Don’t Cry For Me Argentina by Andrew Lloyd Webber, as sung by Elaine Paige from the Original West End Cast Recording of Evita…Song #22/250: The Stars of Stage and Screen

The history of politics is filled with compassionate souls who have entered into the field of public service because they felt they had something to offer that would make the world a better place in which to live for everyone. To those kind folks, I salute you. Our world would be a much kinder, fairer and more just place to be if those sitting in the big chairs did so as leaders possessing charitable hearts. But, the reality of political history all throughout the world is that many who enter the political arena do so for less magnanimous reasons; power and money being chief among them. Politics has always been, or so it seems, an occupation not for the faint of heart. It is far too rare that political opponents join forces in pursuit of a common goal. Most often, we have maneuverings and intrigue, leaving someone to be the victor and someone to be the vanquished. And as the hoary old cliché goes, the history of our times is always written by the victors.

Who ends up dictating the events of history is an important factor to consider when discussing the story of one of the most controversial, beloved and misunderstood figures in any era of modern world politics, Eva Perón. In all of the research that I have conducted into almost one thousand songs, I have never encountered such a polarizing figure as the lady who would go on to inspire the hit musical, Evita. In fact, the information that I have read about her varies wildly depending upon who is doing the telling…the victors or the vanquished. So, let me take a few moments and give you the broad strokes of the story behind who Eva Perón was and how she came to hold such a position of influence within the country of Argentina. I state the following facts as being as true as I can know them to be. I am not an Argentinian scholar, by any means. If anyone reading this post has a greater pool of knowledge to draw from and can add to or correct what I am about to write then please, by all means, feel free to do so below.

Eva Peron as she while acting as the First Lady of Argentina.

Every biography of Eva Perón that I have read states that she began her life as Eva Duarte and that she had an impoverished upbringing. As she grew up and became a teenager, Eva Duarte began to have dreams of becoming a movie and music star. She knew that she would never become a star where she was living so she began to devise a plan that would see her move to the capital city of Buenos Aires. Not having money, Eva Duarte used her beauty to attract the attention of men in positions of power. It was through her relationships with these men that she made her way from her small town all the way to the big city. Once in Buenos Aires, Duarte began venturing into nightclubs and theatres looking for an opportunity to make herself known to those with the power to advance her career. As her teenage years moved along, she began getting roles in musicals, as well as opportunities to sing on stage in clubs. It was while working at a benefit fundraiser that she met one of Argentina’s rising young political stars, Col. Juan Perón. There was an attraction between the two and soon they began a torrid love affair. *(Up until this point in her story, the only bone of contention between those who consider Eva Perón to be akin to a saint and those who despise everything about her is whether she made her way to the top of Argentinian society because of her cunning determination and ambition or whether she prostituted herself). From what I have read, there appears to be no middle ground in this matter.

Eva and Col. Juan Person made for a glamorous couple.

Once Eva Duarte and Juan Perón became a romantically involved couple, they entered into a political partnership. As anyone with any knowledge of politics probably knows, no one rises to positions of power in isolation. They do so because they have supporters working behind the scenes, as well as in front of the cameras, who help their candidate of choice acquire enough popular support among the electorate to gain power. This is where the story of Evita becomes muddled and why it is important to understand the motives behind whoever is telling her tale. As the Peróns ascended to the Presidency of Argentina, they started a series of initiatives aimed at improving the lives of the working class. Hospitals, schools, orphanages, etc…, all received an influx of funding that flowed from the pens of Eva and Juan Perón. Up until their arrival, charities in Argentina were often run by the wealthy who would pocket much of the money that was raised from the citizens of the country. Needless to say, when Eva Perón essentially nationalized philanthropy, she made a lot of powerful enemies among the ruling class. It bothered them further that she was beautiful and revered by those she was helping. To her supporters in the working class, Eva Perón is viewed as an angel who made a concrete difference in their lives. For those who disliked her, she was nothing more than a political opportunist who stole from the rich to enrich herself and whose charity was nothing more than a power move to solidify support from those she considered her base. Many who oppose her claim that she was no better than another notorious First Lady, Imelda Marcos of the Philippines. Eva Perón died from cancer in her mid-thirties. Her husband was the subject of a military coup. Perón’s body was removed from its crypt by thieves and spirited away to Italy, where it was held for ransom for several decades before finally being allowed to return to Argentina. She was eventually laid to rest in the Duarte family plot in the same small village in which she had been raised. Her life had come full circle.

