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Madonna Interview : MOJO

Madonna - Mojo / August 2019

But was that intimidating at first?

So intimidating. I mean, singing Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina in front of those guys? With an orchestra? Live?

‘Learning’ to sing, were you ever worried about losing the ‘me’-ness?

No, I never thought of that. I was… I like to be a student. I like to go to classes. I like to study. I was happy to go and I have a great vocal coach. Your vocal cords are muscles, so you do need to learn how to take care of yourself. Partying is not a big part of taking care of your vocal cords. So you end up being the most boring person on the road.

What’s the first piece of music you heard that really moved you?

Oh… (long pause) I grew up listening to Edith Piaf, listening to Nina Simone… Those singers really moved me, So did David Bowie… Then studying dance and listening to classical music and studying at the Martha Graham school and hearing all the composers that she worked with. I mean, I don’t know. I had a lot of musical influences growing up. My older brothers were really into jazz when I was growing up, so I heard a lot of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis and I can be really moved by all of those people.

You seem to have had a real connection with David Bowie.

He changed my life.

You saw him play at Cobo Hall in Detroit. You were 15…

It was the first concert I ever went to. I remember just being frozen. Rigid. Like, staring up at this creature thinking, Oh my God, he’s everything. He’s male and female and beautiful and elegant and poetic and funny and ironic and (pauses, tearing up slightly) other-worldly. And I recognised myself in him somehow and he gave me license to dream a different future for myself.

You recently posted something on your Instagram, a film of him talking about how artists are obliged to not play to the gallery.

Yes. That’s a philosophy that’s important to me that I connect to and believe in.

You inducted him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame [1996]…

Did I? Oh! (momentarily flustered) Well, to be connected with him in any way is an honour. I watched his documentary recently, just to be reminded about what a genius he was. So brilliant, so amazing. So fearless. He tried on so many things. He just went down so many roads and tried so many different genres of music too. And he really went for it and he was fearless. He didn’t care what people thought. I love that about him.

How did you feel about your own Hall of Fame induction in 2008? That it was about time?

No. No. I don’t know about awards and things like that. They’re overrated.

Is it true that the first musical performance you ever did was of The Who’s Baba O’Riley? The mind boggles…

Ha! Yes. I did a dance. I choreographed a dance and made the light show and painted fluorescent designs all over my body. It was a scandal in my school. Yup. Got me into a lot of trouble. That was the beginning.

Dark Ballet’s apocalyptic vibe reminded me that you actually started shows on the Reinvention tour [2004] reading from the Book Of Revelations. That was an extraordinary thing to lay on an audience.

I just think it’s a really strong text. And it’s a text that a lot of people know and it poses kind of an important question: Who will fight against The Beast? And who is The Beast? And I just love the words. It’s scary and poetic and beautiful and powerful. And that coupled with the visual imagery that I did with [fashion photographer] Steven Klein, this sort of… collapsed red queen persona – I don’t know if you remember that? – they sort of went together.