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Madonna (born Madonna Louise Ciccone; August 16, 1958) is an American recording artist, actress and entrepreneur. Born in Bay City, Michigan, she moved to New York City in 1977 to pursue a career in modern dance. After performing in pop groups, she released her debut album in 1983. She followed it with a series of albums in which she found immense popularity by pushing the boundaries of lyrical content in mainstream popular music and imagery in her music videos, which became a fixture on MTV. Throughout her career, most of her songs have hit number one on the record charts, including “Like a Virgin”, “Papa Don’t Preach”, “Like a Prayer”, “Vogue”, “Frozen”, “Music”, “Hung Up”, and “4 Minutes”. Madonna has been praised by critics for her diverse musical productions while at the same time serving as a lightning rod for religious controversy.
Her career was further enhanced by film appearances that began in 1985, despite mixed commentary. She won critical acclaim and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for her role in Evita (1996), but has received harsh feedback for other film roles. Madonna’s other ventures include being a fashion designer, children’s book author, film director and producer, and owner of her own recording company Maverick corporation, as a joint venture with Time Warner. She has been acclaimed as a businesswoman, and in 2007, she signed an unprecedented US $120 million contract with Live Nation.
Recognized as one of the biggest-selling artists in music history, Madonna has sold more than 250 million records within 20 years of her career. She is ranked by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) as the best-selling female rock artist of the 20th century, and the second top-selling female artist in the United States behind Barbra Streisand, with 64 million certified albums. Guinness World Records listed her as the world’s most successful female recording artist of all time. In 2008, Billboard magazine ranked Madonna at number two behind only The Beatles, on the “Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists”, making her the most successful solo artist in the history of the chart. She was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Considered to be one of the most influential figures in contemporary music, Madonna is known for continuously reinventing both her music and image, and for retaining a standard of autonomy within the recording industry.
Madonna Louise Ciccone was born in Bay City, Michigan on August 16, 1958. Her mother, Madonna Louise (née Fortin), was of French Canadian descent, and her father, Silvio Anthony Ciccone, was a first-generation Italian American. The Ciccone family originated from Pacentro, Italy; her father later worked as a design engineer for Chrysler and General Motors. Madonna was nicknamed “Little Nonni” to distinguish her from her mother. The third of six children, her siblings are Martin, Anthony, Paula, Christopher, and Melanie. Madonna was raised in the Detroit suburbs of Pontiac and Avon Township (now part of Rochester Hills).
Her mother died of breast cancer at the age of 30 in 1963. Months before her mother’s death, Madonna noticed changes in her behaviour and personality from the attentive homemaker she was, although she did not understand the reason. Mrs. Ciccone, at a loss to explain her dire medical condition, would often begin to cry when questioned by Madonna, at which point Madonna would respond by wrapping her arms around her mother tenderly. “I remember feeling stronger than she was,” Madonna recalled, “I was so little and yet I felt like she was the child.” Madonna later acknowledged that she had not grasped the concept of her mother dying. “There was so much left unsaid, so many untangled and unresolved emotions, of remorse, guilt, loss, anger, confusion. I saw my mother, looking very beautiful and lying as if she were asleep in an open casket. Then I noticed that my mother’s mouth looked funny. It took me some time to realize that it had been sewn up. In that awful moment, I began to understand what I had lost forever. The final image of my mother, at once peaceful yet grotesque, haunts me today also.”
Madonna later attended Rochester Adams High School, and was a straight-A student and a member of the cheerleading squad.After graduating, she received a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan. She convinced her father to allow her to take ballet lessons and was persuaded by Christopher Flynn, her ballet teacher, to pursue a career in dance. At the end of 1977 she dropped out of college and relocated to New York City. She had little money and worked as a waitress at Dunkin’ Donuts and with modern dance troupes.Madonna said of her move to New York, “It was the first time I’d ever taken a plane, the first time I’d ever gotten a taxi cab. I came here with $35 in my pocket. It was the bravest thing I’d ever done.” While performing as a dancer for the French disco artist Patrick Hernandez on his 1979 world tour, Madonna became romantically involved with musician Dan Gilroy. They formed her first rock band, the Breakfast Club, for which Madonna sang and played drums and guitar. In 1980 she left Breakfast Club and, with her former boyfriend Stephen Bray as drummer, formed the band Emmy. Their music impressed DJ and record producer Mark Kamins who arranged a meeting between Madonna and Sire Records founder Seymour Stein.