Andrew Lloyd Webber is a famous creator of musicals, as many of you are aware. He has a musical partner named Tim Rice. Rice often composes the musical scores that accompany Webber’s lyrics. It was Rice who first heard of the story of Eva Perón. He spent years researching her life story. He visited Argentina dozens of times, going to all of the places that played a major role in her life. In his mind, the story of the life of Eva Perón was an obvious choice to be turned into a musical. However, his partner wasn’t so sure. Webber argued that no one outside of Latin America knew who she was and that the general public wouldn’t rush out to see a play about the First Lady of Argentina, even if they did. But Tim Rice persisted and eventually Andrew Lloyd Webber agreed to give it a try. Initially, the compromise solution was to create a live cast recording and leave it at that. But, as tracks were recorded, the story that became Evita began taking on an energy of its own to the point where even Andrew Lloyd Webber himself had to acknowledge that this was a musical waiting to happen. But this is where the politics of the storyteller’s perspective come into play.

The plaque placed on her tomb by the taxi drivers union. It was the inspiration for the song, “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”.

Andrew Lloyd Webber was not entirely certain as to how to accurately portray Eva Perón on the stage. As noted, she is a historically polarizing figure whose biography varies a great degree depending upon who is doing the talking. So, what Andrew Lloyd Webber ended up doing was to insert a character into the story called Ché. *(This may or may not be a reference to the famous revolutionary leader, Ché Guevara). The character of Ché is used by Webber in the role of the traditional Greek chorus. Ché is cynical of Perón and her motives and helps provide a perspective that contrasts with the mythologizing of Eva Perón that comes from the rest of the cast who play the citizens of Argentina. That she was adored and despised in equal measure appears to be the truest path to tread when it comes to evaluating Perón’s legacy by those of us who were never there at the time and who have to rely on the perspectives of those with something to gain by how they share her story. In the end, Andrew Lloyd Webber appears to have come down on the side of those in her corner. For the show stopping number, “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”, Webber drew upon the true story of how ordinary citizens reacted upon hearing the news of her death. At her gravesite rests a plaque that was paid for by donations raised by the taxi drivers union of Buenos Aires. The plaque states that they will not cry for her (because they felt blessed to have had her in their lives, even for such a short time as it turned out to be), but that they would cry for their country (because of the opportunity for charity and compassion that had been lost).

Evita has gone on to become one of the most successful musicals ever made. The song “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song in a Musical the year it was released. In the 1990s, Evita was made into a Hollywood movie that starred Madonna as Eva Perón. Madonna had campaigned for years to play the role of Eva Perón because she felt that Perón’s life story bore a striking resemblance to her own. The movie opened to mixed reviews, mostly due to Madonna’s acting and singing voice. That may seem like a strange thing to say, since Madonna is one of the biggest selling singing stars of all time. However, what her performance showed, more than anything, was that there is a big difference between being a singer who sings Pop songs recorded in a studio as opposed to being a singer who belts it out on stage every night. Prior to Madonna singing “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” in the movie, the song had been famously sung by such women as Barbra Streisand, as well as the legendary West End star, Elaine Paige *(who you will remember from her star turn in Cats as she sings that musical’s show stopper, “Memories”, which you can read about here). For my money, Paige is simply the gold standard. It is her version of “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” that I will feature below. I will include Madonna’s, too, just so you can compare the two performances for yourself.

The politics of storytelling is not reserved for musicals and dramatic film adaptations. We are seeing this bear fruit in real time in our own society as more and more of our newspapers, television news stations and social media outlets are being taken over by those on the right wing side of the political spectrum. When the information we are being presented takes on the perspective of those who view themselves as the victors, then their reality becomes our history. An easy modern example is the resistance to Climate Change initiatives. Who are the ones who believe in a “Green” future, and who seek to maintain the status quo because it is good for the bottom lines of those in charge? Who are the victors and who are the vanquished, and, just as importantly, who gets to tell the tale? Our future just may very well depend upon the answer to that question. Perhaps I should tweet about my feelings on Twitter but, then again…..

