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Madonna Interview : SongTalk

Interviewer: Both you and Prince have concentrated in your work on the separation in our lives between sexuality and religion. Has this been a conscious attempt in your life, to connect these two forces?

Madonna: Yes, absolutely. And I think that’s the problem in relationships. That’s why everyone has affairs and they cheat on their wives or their husbands. People separate things. They have someone they idolize, and then they idolize them so much that they put them on a pedestal and see them as so virginal and holy that they can’t have fun with them. And then they have to find people to have fun with and get low-down and dirty. They don’t let the id in themselves come out, know what I mean? I think you have to put the two together with people. You have to let both of them surface. And it has so much to do with being honest with yourself and the people you’re with. Say, “This is me and this is what I want.”

Interviewer: Your song “Like a Prayer” deals with this subject. Do you recall how that one was born?

Madonna: I don’t know! It just…came out of my head. Pat had the chord changes for the verse and the chorus. We hadn’t written the bridge yet. I really wanted to do something really gospel oriented and a capella, with virtually no instrumentation, just my voice and an organ. So we started fooling around with the song, and we’d take away all the instrumentation so that my voice was naked. Then we came up with the bridge together, and we had the idea to have a choir. In almost everything I do with Pat, if it’s uptempo, there’s a Latin rhythm or feeling to it. It’s really strange.

Interviewer: Does he bring that to it or do you?

Madonna: (Pause) We both do. It’s like, we don’t know, we’re possessed. We both think that we were Latin in another life.

Interviewer: That’s interesting, because you’ve done both “Spanish Eyes” on this album and “La Isla”–

Madonna - SongTalk / Summer 1989

Madonna: “La Isla Bonita.” I know! I have no idea! It just happens.

Interviewer: You have the Italian in you this lifetime–

Madonna: Yeah, but Pat is about as white-bread as they come. I love Spanish music. I love that group Gipsy Kings. They’re so great. And I love Spanish singing. I’m very influenced by Spanish music. When I lived in New York for so many years I was constantly listening to salsa and merengue. I mean, that stuff was constantly blaring out of everybody’s radio on the street.

Interviewer: You were talking of having only your voice and organ on “Like a Prayer.” I love the beginning of “Promise to Try,” which is just you and an acoustic piano.

Madonna: Yeah, isn’t it pretty.

Interviewer: Yeah. That song and “Oh Father” seem to be companion songs.

Madonna: They are. Yeah, they absolutely are.

Interviewer: Did you write them at the same time?

Madonna: No. We did “Promise to Try” first. Pat and I. Once again, he just sat down and started playing. And I started singing. And we built it from there. We’d start stuff and we’d come back to it. With “Oh Father” he wrote the tracks, and I was doing the play in New York (Speed the Plow). He came to New York and I was in a very, very dark state of mind. We got together in this really dingy, awful little studio in the garment district in New York. It was grotesquely dirty and cramped, and that’s what came out of me.

Interviewer: The song “Cherish” is incredibly joyous. Were you in a happy mood when you wrote it?

Madonna: I was actually. It was before I went to New York. Absolutely. It was right before I left.

Interviewer: Was “Promise to Try” written for the little girl in you?

Madonna: (Softly) Yes. It was…yes, it was. I mean, it’s not just one thing. It’s my father talking to me, it’s me talking to me…and “Oh Father” is not just me dealing with my father. It’s me dealing with all authority figures in my life.

Interviewer: Does that include God as well? You say, “Oh Father, I have sinned.”

Madonna: Absolutely.