On July 27, 1983, the world would be introduced to a budding superstar from the streets of New York City (by way of Bay City, Michigan) named Madonna. On that date 30 years ago, Sire Records released her debut, Madonna. The record would go on to sell more than 10 million copies worldwide and spawn five singles, including the hits “Holiday,” “Lucky Star,” and “Borderline.”
Behind the boards during recording was producer Reggie Lucas, who had seen success working with Lou Rawls, Stephanie Mills, Phyllis Hyman, and Roberta Flack, among other artists. Later in the process, Madonna brought in DJ John “Jellybean” Benitez to assist.
In the years since the album’s release, Madonna’s become a household name, one of music’s most influential artists ever, and a source of controversy–including among her collaborators. I spoke with Lucas about recording Madonna, about what made its singer so novel, and about who he think really deserves credit for the album that served as a launchpad for one of the greatest pop acts in history.
Your background was primarily as an R&B and jazz artist. How did that influence you creating the songs for Madonna? Because she was a different kind of artist.
Well, she was a white artist wasn’t she? [laughs] It was the main thing that made her different. When I came to the Madonna record, I came with two things. The first thing was I brought a lot of success and a solid background as a hit producer and songwriter within the R&B world, but it was also with the skill as a composer and rock and roll guitarist. Madonna was simply the first opportunity that I had to play around with other musical interests that I had. You couldn’t make the first Madonna record for Phyllis Hyman. I couldn’t make Miles Davis music for Roberta Flack. Miles was the one place where I got it all out of my system, and that was the beauty of Miles.
As a producer, you understood that your first job was to support people to achieve that end. You challenged the artist just enough to bring out the best in them and introduce them to audiences that they normally wouldn’t be introduced to. When I did “Physical Attraction,” that was just it. She was a little different. Madonna was wilder in terms of her look and image; I don’t know if her music was that much wilder than anyone else back then. I think her music was sexually freer and it predicted what was going to happen in the future. She was definitely an innovator when it became to being more suggestive, which was pretty cool. I thought it was great.
So–mixing that with my musical background, Madonna’s first album was really a hybrid of her interests and mine. “Physical Attraction” was our starting point with that style. It did pretty well and she began to move forward with her career and sound. read more →