Inspired by motherhood, Hinduism, yoga and a “dwindling” English dance producer, the world’s most successful female singer set about reinventing herself. Armed with a “gaffer-taped” Atari and with her baby daughter manning the mixing desk, Madonna made Ray Of Light.
The mid-’90s showered material girl Madonna with a string of life-changing experiences, from the birth of her daughter to an awakening of interest in Eastern mysticism. Then, in May 1997, following the Evita soundtrack, she started work on an album that would reflect those changes, sell in truckloads and help create a new Madonna.
As told to Johnny Black
14 October 1996
Madonna gives birth to a baby girl, Lourdes, in Los Angeles.
Madonna: That was a big catalyst for me. It took me on a search for answers to questions I’d never asked myself before.
William Orbit: Long before we started working on the album, Madonna was going through changes. I think she was heading in the direction we eventually took anyway.
Madonna: I started studying the Kabbalah, which is a Jewish mystical interpretation of the Old Testament. I also found myself becoming very interested in Hinduism and yoga, and for the first time in a long time, I was able to step outside myself and see the world from a different perspective.
William Orbit: Madonna was itchy to make a change. and I came along at the right time. It bothers me when the press say, ‘William Orbit revived her dwindling career.’ It’s so not the case. If anything, she revived my dwindling career.
1 February 1997
The soundtrack to the film Evita reaches Number 1 In the UK.
William Orbit: Another important contributing factor to how Ray Of Light turned out was the Evita record which helped her grow as a singer, because she’d taken voice lessans.
Madonna: There was a whole piece of my voice I wasn’t using. And I was going to make the most of it.
Madonna begins the writing process with various collaborators.
Madonna: I wrote with everybody — William, Pat Leonard, Rick Howes. I even wrote some tracks with Babyface but they never made it onto the album.
Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds: We came up with a couple of songs we liked before she changed her idea about the album’s direction.