Published January 03, 2008
Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone was born in Bay City, Mich., on Aug. 16, 1958 to Silvio and Madonna Ciccone.
Her father, Tony, a design engineer for Chrysler/GM, and French-Canadian mother already had two sons, Martin and Anthony. Three more Ciccone siblings came after Madonna: Paula Mae, Christopher and Melanie. The blue-collar family lived in the Detroit suburb of Pontiac.
In December 1963, Mrs. Ciccone died of breast cancer at the age of 31, leaving Silvio to raise their six children.
The children were sent to live with various relatives after their mother’s death, and a few years later Silvio remarried, the family reunited and moved to Rochester Hills, Mich.
Joan Ciccone, Silvio’s second wife (and former housekeeper), subsequently gave birth to Jennifer and later Mario Ciccone.
Madonna understandably found her mother’s death and the entire transition difficult, especially her father’s remarriage, and credits these experiences with her desire to stand out and push herself to achieve.
Madonna was raised Roman Catholic, and was always involved in school musicals and choirs in junior high and high school, but took a special interest in dance. She started ballet lessons at 12.
At Adams High School in Rochester, Mich., she was a member of the Thespian Society and a cheerleader as she continued to study dance, and she graduated in 1976 with a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan.
She stayed at U of M for only two years, majoring in dance on scholarship, and left in 1978 to move to New York with aspirations of becoming a professional dancer.
Madonna arrived in New York with “$35 in [her] pocket” in late summer 1978, and took up residence in a dingy apartment in Manhattan’s East Village. She worked at Dunkin' Donuts in Times Square, and as a figure model for artists.
In 1979 she studied dance with Alvin Ailey at his American Dance Theater, but left Ailey to study with Pearl Lang, the former choreographer for Martha Graham. That same year she also acted in the indie film “A Certain Sacrifice” by writer/director Stephen Lewicki, but she was not happy with the finished version.
Madonna kept dancing in modern-dance troupes and dance companies like the Walter Nicks Dancers, and never really focused on singing until she went to Broadway and off-Broadway auditions as a dancer and was asked to sing.
Ciccone auditioned as a singer-dancer with French disco singer Patrick Hernandez. She went to Paris and studied with a vocal coach and dance instructor, but returned to New York.
In the late '70s, Madonna met and dated musician/singer Dan Gilroy and his guitarist brother Ed, and the trio formed a band called The Breakfast Club. Gilroy taught her to play guitar, drums and keyboard. A woman named Angie Schmidt played bass, and Madonna played the drums in the band until she reportedly expressed her desire to be the lead vocalist.
She split from the band and formed her own, named after her nickname — Emmy. Emmy included drummer/boyfriend Stephen Bray, a childhood friend of Madonna’s who also co-wrote songs with her, and bassist Gary Burke.
But in 1980, Madonna went solo, leaving Bray to join The Breakfast Club instead, but the two would continue to produce albums together.
Later that year, Madonna recorded a demo track on tape with Mark Kamins, a DJ popular in New York’s club scene and well-connected to the music business. “Everybody” became a huge hit in clubs and at Madonna’s hangouts, Danceteria and Kansas Kansas.
Kamins introduced her to record executive Seymour Stein, who was in the hospital at the time, but insisted on meeting Madonna anyway upon hearing the track.
It was also around this time, in 1981, that Madonna Ciccone would forever become known as a single moniker woman, Madonna. She signed a recording contract with Sire records in 1982, and released her first album, “Madonna,” in 1983.
Her debut album went platinum in 1984 with hits like “Holiday,” “Burning Up,” “Lucky Star” and “Borderline.”
At the 1984 MTV Video Awards, Madonna delivered a shocking performance of her upcoming single “Like a Virgin.” Wearing a bridal gown consisting of lace bustier and tulle ballerina skirt, in her original punk style, Madonna writhed around on the floor and sang about what the “very first time” is like.
