Mention the name Patrick Leonard to a Madonna fan, and their ears should immediately perk up. After all, it was Leonard who co-wrote and/or co-produced many of Madonna’s classic hit singles like “Live to Tell,” “Open Your Heart,” “Frozen” and “Like a Prayer.”
The latter cut was the lead single and title track from Madonna’s 1989 album, which now celebrates its 25th anniversary. It was released by Sire/Warner Bros. Records on March 21, 1989, and shot to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 shortly thereafter. It spent six weeks atop the chart — her longest run at No. 1 for any album.
To celebrate a quarter century of “Like a Prayer,” Billboard spoke to Leonard — the primary co-writer and co-producer of the set — to discuss the making of the album and his recollections of working with Madonna. (Would you believe “Like a Prayer” was written in one day? And the entire album was written in less than two weeks?)
In our lengthy chat, we discuss everything from where Prince pops up on the album (it might surprise you), to Leonard’s all-time favorite song they did together. Not to mention those rumors that he’s working with Madonna on her next album.
In addition to his partnership with Madonna, Leonard has worked with many other artists, including Jewel, Elton John and Roger Waters. He’s currently working with Leonard Cohen on his upcoming album.
Billboard: When you were working with Madonna on the album, you had already worked with her on “True Blue” and “Who’s That Girl,” and you had worked with her on tour as the musical director for the Virgin Tour and the Who’s That Girl Tour. What was it about your working relationship that made it so successful? Clearly there was something very special between the two of you. Is there something tangible that you can actually name?
Patrick Leonard: The one thing would be that, in terms of musical spirits, like any good collaboration, we’re sort of on opposite ends of the spectrum, in terms of our approach to music.
I started playing the piano when I was three-years old, and studied music my whole life. It’s my language. And for her, it’s much more just about creativity, and a natural gift, what the impulse says is right.
So, that thing of, almost opposites makes nice chemistry. And it always did with us, because I could write something somewhat complicated and and somewhat complex — certainly especially in the pop realm — and she would respond collaboratively with something that anchored it in something very simple and central. read more →