The link to the video for the song, “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” as sung by Elaine Paige can be found here.

The link to the video for the trailer of the West End musical, Evita, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” as sung by Madonna from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the film Evita can be found here.

The link to the video for the trailer for the film Evita can be found here.

The link to the official website for the Eva Perón Society can be found here.

*As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner with the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Tomorrow’s Top 40: The Best of Today’s Newest Releases featuring The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Blondie, Tegan and Sara, Carly Rae Jepsen, Meghan Trainor, Vance Joy and, oh yes, Taylor Swift!

In this issue of Tomorrow’s Top 40 we will take quick looks at new releases by The Rolling Stones, Madonna and Blondie…all just in time for the Holiday season. We will also take a closer look at new releases by some modern day artists such as Tegan and Sara, Carly Rae Jepson, Meghan Trainor, Vance Joy and, oh yes, some unknown, unassuming artist named Taylor Swift.

Home For The Holidays:

When I was a much younger man, the start of the Christmas buying season was always a good one in that there always seemed to be an explosion of good books, movies and music that suddenly appeared on store shelves. Buying “Collector’s Editions” or “Commemorative reissues” or simply, “Greatest Hits” CDs was always synonymous with Christmas for me. However, today, with streaming services monopolizing content delivery, the Christmas shopping season feels like it has a slightly different aura about it. But, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some blockbuster packages waiting for us to buy them. Here are just a few of the heavyweight artists who have assembled some of their best work for us to buy, just in time for the Holidays.

The Rolling Stones: Live at the El Mocambo, 1977.

This double CD/album actually came out at the beginning of the summer but is being heavily promoted again as Christmas draws near. If you know The Rolling Stones history at all then you will be aware of that time they disguised themselves as The Cockroaches and played two surprise shows at Toronto’s El Mocambo night club in 1977. It was not easy to pull off such a show but they did so by promoting the two-date set as an April Wine gig with The Cockroaches opening for them. However, truth be told, the planning for the recording of a live Bluesy album and a hot, sweaty, intimate setting had been in the works for a while. The Rolling Stones: Live at the El Mocambo, 1977 captures the best of the performances over the course of those two shows. For any true Stones fan, this collection is a must-have. Here is a sample of those concerts…”Rip This Joint” can be listened to here.

Madonna: Finally Enough Love: 50 Number One Hits.

Imagine having a career that saw you have not one, not two but fifty #1 hit songs! Wow! That is one impressive musical resume. But, then again, Madonna isn’t one of the top selling musical acts in history without reason. Her discography travels from her heyday in the 1980s, all the way into the 2000s and includes every song that made it to #1 on the music charts, regardless of which chart it was (the Top 40 chart, the Dance Charts, the Electronic Dance Charts, the Movie Soundtrack charts, the Adult Contemporary charts and so on). Madonna is a very talented singer and performer but she is even a better business person. This collection remains faithful enough to the original way her songs were recorded so that casual fans will love what they find here. But, there are also songs that fall into niche categories such as extended dance versions of her hits that will please those of you who dig that sort of groove. In short, there will be something here for everyone who considers Madonna to be their G.O.A.T. From this album, here is Vogue. You can listen to it here.

Blondie: Against the Odds: 1974-1982.

The band, Blondie, don’t always get the credit they deserve for having their musical fingers so clearly on the pulse of the time as the 1970s rolled into the 80s. They were one of the biggest bands to transition from the start of the Disco craze, to Punk Rock as it began and then, to Hip Hop and Reggae, as both of those genres of music began to take off in popularity. They were part of it all and this new album, Blondie: Against the Odds: 1974-1982 chronicles those times in great detail. This is an album for true collectors because it is filled with rare outtakes, alternate recordings, secret live performances, remixes and extended plays and other such nuggets that have been kept hidden in the musical vault for over forty years now. For the casual fan searching for the recording of “Heart of Glass” that they loved as a younger version of themselves, they might find this album to be frustrating. However, for those true devotees of the band, the album will be like finding treasure. So go explore and have a blast but beware, this is not a typical “Greatest Hits” album. Here is the version of “Heart of Glass” as found on this album.