The album “Like a Virgin” was released in 1984 and quickly went platinum with hits like the title track, “Angel,” and B-side tracks “Into the Groove,” “Dress You Up” and “Material Girl.” As one of her many style transformations, she embodied Marilyn Monroe for its video, and “The Material Girl” was born.
Madonna was a fashion trendsetter — her black lace cutoff gloves, black clothes, jean jackets, jean skirts, teased hair tied with rags, fishnets, metal belts, bangle bracelets and high heels became infectious among young America in the 1980s.
Her style was imitated by many girls from age 6 to 26, especially at Halloween, and this was augmented with the release of her first big movie, 1985’s “Desperately Seeking Susan.” Madonna starred as the elusive Susan alongside Rosanna Arquette and Aidan Quinn, and won critical acclaim for her role.
She also had a cameo as a lounge singer in the 1985 movie “Vision Quest,” but came out of the project with a No. 1 hit single, “Crazy for You.”
While traveling in Hollywood circles, Madonna met actor Sean Penn, and despite her absorption of the spotlight and his aversion to it, the two became a hot item and married on her 27th birthday in Malibu, Calif., in 1985.
The marriage crumbled under the media pressure from her rising stardom and under criticism of their poorly received film “Shanghai Surprise” in 1986. Her movie career and reputation as an actress then continued to suffer.
In 1986, Madonna’s third album “True Blue” was released, which was co-produced by Bray. Madonna has co-writing and co-producing credits on every track of the album, which has gone platinum in the U.S. eight times over and internationally remains Madonna’s best-selling album.
“True Blue” was recorded during her marriage to Sean Penn, and dedicated to “the coolest guy in the universe.” It features hit tracks like, “Where’s the Party?” “Live to Tell,” “Papa Don’t Preach,” “Open Your Heart,” “La Isla Bonita” and the title track “True Blue.”
Catholic organizations were miffed at the song “Papa Don’t Preach,” which was sung from the perspective of a pregnant teenage girl who confesses her condition to her father, and tells him she’s keeping the child.
In 1987, Madonna starred in the flop “Who’s That Girl?” but the soundtrack became a huge hit for her with the title track and “Causing a Commotion,” and it spurned a world tour.
The year 1988 brought a wave of change for Madonna as she took a break to perform in the David Mamet play “Speed the Plow,” in New York. Later that year she filed assault charges against Penn, and subsequently filed for divorce in January 1989.
Her popularity (and controversy) escalated in 1989 with the release of her fourth album, “Like a Prayer.” She’d simultaneously signed an endorsement deal with Pepsi Co. and appeared in a commercial for them strikingly similar to her very controversial music video.
The video for “Like a Prayer” included a plethora of religious symbolism combined with sexual innuendo, and ignited fierce opposition from Catholic groups. The No. 1 album produced five singles, which besides the title track included “Express Yourself” and “Cherish.” Pepsi got so many complaints that it yanked the commercial.
Madonna starred in the Warren Beatty film “Dick Tracy” in 1990 as Breathless Mahoney. She released an album the same year combining soundtrack music with her original songs, one of which won an Oscar for Best Original Song. She performed “Sooner or Later” at the 1991 awards show, to which she was escorted by Michael Jackson, creating press heaven with the headline “King and Queen of Pop.”
“Vogue” became another worldwide single for the singer from the Dick Tracy album, causing a phenomenon of public imitation of her dance moves and lyrics.
Also in 1990, Madonna embarked on her "Blonde Ambition" tour, which was filmed for the documentary “Truth or Dare," which came out the following year. The documentary became commercially successful internationally, grossing over $30 million.
Also in 1990, her greatest hits album “The Immaculate Collection” was released, featuring 15 of her biggest hits along with two new soon-to-be hits, “Justify My Love” and “Rescue Me.”
Madonna was chosen by People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the world in 1991, the same year she co-founded her record company, Maverick Records, which shepherded new artists like Candlebox, Alanis Morissette and Michelle Branch.
