Madonna: A Paper on her Biography
This is a guest post by J’Marcius Myers – Follow him on Twitter: @No_Trates
When my English professor assigned the class to read a biography on someone who inspires us and write a review essay, many names came to mind. I thought, I could choose a biography on an African American civil rights activist I had little to no knowledge about, for instance. This way I would learn more about my heritage. Or I could choose one of the many pop divas I admire and listen to everyday on Spotify.
I went with the pop divas. By the end of the week I had narrowed down my list to the four artists who slay me the most: Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, and Madonna.
In the end, Madonna’s biography seemed most intriguing and I am more than happy it was my final pick because I received interesting insight on her life and personality, and more than anything, the highest grade in my class. Enjoy!
(Note from GroovyTrails: the paper has been modified to include headings and subheadings for layout purposes, while maintaining the original text of the author).
October 1st, 2017
Madonna: An Intimate Biography Report
Written by author J. Randy Taraborrelli, Madonna: An Intimate Biography is a gripping close-up of Madonna’s meteoric rise to fame and the unparalleled diligence, fearlessness and charisma behind it all. Madonna was always undoubtedly sure of the vision she had for her career. She had sheer confidence that she would become “one of the century’s biggest stars” (1). With laser focus, she has worked hard for everything she earned.
Madonna is a charming and calculated artist known for reinventing her image time and time again, keeping herself in the center of the public eye. Taraborrelli referred to Madonna as the “perfect combination of sexuality and brains” (6).
Madonna grew up in a large, chaotic family with five siblings. Her strict Catholic upbringing instilled in her self-discipline, prayer, and the “confrontation of self-weakness” (22). Her brother recalls her as being “good-hearted and nurturing,” but also “spoiled and bossy” (9). At the age of 5, she lost her mother to breast cancer. The loss instilled in her the drive to be strong and take care of herself no matter what the circumstances may be. She quickly took on her mom’s maternal role as the oldest daughter by dressing her siblings and cooking and cleaning.
Naturally intelligent, Madonna had straight A’s and participated in various extracurricular activities, including cheerleading and theater arts. She lived in a mixed-race neighborhood in Michigan and drew most of her inspiration from Marilyn Monroe, Diana Ross, and David Bowie.
Her high school dance teacher Christopher Flynn taught her as much as he knew about classical music, art and sculpture and recalls Madonna as having “a burning desire to learn” (27). She applied for a scholarship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and got accepted.
Madonna goes to New York
Madonna soon dropped out of college to pursue a career in dance in New York. This decision sparked one of many arguments she had with her father regarding her career path and life choices. She struggled while attending multiple dance schools, working in restaurants and living in a run-down apartment with little to nothing to eat, but did not dare give up on her dream.
Eventually Madonna joined a band called The Breakfast Club and learned how to play the organ, guitar, and drums. She met talent agent Camille Barbone in the music studio where she slept while homeless with her boyfriend. Camille helped her become more known within the inner circles of the music industry so that she could land a music deal. In the meantime, she gained a huge following in dance clubs with her captivating stage presence and infectious dance music.
After listening to the demo for Madonna’s song “Everybody” just once, Seymour Stein, the President of the Warner Brothers record label signed her instantly (70). She then released dance hits that became popular among pop and r&b platforms, drawing the attention and support of both black and white audiences.
Madonna soon became one of the rising idols of the new music video age of the 80s alongside pop icons such as Michael Jackson and Cyndi Lauper. She connected with rebellious teens through her sexy, thrifty style and signature use of cross necklaces. She was involved in many relationships and because of her lack of commitment and drive for success they ended just as quickly as they began.
Madonna received huge commercial success after the release of her second studio album “Like a Virgin,” and on the set of her Material Girl video she met rising actor Sean Penn. They began dating and he turned out to be volatile, violently attacking paparazzi. Most of their fights were because Sean hated attention from the press, while Madonna lavished in it and wanted more. They soon married despite these issues.
Her third album “True Blue” was released in 1986 with a more mature sound, and remains the best-selling album of her career. After suffering physical and emotional abuse from Penn and attempting constantly to save their marriage, she finally divorced him in 1989 (157).
On her fourth album “Like a Prayer” she focused more on thoughtful songwriting by discussing her failed marriage and conflict with Catholicism. Like a Prayer showed great artistic growth and was a “career-defining moment” for Madonna (164). She then teased her controversial “Like a Prayer” video in a Pepsi commercial that was aired during the Super Bowl. Pepsi was later forced to end the deal because of protests from religious groups. Madonna was the first artist to promote a single in a commercial before its release, starting a trend that artists from the likes of Adele to Taylor Swift follow to this day.
