It’s safe to say that only a handful of recording artists can be said to embody pop culture. Madonna is one of them.
With a career that’s spanned three decades and 13 studio albums, and has seen her become one of the highest grossing solo artists of all time, Madonna has repeatedly rewritten the rules of what it means to be a popstar.
Of course with a career as legendary and iconic as Madonna’s there’s bound to be a few tales to tell. So, we’ve dug out our copies of True Blue, donned our leg warmers and delved into Madonna’s discography to pull out the surprising stories behind six of her biggest songs.
1. ‘Like a Virgin’ was inspired by a guy driving around a vineyard in a red truck
Released in October 1984, ‘Like a Virgin’ is the quintessential early Madonna record, with its inescapably catchy chorus, sexual motifs and bouncy synths. Yet the track wasn’t actually written with her in mind at all.
It was written by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, the duo behind ’80s classics like Cyndi Lauper’s ‘True Colors’ and ‘So Emotional’ by Whitney Houston, and was actually based on songwriter Steinberg’s own personal experiences.
Detailing how he just broke up with his then band, Billy Thermal, and had headed back to his father’s vineyards in the Coachella Valley, Steinberg tells how the idea for the song came to him while he was driving a red pickup truck.
“I had been involved in a very emotionally difficult relationship that had finally ended and I had met somebody new,” he said. “I remember writing that lyric about feeling shiny and new – I made it through the wilderness, somehow I made it through – I made it through this very difficult time.”
Taking the lyrics to his songwriting partner Tom Kelly, Steinberg said that initially the track was going to be a “sensitive ballad”. Yet, the lyric “like a virgin” was a stumbling block. “How can you write a tender ballad called ‘Like a Virgin’? It just sounded ridiculous,” Steinberg recalled.
After becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of direction for the song, Kelly started playing what would later become the bass line, adding a falsetto vocal.
After playing the track to Michael Ostin of Warner Bros records, it was decided that the song would be perfect for Madonna’s second album.
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