Patrick Leonard: “I’m proud of her for giving them hell all the time.”
Patrick Leonard can say he knew Madonna way back when — at least as “back when” as her first two tours, on which he served as the musical director. Approached to work with Madonna after directing The Jacksons’ 1984 Victory Tour, Leonard became one of her most trusted collaborators both in and out of the studio, co-writing and producing such hits as “Like a Prayer,” “Cherish” and “La Isla Bonita.” Two decades after 1985’s inaugural Virgin Tour and several self-reinventions later, Madonna is launching the Rebel Heart Tour in Montreal on Wednesday. The Huffington Post called up Leonard to reflect on the early days with pop’s biggest star.
Coming off a huge tour with established artists like The Jacksons, how did you view Madonna’s persona at the very start of her career?
She did not get in the way at all where she did not know what was going on. Where she didn’t know what was going on, she allowed it to be, and yet kept her own vision very much intact. And that’s tough for people to do. Most people need to control everything, and she did not need to control everything. That was one of the first things I noticed. She was a total pro. Like our relationship remained, it was always real open and real simple — you do what you do and I do what I do, and it’s good. She knew how to allow space for things that she didn’t understand.
Madonna is someone who experienced instant fame, but there’s no doubt that her stature escalated by the time the Who’s That Girl Tour launched in 1987. What had changed about her by then?
You know, “change” is a dangerous word. I never saw change. She remained the same. The work ethic remained the same. Where there were things she knew that she wanted, she demanded them at the highest level, as we all do. And from there to working on her documentary film about Malawi some years ago — and I think we did some things after that with a musical that was a potential — nothing changed. I’m not in touch with her very much, but my communication with her is not through the press. I don’t care what people say. I’ve seen her be exactly the same human being and consistent as can be. She’s present and generous about what’s real. Even as it got bigger and bigger, she remained consistent. She really did.
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