Beginning in April 1985, Madonna embarked on her first concert tour in North America, The Virgin Tour, with the Beastie Boys as her opening act.Madonna commented: “That whole tour was crazy, because I went from playing CBGB and the Mudd Club to playing sporting arenas. I played a small theater in Seattle, and the girls had flap skirts on and the tights cut off below their knees and lace gloves and rosaries and bows in their hair and big hoop earrings.After Seattle, all of the shows were moved to arenas.”In July, Penthouse and Playboy magazines published a number of nude photos of Madonna, taken in New York in 1978. She had posed for the photographs as she needed money at the time, and was paid as little as $25 a session. The publication of the photos caused a media uproar, but Madonna remained defiant and unapologetic. The photographs were ultimately sold for up to $100,000.She referred to the whole experience at the 1985 outdoor Live Aid charity concert saying that she would not take her jacket off because “[the media] might hold it against me ten years from now.”
The Immaculate Collection, Madonna’s first greatest-hits compilation album, was released in November 1990. It included two new songs, “Justify My Love” and “Rescue Me”. The album was certified diamond by RIAA and sold over 30 million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling compilation album by a solo artist in history. “Justify My Love” reached number one in the U.S. and top ten worldwide. Its music video featured scenes of sadomasochism, bondage, same-sex kissing and brief nudity. The video was deemed too sexually explicit for MTV and was banned from the network. Madonna responded to the banning: “Why is it that people are willing to go and watch a movie about someone getting blown to bits for no reason at all, and nobody wants to see two girls kissing and two men snuggling? MTV has been good to me, and they know their audience. If it’s too strong for them, I understand. Although, half of me thought I was going to get away with it.” The second single, “Rescue Me”, became the highest-debuting single by a female artist in Hot 100 chart history at that time, entering at number 15 and peaking at number nine.
The provocative imagery that was her trademark continued in the 1990s with the erotic thriller Body of Evidence, a film which contained scenes of sadomasochism and bondage. It was poorly received by critics. She also starred in the film Dangerous Game, which was released straight to video in North America. The New York Times described the film as “angry and painful, and the pain feels real.” In October 1993, she embarked on The Girlie Show World Tour, in which she dressed as a whip-cracking dominatrix surrounded by topless dancers.The show faced negative reaction, specifically in Puerto Rico where she rubbed the island’s flag between her legs on stage. The same year, she appeared as a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman, using profanity that was required to be censored on television and handing Letterman a pair of her underwear and asking him to smell it.The releases of her sexually explicit films, albums and book, and the aggressive appearance on Letterman all made critics question Madonna as a sexual renegade. She faced strong negative publicity from critics and fans, who commented that “she had gone too far” and that her career was over.
“This is the role I was born to play. I put everything of me into this because it was much more than a role in a movie. It was exhilarating and intimidating at the same time. And it was the farthest I’ve ever had to push myself creatively. At every level, I had a great education. And I am prouder of Evita than anything else I have done. What drew me to the role from the beginning was the story of this remarkable woman, where she came from, how she came up in the world, the incredible amount of influence she had over an entire country and the impact she had on the whole world—truth really is stranger than fiction.”
Madonna talking about Evita and her role as Eva Perón.
The following year saw the release of Evita in which she played the title role of Eva Perón. For a long time, Madonna had desired to play Perón and even wrote to director Alan Parker, explaining how she would be perfect for the part. After securing it, she underwent vocal training and learned about the history of Argentina and Perón. During shooting she fell sick many times, commenting that “The intensity of the scenes we have been shooting and the amount of emotional work and concentration needed to get through the day are so mentally and physically exhausting that I’m sure I will need to be institutionalized when its over.” Evita was a period drama and almost 6,000 costumes were needed for the scenes. Madonna herself wore 370 different costumes, earning her a Guinness World Record for the most costume changes in a film.After its release, Evita garnered critical appreciation. Zach Conner from Time magazine commented “It’s a relief to say that Evita is pretty damn fine, well cast and handsomely visualized. Madonna once again confounds our expectations. She plays Evita with a poignant weariness and has more than just a bit of star quality. Love or hate Madonna-Eva, she is a magnet for all eyes.” Madonna won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for the role. She released three singles from the Evita soundtrack album including “You Must Love Me” (which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1997) and “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”.
On October 14, 1996, Madonna gave birth to Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon, her daughter with Leon.
1997–2002: Ray of Light, Music and Drowned World Tour
A female standing on a stage. She has short blond hair and wears black jeans and a jacket. Her right hand points a vocal microphone toward the audience, to pick up their sound. Her left hand is held behind her ear with a facial expression indicating that she is listening.