Madonna - Live To Tell

April 21, 2019 - 632 views

"Live to Tell" is the lead single from American singer Madonna's third studio album True Blue (1986). Originally composed by Patrick Leonard for the score of the film Fire with Fire, the instrumental was shown to Madonna, who decided to use it for then-husband Sean Penn's film At Close Range. Madonna wrote all the lyrics, co-composed the melodies, and co-produced it with Leonard. The song was released as the lead single from True Blue on March 26, 1986 by Sire Records. It later appeared on compilation albums The Immaculate Collection (1990), Something to Remember (1995), and Celebration (2009).

A pop ballad, the song includes instrumentation from guitars, keyboards, drums and a synthesizer, and its lyrics deal with deceit, mistrust and childhood scars. It is also about being strong, which Madonna recalled in an interview that she thought about her relationship with her parents, while writing the lyrics. The music video, directed by James Foley, shows Madonna's first image makeover, featuring her with a cleaner look, shoulder-length wavy golden blond hair, conservative wardrobe and subtle make-up. This toned down blond appearance was inspired by Marilyn Monroe, a performer Madonna had previously been influenced by.

"Live to Tell" was generally well received by music critics, who frequently referred to it as the best ballad of her career. It was also a commercial success, becoming Madonna's third number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100 and her first number-one on the Adult Contemporary chart. The song faced controversy when Madonna performed it on her 2006 Confessions Tour wearing a crown of thorns while hanging on a giant mirrored cross. The performance at Rome's Olympic Stadium was condemned as an act of hostility toward the Roman Catholic Church by religious leaders.

After Madonna finished The Virgin Tour, she asked producers Patrick Leonard and Stephen Bray to write some songs with her and produce her third studio album, True Blue (1986). "Live to Tell" was originally an instrumental composed by Leonard for the score of Paramount's romantic drama film Fire with Fire. "My managers represented the guy who was directing the film; it was his first film. I saw a little piece of the film, and I had the script. I wrote a theme and I said, 'What if I could get Madonna to write the lyrics for it?'", said Leonard.[1]

However, Paramount rejected the track, believing that Leonard was incapable of creating the score for the film. Leonard later presented the instrumental to Madonna,[1] who decided to use it for At Close Range, the new film starring her then-husband, actor Sean Penn. Madonna wrote all the lyrics, added some melodies, and composed the bridge.[2] She recorded a demo of the song on a cassette and presented it to the film's director James Foley, who liked it and enlisted Leonard to compose the film's score, as suggested by Madonna.[3]

Leonard was working with Michael Jackson, on some transcriptions for his Bad album, when Penn called him to come to Foley's home. There he asked Leonard who would sing the track, since it was written from a man's perspective.[1] Leonard, although he had initially envisioned a male voice interpreting the song,[3] decided to use Madonna as the main vocalist and used the demo version as the main vocal with backup drums only.[1] He later recalled that "it was so innocent and so shy. It's as naive, as raw, as raw can be and that's part of what gave it all its charm."[3][4] In a 1986 interview, Madonna said that the mood on the song was inspired by a different facet of her image makeover and her desire to focus on something different.[5]


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