The single “Justify My Love” went platinum in 1991, but the video was rejected by MTV for featuring bondage scenes, gay and lesbian cuddling and brief nudity.
Not one to be silenced, especially when she was making a statement about society’s puritanical views about sex, Madonna refused to edit the video, so it was released on VHS.
In 1992, Madonna starred in “A League of Their Own,” starring Geena Davis, Tom Hanks and Rosie O’Donnell. Her performance in the role of “All-the-way Mae” earned positive reviews from critics, and the movie itself was a box office success. She also wrote and released “This Used to Be My Playground,” which hit No. 1.
Later in 1992, the book “Sex” was released, featuring photographs of Madonna and others engaging in a number of sexual fantasy activities. She would later comment to Larry King, “I didn't write a book about sex. I published a book that basically was sort of an ironic, tongue-in-cheek, sticking-my-tongue-out-at-society photo essay.”
In the wake of the book’s controversy, her new album, “Erotica,” was released. The title track became a record-breaking hit single, as did the song “Rain,” which was a near opposite to the rest of the album in that it was a sensitive ballad.
Unlike “Justify My Love,” the video for "Erotica" was not altogether banned from MTV or VH1, but could only be shown after midnight.
Another of her film flops, “Body of Evidence,” soon followed. The “Basic Instinct” wannabe featured Madonna as a woman who kills her lover through sex. Her 1993 world tour would see her meet protests in Israel and ire from the Puerto Rican government for pulling the country’s flag between her legs.
In 1994, “Bedtime Stories” was released, featuring the hit singles “Secret” and “Take a Bow" that showed Madonna making yet another image transformation while returning to her softer side.
In 1995, she capitalized on this change, releasing “Something to Remember,” a collection of her ballads. The album went triple platinum.
Her bullfighting video for “Take a Bow” played a role in her scoring the role of Eva Peron in the musical film “Evita,” for which she would win both critical acclaim and the Golden Globe for Best Actress.
In 1995, Madonna took small roles in films like “Four Rooms,” “Blue in the Face” and a voiceover in “Girl6,” directed by Spike Lee.
It was the “Evita” soundtrack, however, that catapulted her back into the musical limelight with “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and “You Must Love Me.” The latter won an Oscar for Best Original Song.
It was in 1996, however, that Madonna’s life would change forever, with the birth of her daughter Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon, nicknamed Lola. Her daughter was named after the city in France, a city of “healing” and “miracles," Madonna said.
Personal trainer Carlos Leon was the father. Although many saw the pregnancy as a desperate attempt to have a child, since Madonna was 38 at the time, the singer insists she and Carlos had been dating two years and she was madly in love with him.
The couple separated in May 1997, although Madonna insists Leon plays an integral part in his daughter’s life.
It was during this time Madonna began studying Kabbalah, a mystical interpretation of Judaism’s Torah. She has since become a vocal supporter of the study, and has inspired several other celebrities to join in.
In 1998, Madonna took on a techno style with "Ray of Light," incorporating electronic music artist William Orbit as a collaborator on the album.
On the album, she relished motherhood with the song “Little Star,” but it was tracks like “Frozen,” “Nothing Really Matters,” “Ray of Light” and “The Power of Goodbye” that were bona fide hits.
In 1999, she recorded “Beautiful Stranger” for the "Austin Powers" sequel “The Spy Who Shagged Me,” and in 2000 she re-recorded the Don McLean classic “American Pie” for her movie “The Next Best Thing,” co-starring Rupert Everett.
"The Next Best Thing" was less successful than her recent movies. Around the time of the release, Madonna met Guy Ritchie, the British director of “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," at the home of Sting and his wife Trudie Styler.
Also in 2000, Madonna released the album “Music,” which featured her return to her dance music roots and also incorporated her recent foray into techno. Album hits such as “Don’t Tell Me” and “What It Feels Like for a Girl” played with Madonna’s iconic image again, from dance maven to funky cowgirl.
