Born Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone on August 16 (coincidentally the date of Elvis's death), 1958 in Bay City, Michigan, many biographers claim that her life was shaped by the death of her mother (also named Madonna) when the child was 5. A high school cheerleader, she became obsessed with dance and eventually won a scholarship in the artform to the University of Michigan. Dropping out after her first year, Madonna moved to New York City in the late '70s, where she lived the bohemian life of a starving artist, performing in various dance troupes and numerous rock groups--even posing for nude photos as a way to pay the rent (this period of her life was portrayed, albeit in a highly fictionalized manner, in her first film, Desperately Seeking Susan, in which Madonna basically played her early Greenwich Village self).
Her interest in black music and culture led her to the still underground NYC dance clubs and scene, where she was discovered by Seymour Stein and signed to his then-"hip" Sire label. Her eponymous debut LP produced three hit singles, which simultaneously hit the pop, dance, and R&B charts, proving her to be a phenomenon from the get-go. It was her second LP, Like A Virgin (produced by Chic's Nile Rodgers), however, that introduced the Madonna we know today, especially due to the heavy rotation of the Marilyn Monroe-derived "Material Girl" video on MTV. (During this same period, she also scored two more major hit singles on the soundtrack LPs to the films Vision Quest and the aforementioned Desperately Seeking Susan.) More controversy ensued with her third album, True Blue, thanks to the video/single success of "Papa Don't Preach" and its "I'm keeping my baby" chorus.
Madonna's goal has obviously been to be a major movie star; however, for many years that quest has eluded her. After her disastrous second film, Who's That Girl, and another turkey titled Shanghai Surprise (made with her then-husband Penn and produced by former Beatle George Harrison), she rebounded again through music and her autobiographical fourth LP, Like A Prayer. And following the I'm Breathless LP (featuring tunes from the Dick Tracy flop), she rebounded yet again with her Immaculate Collection "greatest hits" package as well as the "Blonde Ambition" world tour (which was then documented in the hit film, Truth Or Dare). She did eventually achieve her dream of movie stardom with Evita, however; in fact, she even won a Best Actress Golden Globe for her performance.
Madonna coasted musically after the Immaculate Collection LP--and yet each of her subsequent albums has produced at least a No. 1 single apiece. However, the electronic-leaning Ray Of Light, produced by ambient auteur William Orbit, was a major creative breakthrough as well as a massive chart smash, and her most recent disc, Music (mostly produced by a French DJ named Mirwais), has enjoyed similar success. Madonna returned in April 2003 with American Life, featuring the anti-war title track and video, which showed that she can still drum up controversy. Two decades after her debut, she remains probably the most successful female pop artist on the planet, and of all time.
This Biography was written by Bill Holdship