Artist and Musician Biographies


Here is a YouTube Playlist of music by Madonna.

Who would have thought that a girl from a large Catholic family in small-town Michigan would rise to supreme stardom? But in 1958, Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone came into this world, and of course we commonly know her as simply Madonna today. And she is, perhaps, the most successful female pop star of the 1980's, whose image and career continue to change in order to stay in step with the pace of modern society.

Michigan did not keep its grasp on the young Madonna for too long. At the age of 19, in 1977, after a brief stint in college, she had relocated to the Big Apple. She had not ventured to New York with the hope of becoming a singer, however, instead she dreamed of being a ballerina. And her wish did not go completely unfulfilled as she did end up studying ballet with the acclaimed choreographer, Alvin Ailey, and modeling to earn money.

By 1979, she was becoming immersed in popular performance when she joined the disco movement of the Patrick Hernandez Review. Over the next couple of years she was a member of The Breakfast Club dance/pop group, which was formed by Madonna and her past beau, Dan Gilroy. Miss Ciccone played the drums in this group, but soon became the lead singer. She formed the band, Emmy in 1980, but she left it behind in pursuit of bigger and better things by 1982.

Like the Go-Go's, Madonna began her musical success with a string of club sensations like her debut single "Everybody" in 1982. At the time, Madonna was signed on with Sire records for a mere $5,000. But when "Everybody" was released, the club-scene fell in love with her new sound, although at first she was mistaken for a black performer due to the style of her music. From this point, Madonna began rolling out the hit singles and multi-platinum albums, as well as gaining a large following of young "Madonna Wannabes" who were all too willing to adopt the punky, sexy look of the new star.

Madonna had a few more hits before her racy persona became forever intertwined with her music, a marriage of image and talent that brought both success and controversy for the artist. The club favorite "Holiday" was released in 1983 on her first full-length self-titled album that also produced her first top ten hit with "Borderline" in 1984.

1984 was a fruitful year with the advent of Madonna's star movie role in the film Desperately Seeking Susan. But it was also in 1984 that the great controversy over Madonna's lifestyle began with the release of her album Like a Virgin, whose title track sported suggestive lyrics. But the controversy did not shadow the success; it only seemed to fuel it as "Like a Virgin" stayed on top of the charts for six weeks running. She rocketed to stardom that year, thanks partly to the power of MTV. The video for "Like a Virgin" became a tremendous success, although it also was surrounded with controversy. In it, she presented a very sexy image, and wore a belt with the words "Boy Toy" and a cross. The image and the belt worried the parents of the young teenage girls who adored Madonna and the cross-offended some Christians because of the context in which it was portrayed.

Since then her lifestyle has been discussed more than her music, although she was the first female pop star to have complete artistic control over her music and her image. As a phenomenon in popular culture, Madonna and her image became the source of endless debate among feminists and cultural scholars.

The hits continued with "Material Girl" and "Crazy for You" in 1985 as well as her first tour with the addition of the Beastie Boys as an opening act. Madonna's extreme success in the mid-eighties brought about the resurfacing of some less-than-desirable endeavors from her past. Playboy and Penthouse magazines both decided to cash in on the performer's success and published old nude photos of her from 1977. The video industry also responded by re-releasing the erotic flick Madonna performed in called "A Certain Sacrifice" in 1979 on video for public consumption.

The year 1986 saw Madonna's marriage to the actor Sean Penn as well as the release of her album, True Blue. True Blue was very successful in both the United States and the U.K. The single "Papa Don't Preach" was her fourth hit to reach number one, although it stirred unrest among both pro-life and pro-choice advocates with its video telling the story of a pregnant teenage girl. Madonna demurred to become involved on either side of the fence, however.

A box office flop with Shanghai Surprise wounded her film career before she achieved her 5th chart topper with "Open Your Heart" in 1987. Her next film, Who's That Girl? received a mixed reaction and was released to a meager box office return. However, the title track to the flick gained a spot at number one again. In 1988, Madonna worked on Broadway in David Mamet's play Speed the Plow and her marriage to Penn began to crumble.

By 1989, Madonna had divorced Penn and released her album, Like a Prayer, from which she garnered three more songs in the top ten. By the spring of 1990, she was undertaking her Blonde Ambition Tour, an event sponsored by Pepsi. This time period proved to be another highpoint in Madonna's career with the song "Vogue" resting comfortably at the top of the charts and the release of the hit movie Dick Tracy, in which Madonna played opposite actor Warren Beatty.

Vogue became a sensation on MTV and is considered by many to be one of the best videos ever made. The song and the video were based on voguing, a dance form related to break dancing, developed by African-American and Latino gay teens in New York. Voguing involves mimicking the gestures and style of the fashion industry as well as the glamour of old Hollywood. By appropriating this dance form, Madonna brought it to the attention of the mainstream and briefly popularized it. A large part of Madonna's continued popularity is her ability to constantly reinvent herself and her look. She has an uncanny knack for staying one step ahead of the mainstream and attuned to trends in music and popular culture that are just about to break.

Her greatest hits album, Immaculate Collection, was also released that year. Of course, Madonna cannot go too long without stirring up some sort of controversy and the single, "Justify My Love", boasted another sexy video. However, "Rescue Me", the second single from the collection, broke the record for the highest debuting female-performed single in history starting out at number 15.

The rest of the 1990's provided Madonna with continuing success, including the publication of her aptly titled book, Sex, in 1992. Although the critical reaction to Sex wasn't exactly pleasant, its sister album, Erotica still sold over two million copies.

In 1995, Madonna found a reason to break free from the image of sex-goddess that she had previously been promoting. She wanted a role in the movie Evita, which she won. In fact, she even gathered a Golden Globe award for Best Actress, Musical or Comedy and was nominated for an Academy Award. "You Must Love Me" and "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" from the movie soundtrack became minor hits.

In very recent years, Madonna has released several more albums including Bedtime Stories in 1994 and Ray of Light in 1998. The latter album serves as evidence of Madonna's ability to change her musical style as this album features her dabbling in electronica and techno, as heard on the Music album, a 2000 release.

On a personal note, Madonna has also added to her family life in recent times with the birth of her daughter Lourdes (b. 1996) and her marriage to Guy Ritchie, a British film director, in late 2000. Ritchie is the father of Madonna's new son, Rocco, who was also born in 2000.

Page author: N.G. & C.F.