Modern Day New Releases

Just like those musical titans listed above, there are many modern day acts who have released new material just in time for the holidays. Here is a rundown of just a few.

Tegan and Sara: Crybaby.

Crybaby is the tenth album from Calgary-born twins, Tegan and Sara Quin. They burst onto the music scene a few years ago with their hit, “Closer”. Since then, the sisters have used their fame to support various LGBTQ causes, as well as other female-oriented acts. Like many musical acts, the COVID pandemic affected their career and limited their ability to travel and perform. However, they used this time to good effect by familiarizing themselves with the latest technological developments and by writing lots of new material. The combination of the two have taken shape in the form of a new album called Crybaby. There are lots of radio-friendly tracks here such as “Whatever That Was”, which you can listen to here. Enjoy.

Carly Rae Jepsen: The Loneliest Time.

There is a very strong tendency among casual fans to label Carly Rae Jepsen as being a one-hit wonder. But, what a one-hit wonder! She is known around the world as the Canadian girl who sings, “Call Me Maybe”. That one song ended up selling over 20 million copies and placed her in a position where she could afford to be choosy about what her next steps would be. So, instead of rushing back out with a new album that may or may not contain songs of the quality of “Call Me Maybe”, Jepsen decided to step away from the world of Pop music and, instead, took her vocal talents to Broadway, where she starred in several productions of major plays such as Cinderella and Grease. That time on stage allowed Jepsen to take a bit of a break from the media frenzy that enveloped her and gave her the time to refocus on her music and the writing and crafting of new material that spoke to her own heart. The result of this time away from the spotlight is a new album called The Loneliest Time. The first single from this album is the title track and it features the magnificent Rufus Wainwright. You can check out the awesome video for this song here.

Meghan Trainor: Takin’ It Back.

A few years ago, Meghan Trainor burst onto the music scene with a big hit song entitled, “All About the Bass” which wasn’t necessarily about musical notes, if ya know what I mean?! In the time since then, she has had a fair degree of success with songs such as “Lips Are Movin’”, “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” and “No”. She won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist and has released music in the Pop, Doo Wop, Dance and Hip Hop categories. Now, Meghan Trainor is back with a new album for the holidays entitled, Takin’ It Back. Like Lizzo, Meghan Trainor is becoming known for promoting body positivity in her music and, as a result, she supports many causes that promote this issue for young girls and women. Her latest single is called “Bad For Me” ft. Teddy Swims. It is about dealing with toxic relationships. You can listen to this song here.

Vance Joy: In Our Own Sweet Time.

Vance Joy is the stage name of Australian singer James Keogh. For the past decade, Vance Joy has been releasing hit album after hit album and enjoyed much success with a string of hits starting with “Riptide” and extending onward through “Georgia”, “Mess is Mine”, “Fire and the Flood”, “Lay It On Me”, “We’re Going Home” and his latest single, “Missing Piece” from his third album, In Our Own Sweet Time. Both of Vance Joy’s first two studio albums reached #1 on the charts. His current album sits at #3 as you read these words. Vance Joy is known more as an Alternative artist but I think most people who like Pop music will be very much at home with his sound and his on stage persona. The song, “Missing Piece” is about being separated from the one you love (as many of us were during the pandemic). This song has already been used on the TV show, Grey’s Anatomy. It won the award for Best Music Video in Australia and is the most-played song in Australia so far in 2022. It is a really sweet song that you can listen to here.

Taylor Swift: Midnights.

Taylor Swift has a new album out and apparently it is a bit of a big deal.

