Seven Grammy wins. Over 70 chartbusters. Over 300 million albums sold. A Golden Globe for best actress. A global fashion icon and the First Lady of Pop. For nearly four decades, Madonna’s career has seen stupendous success as well as some scandalous moments – we look back at her life and career to date.
Born Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone in Bay City, Michigan, U.S., on Aug. 16, 1958, she was the third of six children, growing up in a strict Catholic household.
She lost her mother, who shared the same name, to breast cancer at the age of five. Madonna later attributed her rebellious image to the early loss. She said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, “I know that some of my lack of inhibition comes from my mother’s death. For example, mothers teach you manners. And I absolutely did not learn any of those rules and regulations.”
The rockstar (C) was a gifted cheerleader, a trained dancer, as well as a straight-A student at high school, graduating a semester earlier than her peers. In 1976, she joined the dance program at the University of Michigan with a full scholarship. The following year, she went on to study with New York’s prestigious Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and also work with choreographer Pearl Lang later on.
In order to work on her dancing career, Madonna moved to New York City, where she had to take up odd jobs to pay for her rent, including that of a waitress at the Russian Tea Room and a model for nude art.
In 1979, Madonna was introduced to the rock band Breakfast Club by her then-boyfriend Dan Gilroy. It was him who introduced her to the world of vaudeville, inspiring her to spend some time in Paris working as a showgirl which also helped her fine-tune her live performance skills. The following year, she returned to the U.S. to join the band as a drummer and subsequently became the frontwoman.
Following small stints with a few more bands such as the Millionaires, Madonna & The Sky and Emmy, she decided to go solo in 1981. Under the guidance of manager Camille Barbone, she quickly learned the ropes on how to maneuver her way through a male-dominated music world at the time. She went on to release her first single, “Everybody,” which peaked at #3 at Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart.
Riding on her newfound success, she released her debut studio album, “Madonna” in 1983. Apart from hit tracks such as “Lucky Star,” “Borderline” and “Burning Up,” the album also introduced the world to Madonna’s now-iconic yet eclectic fashion which included everything between large crucifixes to lace lingerie.
Not one to slow down, Madonna quickly went on to release her second, and possibly her most successful to date, studio album in 1984. Titled “Like a Virgin,” it featured timeless hits such “Material Girl,” “Angel” and the title track. Topping the Billboard 200 charts, the album has sold a whopping 21 million copies worldwide over the years.
Also known as the Queen of Controversy, Madonna showcased her salacious persona at the 1984 MTV VMAs, where her sexually charged dance moves to “Like a Virgin” in a wedding dress is still considered to be one of the most talked about pop performances of all time.
In 1985, she married actor Sean Penn, and the two went on to be a paparazzi favorite couple at the time, thanks to reports of domestic violence and Penn’s open assault on a photographer and eventual incarceration. They went through a hugely publicized divorce in 1989.
Despite the controversies, Madonna didn’t lose her Midas touch and released successful albums such as “True Blue” (1986) and “Like a Prayer” (1989), both of which topped the American charts.
In 1989, she debuted the music video for “Like a Prayer.” Staying true to her controversial image, the racy video was filled with sexual innuendos and religious references, including burning crosses and making love to a saint. The video had such an impact that it led to Pope John Paul II urging people not to attend her concerts in Italy. It also led to Pepsi pulling her sponsorship contract.
By early 1990s, Madonna’s popularity was at fever pitch despite the controversies. In 1992, she published the soft pornographic coffee table book, titled “Sex.” Now considered iconic, the book featured the pop diva in several erotic poses. It sold out all 1.5 million copies of the first edition within just three days, making it one of the fastest-selling coffee table book in history.
(Pictured) A black leather outfit, worn by Madonna in “Sex,” put up for auction at Christie’s in London, England, in 2004.
At the same time, Madonna released yet another best-selling album, “Erotica” (1992). Appearing as her alter ego Mistress Dita, the album featured experimental dance hits such as “Fever,” “Deeper and Deeper” and “Bye Bye Baby.”
Having already starred in a few films such as “A League of Their Own” (1992) and “Body of Evidence” (1992), Madonna’s acting prowess was showcased in the 1996-biopic, “Evita” (pictured). Playing Argentinian actress and First Lady Eva Perón, she went on to win a Golden Globe for best actress (comedy or musical) for her performance. The movie also won an Oscar for best original song for her performance of “You Must Love Me.”
