It’s hard to believe Madonna is 57. It seems only yesterday when she was this pretty young thing being all seductive on TV, particularly in the video for her 1984 hit “Like A Virgin.” It was the time she skyrocketed to fame. Impressionable girls memorized her songs by heart and tried to copy her look (rag on hair, big dangling crucifix, attitude on sleeves), while boys were only too happy to see them in short skirts and lace tank tops. Do you remember?

Not everyone was happy with Madonna’s success. Critics deemed the artist a flash-in the-pan even after she has had a string of hits. Madonna, even at that point, didn’t seem to have the formula for staying power. Some thought her success was mainly hinged on her image, a “trashy” one, some thought. It didn’t help that she fed that notion, even brandishing such slogans as “Boy Toy.”

Few realized it was all part of a huge plan.

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Madonna was ambitious. Early on, she made clear she would stop at nothing to achieve world domination. She said so in an early appearance on “American Bandstand” right to the face of host Dick Clark.

Note that Madonna didn’t start as a musician. She was more of a dancer, a good one at that. She received a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan School of Music where she stayed for a couple of years before dropping out in 1978.

Apparently, the artist got inspired to dabble in music upon working with Patrick Hernandez, who had a big hit with “Born To Be Alive” in 1979. Hernandez told her she can do more than dance – that she could become a recording artist. It wasn’t false hopes but prophecy.

Taking the cue, Madonna tried joining several bands in New York, eventually becoming the drummer for the funk-pop outfit The Breakfast Club. Many believe Madonna only got the break because the band’s singer, Dan Gilroy, had the hots for her. Well, the two became an item.

madonna tours

It was Gilroy who is said to have taught Madonna how to play drums. Later, on Gilroy’s insistence, Madonna became the band’s second lead singer. But even then, Madonna believed she could be bigger than that.

So limited musical abilities notwithstanding, Madonna formed her own outfit named Emmy And The Emmys (with drummer Stephen Bray, who was actually her replacement in The Breakfast Club). The Emmys wrote punk and new wave songs, which many (including Madonna) thought didn’t suit her. She convinced Bray, who by then had become her boyfriend, to help her write and arrange a couple of dance tunes. Among these would be her first dance hits, “Everybody” and “Burning Up.”

Madonna pushed these songs to anyone she believes would let her through the door of a mainstream career. She eventually met Mark Kamins, a DJ from a New York club she used to frequent. Kamins, who had connections in Sire Records, gave her songs a shot.

They entered into a relationship when her debut single, ”Everybody,” released in 1982, and “Burning Up” released in 1983, became minor hits.

Soon, and to no one’s surprise, Madonna dropped Kamins. Before long, she hooked up with producer John “Jellybean” Benitez, who would help her achieve the next step: Crack the upper heights of the Billboard charts with the songs “Holiday” and “Borderline.”

The one-two punch prompted Sire Records to let her cut an eponymous debut album, which peaked at number eight on the Billboard 200.

Still, it was just the start.

Sensing she was onto something big, Madonnaw moved to solidify her future as pop artist, getting the best of the best to work on her follow-up album, “Like A Virgin.”

For producer, she picked Nile Rodgers of Chic fame. She tapped more seasoned songwriters including Billy Steinberg, who previously wrote the hit “Precious Time” for Pat Benatar; and Pete Brown, who charted several disco hits, including “Do You Wanna Get Funky With Me.”

Madonna through the years (Photos from Madonna's Facebook); Global Superstars Michael Jackson and Mdonna

The gamble paid off big time. “Like A Virgin” reached number one on the Billboard 200 on strength of the title track co-written by Steinberg; and Brown’s “Material Girl,” which became one of Madonna’s signature songs.

“Like A Virgin” signalled Madonna’s arrival. The album has been certified 10-times platinum (Diamond) by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

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A big part of Madonna’s success is tied to her music videos and MTV.

The music channel, which only played music videos back then, cemented her status as pop’s ultimate vixen. It aired her often sensual videos almost round-the-clock.

Indeed, prior to Madonna, most female pop stars only hinted at their inner sensuality, nothing more. The likes of Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon, Donna Summer, Barbra Streisand, Joan Baez, Diana Ross, Marie Osmond, Olivia Newton-John, heck, even the girls of ABBA, wouldn’t dare. Well, Debbie Harry braved the waters but she was avante garde; “too punk,” as some put it.

With Madonna, what was considered taboo became mainstream. Girls who adored her – some as young as 12 – seemed to have been emboldened by it all. They were wannabes, as in, “We wanna be like Madonna.”

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There’s no denying Madonna, at that point, had grown in leaps and bounds as musician. She may not have been as good a drummer as John Bonham or a great guitarist as Jimmy Page, but she was getting good at songcraft. In 1985, Madonna was the third biggest act in the world, next only to Michael Jackson and Prince.

Not one to waste opportunity, Madonna ventured into acting in mainstream films. She had appeared in a low-budget indie “A Certain Sacrifice” in 1979 and, with her newfound fame, she wanted more.

A brief appearance as a club singer in “Vision Quest,” which featured her hit singles “Crazy for You” and ”Gambler,” proved inspiring. She went on to co-star in the comedy “Desperately Seeking Susan” a few months later, which also introduced her new song “Into the Groove” that went straight to number one in the United Kingdom – her first.

Success came with a price. In July, Penthouse and Playboy magazines published a number of nude photos of Madonna, taken in New York circa 1978. Apparently, she used to pose nude for photographers to make ends meet, among other odd jobs.
The publication of the photos caused a media uproar, but Madonna was unapologetic. She deemed it all a parcel of who she was and what she’s become.

It was the start of a long line of controversies constant in her career.

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Today, Madonna the brand still means huge business. She is now acknowledged by many as Queen Of Pop, and rightly so.

The artist has sold more than 300 million records worldwide. The Guinness World Records acknowledges her as the best-selling female recording artist and the fourth best-selling act of all time, behind The Beatles, Elvis Presley, and Jackson.
The RIAA named her the best-selling female rock artist of the 20th century.

madonna discography

She has been honored with 20 MTV Video Music Awards – the most for any artist – including the lifetime achievement Video Vanguard Award in 1986.

Madonna holds the record for the most number-ones on all combined Billboard charts, including 12 No. 1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 and eight No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200.

She has also scored 38 Top Ten singles on the Hot 100, more than any other artist in history.
Slow clap due right here.

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Many believe Madonna has done more than enough to ensure her legacy. That she could – should? – retire. But how do you do that when you remain a huge draw?

In May 2014, Billboard listed her as the fourth highest-grossing touring act since 1990, with total earned revenue of $1.14 billion. By that accord alone, younger counterparts including Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Beyoncé are yet to trump her.

Madonna continues to defy the odds with her new album “Rebel Heart,” which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart last year. Here, she continues to reinvent herself – a big part of her enduring appeal – but as usual, the pundits are divided.
Some praise Madonna for keeping at it given her age and stature, while some consider it all rather unbecoming, even embarrassing. Several critics went as far as to deride “Rebel Heart” as an ageing diva’s silly attempt to remain relevant. But isn’t that the point? That despite success, Madonna still has enough fire in her to give fans something new?

Would it have been “right” if she went on to become a fat, lazy caricature of herself?

Whichever train you are on, we’re sure Madonna won’t let you or me or anybody else dictate how and when she will end her run.
As she herself would tell you, “B*tch, I’m Madonna.”