Visit the post about Madonna’s Albums Ranking
The Blond Ambition Era
After divorcing Sean Penn, she began dating legendary actor Warren Beatty as they worked on the film “Dick Tracy.” In the meantime, she began her most controversial and memorable tour to date “Blonde Ambition” which went on to inspire the stage production and fashion of pop stars like Beyoncé and Katy Perry.
In 1991, Madonna released the follow-up documentary “Truth or Dare” which remains the highest grossing female documentary of all time. It was her fans’ first look into her personal life and helped inspire many people to be open with their sexual identity.
The jazz soundtrack for Dick Tracy entitled “I’m Breathless” showcased her versatility as an artist and spawned one of the biggest dance songs of all time “Vogue.” Her differences with Beatty eventually led to the demise of their relationship; she was free-spirited and he was conservative. In 1990, she released the “Immaculate Collection” which remains the best-selling compilation album of all time, selling over 30 million copies worldwide.
The accompanying video, Justify My Love, was banned from MTV for its explicit sexual depictions but sold hundreds of thousands of copies after being released on VHS. Later that year, her relationship with best friend and comedian Sandra Bernhard ended because of ongoing suspicions that Madonna was sleeping with Sandra’s girlfriend. She was also sued by the dancers in the “Truth or Dare” documentary for not paying them as she promised she would if the documentary became a hit.
The Erotica Era
In 1992, Madonna released the notorious “Sex” book which includes nude photos of her with celebrities such as Naomi Campbell and explicit passages she wrote expressing her sexual fantasies. She followed it up with the overtly sexual album “Erotica.” Madonna later said that the motive behind these risky moves was to create an outrageous persona that would help demystify sexuality and the strict sexual limits of Americans at the time (223). With more bad press and controversy than ever before, her career began to decline. Fortunately, she ended 1993 on a good note with her successful “Girlie Show” tour.
Madonna realized that she must reinvent again, and to do so she released the critically acclaimed contemporary r&b album “Bedtime Stories.” After its release she received well-deserved recognition as a songwriter and artist.
1996 for Madonna was a great year: Motherhood and Golden Globe
She then began working on her role as powerful activist Eva Peron in the film “Evita.” While recording the soundtrack for Evita, she became pregnant with her first child, Lourdes. Being pregnant with Lourdes made Madonna kinder and “human” in the eyes of her family and friends and she developed a stronger relationship with her father (280).
She got great reviews for her work in Evita, earning a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. In 1997, she became a devout follower of Kabballah, a branch of Judaism that is focused on making a connection with the universe (288).
Madonna’s most acclimed work: Ray Of Light
Her seventh album “Ray of Light” is her most acclaimed work to date, earning her four Grammys and selling over 16 million copies worldwide. It “introduced techno and electronica music to mainstream,” and presented her as a “mother and New Age thinker” (301).
Mother again and divorce from Guy Ritchie
In 2000, she prematurely gave birth to her second child Rocco. The pregnancy helped her become less concerned about fashion and material things, and to further mature as a woman.
After marrying Rocco’s father, Guy Ritchie, in 2002, they divorced six years later in 2008. Madonna has carved out a legacy through which she continues to inspire many of today’s biggest artists from Lady Gaga and Rihanna to Justin Timberlake and Kanye West.
Highest grossing female performer of all time
Since the completion of this biography, she has continued her reign as Queen of Pop by having the highest grossing female tour of all time in 2009 with the “Sticky and Sweet” tour which raked in half a billion dollars, and headlining the most watched Super Bowl halftime show in 2012.
Madonna has gone from glamorous, rebellious sex symbol to wise and maternal business woman and continues to inspire a new generation of entertainers.
Why I chose to read a Madonna Biography
I chose to read this biography because I discovered Madonna about 3 years ago and since then she has become one of my favorite music artists. I was interested in how she got to the level of stardom she has achieved and how she influenced pop culture.
Since reading this biography I have gained more respect for Madonna’s work ethic, creativity and efforts to change society for the better by breaking barriers for women, the LGBT community and sexual expression.
Should you read this book?
I would most definitely recommend this biography to someone who wants a good book to read. It will teach the reader that hard work and determination pays off in the long run and to never give up on a dream no matter how much people doubt or criticize.
This biography was easy to read because it does not contain unnecessary advanced vocabulary. It is clear and concise throughout while also giving enough detail that the reader does not feel left out.
Taraborrelli wrote the story in a well-organized manner, starting from her childhood and going from the debut of her career to the birth of her second child. Madonna: An Intimate Biography was a well-thought out account of the complex relationships and remarkable evolution of one of the world’s greatest entertainers.
Taraborrelli, J. Randy. Madonna: An Intimate Biography. New York, Simon & Schuster, 2001.