Toward end of the decade, Madonna started moving away from traditional pop and began experimenting with her sound. Her signature electronica sound, with which her modern-day fans are better acquainted with, was first glimpsed in her 1998-album, “Ray of Light,” which featured tracks such as “Frozen,” “Sky Fits Heaven” and “Drowned World/Substitute for Love.”
In terms of music, the 2000s were particularly productive for Madonna. She released back-to-back chart-topping albums such as “Music” (2000), “American Life” (2003), “Confessions on a Dance Floor” (2005), “Hard Candy” (2008) and “MDNA” (2012). Thanks to their sales and her hugely popular live concerts, Madonna was named the highest earning celebrity by Forbes in 2013, with estimated earnings of $125 million.
In 2000, she got married to director Guy Ritchie. They had a son, Rocco John Ritchie, before getting a divorce in 2008.
In 2003, she made headlines yet again, this time for her performance at the 2003 MTV VMAs with Britney Spears (L) and Christina Aguilera. Not only did she match the onstage energy of the two then-upcoming pop divas, but she ended the set with uninhibited kisses with both Spears and Aguilera.
In 2008, she went behind the camera, directing the comedy movie, “Filth and Wisdom.” She went on to direct another feature film, “W.E.” (2011), which revolved around the affair between King Edward VIII with the American divorcee Wallis Simpson. None of the films managed to impress the critics or the fans.
In 2008, she courted controversy as allegations arise that she had sidestepped traditional Malawi laws when she brought her adopted son, David Banda (L), home to the U.S. A number of local rights groups complained that existing laws in the country doesn’t allow international adoptions. Fighting the legal battle for long, she got her application for permanent adoption approved by a Malawi high court in May 2008. She adopted three more children from the country, Mercy James in 2009 and twins Estere and Stelle in 2017.
In 2012, she performed at the Super Bowl XLVI halftime show, where despite a passionate performance, Madonna garnered a mellowed response from the fans.
The release of her last album, “Rebel Heart,” faced a lot of trouble due to multiple leaks. Originally set to release in March 2015, the leaks led her to release it digitally on iTunes in December 2014 as a Christmas special, which eventually topped iTunes charts in several nations. The album was finally released in its originally scheduled date, with a deluxe edition featuring 19 tracks.
In 2018, Madonna was invited to pay tribute to the late Aretha Franklin at the MTV VMAs. Madonna took the stage and went off into a lengthy speech which dealt more with her own musical career than about Franklin’s legendary life and career. The address faced a lot of flak from critics and fans alike.
Madonna is set to release her 14th studio album, “Madame X,” on June 14. In the video announcement, she introduced the world to her latest avatar. She said, “Madame X is a secret agent. Traveling around the world. Changing identities. Fighting for freedom. Bringing light to dark places. She is a dancer. A professor. A head of state. A housekeeper. An equestrian. A prisoner. A student. A mother. A child. A teacher. A nun. A singer. A saint. A wh–e. The spy in the house of love. I’m Madame X.”
She promoted the album with a music video of “Medellín,” her duet with Colombian pop sensation, Maluma (L), in April earlier this year.
Madonna cancelled the latest stop on her Madame X Tour on Sunday so she could rest.
The Vogue singer cancelled several concerts on the North American leg of her Madame X Tour due to medical reasons in late 2019, and told fans she needed to rest in preparation for her European tour in January.
However, on Sunday, midway through her eight-date residency at the Coliseu dos Recreios in Lisbon, Portugal, Madonna scrapped the show just 45 minutes before she was due to perform.
“Thank you again Lisbon! Sorry I had to cancel tonight but I must listen to my body and rest!! That white Port got me through the rest of the show! See you on Tuesday fingers crossed,” she wrote on Instagram.
Madonna has cancelled eight shows in total – in New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Miami and Lisbon – on the Madame X Tour to date, citing production issues, injuries and scheduling limitations.
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She has not revealed the nature of her injuries, but reportedly told the audience in San Francisco that she was suffering from a “torn ligament” and “a bad knee” in November and she has been seen wearing knee supports during video clips of rehearsals.
The star has also shared videos of her taking post-show ice baths to help her cope with “multiple injuries” that are causing “overwhelming pain”.
After wrapping in Lisbon on 23 January, the Holiday star will head to London, England for 15 nights at the London Palladium, before ending the jaunt in Paris, France in March.