Madonna was 41 and pregnant with her son Rocco during the “Music” video. She gave birth three weeks prematurely with an emergency C-section on Aug. 11, 2000.
Madonna and Guy Ritchie married in Scotland on Dec. 22, 2000, and are still married to this day, residing in England with their family.
In 2001, Madonna embarked on the "Drowned World" tour, her first since 1993’s The Girlie Show. At the same time, her "Greatest Hits Volume 2" was released.
Also in 2001, Ritchie directed Madonna in a trendy online short film for BMW called “The Star,” and again in 2002's movie “Swept Away.” The movie was a remake of the original 1974 film, and was universally panned.
In 2003, Madonna released “American Life,” her ninth album. It failed to gain any chart success, but did earn a significant amount of criticism for encompassing her personal opposition to the war in Iraq, specifically for the scene in the music video where she throws a grenade into President Bush’s lap.
At the MTV Video Music Awards, Madonna performed a remix of her “Hollywood” single from “American Life” with young singing sensations Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears.
The performance shocked audiences when Madonna kissed both Christina and Britney with an open mouth on stage.
She later released “Remixed and Revisited” in 2003, a collection of remixes from the “American Life” album, which created little buzz.
In another career twist, Madonna began writing children’s books in 2003. “The English Rose” was published in 2003, followed two months later by “Mr. Peabody’s Apples.”
In 2004, Maverick Records and distributor Warner Music filed lawsuits against each other, each alleging the other lost millions of dollars through mismanagement.
Later in the year, the lawsuit was settled, resulting in a buyout of Madonna’s and co-founder Ronnie Dashev’s stock, thereby forever separating Madonna from the company.
Also in 2004, Madonna performed in a concert for victims of the Asian tsunami and released two more books: “Yakov and the Seven Thieves” and “The Adventures of Abdi.”
Her "Re-Invention" tour that same year included some of her '80s hits, which she’d previously said she wished to stay away from. The tour was filmed for the documentary “I’m Going to Tell You a Secret,” released in 2005. In the summer of 2005, she performed at the Live 8 concert in London, a benefit to eradicate poverty.
Later in 2005, she released “Confessions on a Dance Floor,” her 10th album, which produced singles like “Hung Up” and “Sorry” and debuted at No. 1 in a record 41 countries. Her fifth book, “Lotsa de Casha,” was also published in 2005.
Madonna's "Confessions" tour took off in late May 2006, where it became one of the most successful tours ever for a female musical artist. Even at the age of 47, Madonna still sparked controversy when she performed "Live to Tell" with a crucifix and a crown of thorns on stage.
In the summer of 2006, Madonna signed a contract to become the worldwide face of the clothing store H&M. M by Madonna launched the next year, making $15 million in its first week on the racks. H&M has reportedly ordered a second and third line for fall 2007.
Madonna flew to Malawi in October to aid in constructing the orphanage she funded as part of the Raising Malawi initiative. In the southeastern African country, she began the process of adopting a 1-year-old boy named David.
In May 2007, she released "Hey You," a song specifically written for the Live Earth summer concert series. She performed the song among others in London on July 7.
Madonna is currently directing her first film, "Filth and Wisdom," as well as working on a documentary about the struggles in Malawi.
Released: July 3, 1983
Like a Virgin
Released: Nov. 12, 1984
Released: June 30, 1986
Who's That Girl?
Released: July 21, 1987
You Can Dance
Released: Nov. 17, 1987
Like a Prayer
Released: Mar. 21, 1989
Released: May 22, 1990
The Immaculate Collection
Released: Nov. 9, 1990
Released: Oct. 20, 1992
Released: Oct. 25, 1994
Something to Remember
Released: Nov. 7, 1995
Released: Dec. 1996
Ray of Light
Released: Mar. 3, 1998
Released: Sept. 19, 2000
Released: Nov. 13, 2001
Released: Apr. 22, 2003
Remixed & Revisited
Released: Nov. 25, 2003
Confessions on a Dance Floor
Release: Nov. 15, 2005