of My Love: Happy Madonna Day 2012!

I remember the first time that I ever saw Madonna vogue. It wasn’t 1989, when she performed “Express Yourself” at the VMAs, nor was it in 1990, when “Vogue” was all over MTV. I was intrigued by Madonna in the 80s, and fell in love with her as Breathless Mahoney in 1990, but my obsession with Diana Ross blotted out all other singers for several years. It wasn’t until 1991, a few months before I film my own tribute, that I saw a segment of Madonna and Oliver Crumes Jr. vogue-ing in the iconic David Fincher music video. It was the morning after the American Music Awards, and someone on the news showed a clip. My mind was immediately blown: it was electrifying, the most incredible dancing I had ever seen, and I simply could not fathom anything being cooler. 

I was with my Mom when she rented The Immaculate Collection on video for me. She told the bespectacled, curly-haired teenager behind the video store counter that I wanted to learn how to vogue. I can still hear his one word response: “Ouch”. When my Mom subsequently asked if there was anything on the videotape that would be too racy for a nine year old, he said that the only objectionable bit was a moment where one of Madonna’s dancers put his head under her skirt for several seconds. Yes folks, it’s true: my Mom subsequently had to screen the “Vogue” video and VMA performance before I could watch. But perhaps the totally life-changing impact of The Immaculate Collection videotape was underlined by the fact it was, literally, “Mom-approved”.

I have written before about the role that Madonna played in my life during middle school, and how this forever deepened my already great love of her as both an artist and a human being. My junior high experience began in Fall 1994 with the release of Madonna's Bedtime Stories and the broadcast of the FOX TV movie Madonna: Innocence Lost, and it ended in Spring 1996 with the completion of Evita and the announcement of Madonna's pregnancy. This paper was written at the beginning of that era, around the time when "Secret" and that terrific Kurt Loder special No Bull:The Making of "Take A Bow" were getting heavy rotation on MTV. I wrote this short composition as an assignment for a class called "General Music". It was meant to provide a few biographical details about a particular musical artist, which we would read to the class before one of the artist's songs would be played. I think we had to analyze the structure of the song, or something technical like that, but I only remember writing the intro: it was the first of many essays about the greatness of Madonna. 

As would be the case with many of my subsequent compositions about Madonna, up to this day, it occasionally reads more like a press release than a school assignment....and I'm okay with that. Most of the details came from the coffee table book Madonna by Marie Cahill, the first book I ever bought about her and still my 2nd favorite after Matthew Rettenmund's peerless Encylopedia Madonnica. The only other Madonna book I may have had at that time was Christopher Andersen's bestselling 1991 biography, and my only other sources would have been information I'd picked up from TV broadcasts and a hilariously dated 1991 videotape that I believe was, like the Andersen bio, titled Madonna: Unauthorized!. I mention this because, in the seventh grade, I had yet to learn about in-text citations. I also made a few grammatical mistakes, but I'm leaving in all of the typos so as to maintain the purity of my thirteen year old voice. 

My writing has changed a great deal since I wrote this, but my love for Madonna remains the same. To celebrate both her birthday AND twenty-five years since the release of the film, song, soundtrack album, and world tour by the name of Who's That Girl, here is the first time I ever wrote about Madonna. 


Madonna. Almost everyone pictures something in his or her minds after hearing that word. Some may see a young woman in an ivory white, lace two piece on-stage belting out tunes like her hit single Into the Groove, or her classics Material Girl and Like A Virgin. Others may picture a  with a long black dress puffing a cigar on Late Show with David Letterman. Though some are positive and some are negative, many people immediately see a snapshot of the world famous superstar upon hearing her name. Madonna’s career had been speculated by critics to be a failure in the long run. Yet since 1983, when these comments were made about her first album, called Madonna, the singer has released 8 more albums, done special benefit concerts, done 4 tours, starred in 12 motion pictures (One of which was MADE before her success), and become both an international superstar and a legendary culture icon.

            Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone was born on August 16th, 1958. Born in Bay City, Michigan, she was the first child in what would become a family of six children. At the tender age of 7, Madonna suffered the tragedy of losing her mother, also named Madonna, to breast cancer. Their father went through depression during this period after the loss, and since he couldn’t balance a full time job and family life, for a short time he was forced to send the children to live with family, a choice he didn’t want to make. Luckily, the family was brought back together, but when they returned, the housekeeper was, surprisingly, their stepmother, and the couple later had two more children. Throughout her life, Madonna says she has had difficulty dealing with her mother passing away. She also quotes that her 1989 single Oh Father was an “attempt to embrace and accept” the loss of her mother.

            The song I have chosen to play, Who’s That Girl?, is from the film of the same name, starring Madonna and Griffin Dunne. Though the film has Madonna in the lead role and a mild resemblance to the classic Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant comedy Bringing Up Baby, the film was crucified by critics and was a bomb at the box office. Madonna did not need to worry about that very much, though. The film was originally going to be called Slammer, but Madonna was having a challenging time coming up with a title song to go with this. Lucky for Madonna, the title became Who’s That Girl?, and the song was a hit. In fact, Madonna’s second tour became The Who’s That Girl Tour. The international tour made up to $500,000 for each show. It has been said that Madonna attempted to make the show entertaining to everyone,  since stadiums where shows take place can separate the audience from he or she who is on stage, by, as Marie Cahill calls it, “making the show visually exciting”. Now, you can hear the song sung that in 1987 was sung to audiences throughout the world. 

Happy Birthday Madonna & Happy Madonna Day To You All! XO

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