Tuesday, February 26, 2019

"Live to Tell" by Madonna

Top 10 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert
Song#:  2691
Date:  04/12/1986
Debut:  49
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  In the time since Madonna's 1984 album Like a Virgin was released, she had amassed four Top 10 hits from the LP along with one from a soundtrack. She could have easily taken a break after the supporting tour, but she got right back to work coming up with songs for her upcoming third album True Blue. One of her collaborators, Patrick Leonard, had written a theme for potential use in a movie. He played it for Madonna who then wrote lyrics for it and created a bridge section. In addition to being on the new album, she thought it might work well for her husband Sean Penn's upcoming film At Close Range. The song would be featured in the film and it would be issued out as a single a couple of month's prior to True Blue. It debuted in the top half of the Pop chart and then made a beeline for the #1 spot. It would also become Madonna's first song to hit #1 at AC. The single would be her third #1 and eighth consecutive Top 10.

ReduxReview:  Madonna had done a couple of ballads including the #1 "Crazy for You," so she was certainly able to pull them off, but I don't think anything prepared folks for this atmospheric stunner. This one took Madonna to a whole new level. It was like hearing her grow up overnight. There was a new maturity to this song both lyrically and vocally that raised the bar. Let's face it - Madonna can sing, but she is not a singer. No one is going to mistake her for Streisand, but that is fine. The key to a voice like hers is putting something behind it that conveys the lyrics or feeling of the song - to make people believe it - and she does that here. Madonna is more than capable of that and I find this one to be one of her best and most honest performances. Before auto-tune came along and made everyone icily perfect, there were still chances for artists to really put it all out there warts and all. Yeah, there was still some studio trickery back in the day to fix little things, but you couldn't (and still can't) add actual feelings to vocals. I think this is a genuine performance from Madge and that made it all the more special.


Trivia:  Patrick Leonard initially wrote the music to this song for a film titled Fire with Fire. He had hopes that the tune would lead to him scoring the movie as well. He submitted it to the studio, but they rejected it and Leonard. He then took it to Madonna who fleshed it out and did a demo. Thinking it would be a fit for Sean Penn's new film, the tape was presented to the director. He not only accepted the song, but then hired Leonard to compose the full score (at the suggestion of Madonna, of course). At Close Range, which also starred Christopher Walken, was pushed out to theaters the week after this song debuted on the Pop chart. It was received quite well by critics but despite the accolades and the hit song, audiences ignored the film and it ended up a box office dud. As for Fire with Fire, it didn't do much better. The film starred Virginia Madsen and Craig Sheffer and critical reception was not all that great. It too was not a box office success. So who ended up getting the scoring job for that film? An up-n-coming composer named Howard Shore. Shore had a few films under his belt including the horror flicks Scanners and Videodrome. He would go on to be one of Hollywood's leading film scorers. He is probably best known for supplying the music to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, work which netted him three Oscars.



  1. 10/10, this is my all time favorite Madonna song and it's a timeless classic, she had so many great songs but this is her very best song.

    1. It is definitely high on my list as well. It was a great moment in her career.

  2. Literally Madonna's best song, period! As well as my favorite from her. The story behind the song is equally amazing.