Like Madonna, Taylor Swift is a woman who knows how to write a clever Pop song but, more importantly, she knows how to build and market her brand. She is arguably the most powerful female performer in the world so when she starts dropping hints on social media that a new song/new look/new relationship is brewing, her army of fans go wild. The release of Midnights was a significant social media event when it dropped this past Friday. The premise of the album is that each song represents a moment in her life when she lay awake in bed at midnight pondering the state of the world with regard to things going on in her life. Taylor Swift is clever enough to make it seem as though the things she is dwelling upon are universal in nature and, as such, what she feels is important, you should feel that way, too. Her fans, known as Swifties, are an economic and political force. So, when Taylor Swift ruminates on “feeling fat”, social media trending topics immediately focus on body image issues. When Taylor Swift speaks out about political issues, her fans respond in kind, such as registering in record numbers to vote in the upcoming US midterm elections. Midnights sold over a million copies the first weekend it was released. All of the tracks on the album have been downloaded and dissected ad nauseum online so I will spare you my track-by-track analysis. Her first official release from the album is a song called “Bejewelled” which is a take on the Cinderella story but, according to the Swifties, refers to many other songs and videos that she has made throughout her career. For me, I will simply give the lady her due. “Bejewelled” is a pure Pop song which contains a message about self-esteem and empowerment that I am sure will resonate with young girls. Taylor Swift is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the power and influence she wields. That can clearly be seen in how Midnights has debuted at #1 on the charts and has blown every other new release out of the musical water, in terms of sales and media attention. “Bejeweled” may be the first song released from the album but, I guarantee you, it won’t be the last. You can listen to the song, “Bejeweled” here.

***The cover photo comes from the website of a music school called C & S Music. The link to their website can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #169: Papa Don’t Preach by Madonna (RS)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #169: Papa Don’t Preach by Madonna.

In the 1980s, Madonna was as big a star as there was. A case in point is that throughout the 1980s, Michael Jackson was called, “The King of Pop”, while Madonna was called, “The Queen of Pop”. By the time, “Papa Don’t Preach” came out from the album, “True Blue”, she was a well-established star. “Papa Don’t Preach” was her fourth consecutive #1 song and, like so many of her other hits, sold millions of copies worldwide. Madonna was a talented singer and dancer, for sure, but, one of the things that really set her apart was her sharp business sense. Madonna was a strong, confident woman and knew that this fact, alone, raised the hackles of those in positions of power. But, she also knew that tweaking the noses of powerful men, along with powerful institutions run by men, was a sure way to empower herself but more, it helped to keep her name in the headlines. “Papa Don’t Preach” is a textbook example of how Madonna constantly stood up for her right to chart her own course in every aspect of her life and how she use the concept of “controversy” as a marketing tool.

First of all, “Papa Don’t Preach” tells the story of a teenage girl from a loving, Catholic home, who falls in love with a handsome boy and ends up becoming pregnant. The crux of the song revolves around the girl’s decision to keep the baby and how she plans to tell her father, who she loves and respects very much. In many ways, how the father reacts is much more important than any opinion the boyfriend may have. In the end, the only person who’s opinion matters is Madonna’s, as her character remains unapologetic for making her own sexual choices and is willing to accept the consequences of those choices which, in this case, is to keep the newborn babe. She sees her actions as being responsible, under the circumstances.

Because of songs such as “Material Girl” and “Like a Virgin”, Madonna was already under a harsh public spotlight when “Papa Don’t Preach” came out. Reaction to the song was swift and polarized. Conservative groups, led by folks like Tipper Gore (the head of the group that tried to put warning labels of albums and censor their content) hailed “Papa Don’t Preach” as sending a powerful anti-abortion message to young girls. Some other religious groups screamed that the song promoted teenage casual sex as being a lifestyle choice and would cause a spike in teenage pregnancies. Those folks called Madonna incredibly irresponsible, among other things worst than that. Planned Parenthood, who advocated birth control access for teenage girls came out against the song, as well. Feminist groups derided Madonna for her anti-abortion message, in opposition to Tipper Gore and her allies. Through it all, Madonna maintained that “Papa Don’t Preach” had nothing to do with any of that. She said that it was a song about female empowerment. That the lesson for young girls to take away from the song was to not be afraid of being yourself in a patriarchal society. Too often, young girls feel intimidated to live as they see fit because of the opinions of men such as fathers, boyfriends, priests, The Pope, bosses at work (who remain largely male-oriented) and so on. Madonna said that “Papa Don’t Preach” was an example of a woman charting her own course in life and making her own decisions and that the song should be applauded on those grounds.

Regardless of your opinion of her opinion, Madonna pleased no one with “Papa Don’t Preach”, except for the millions of people who brought her record and the scores of critics who thought that “Papa Don’t Preach” was the very best song on “True Blue” and likened it to “Billy Jean” by Michael Jackson, which was also about an unexpected pregnancy but which suffered none of the scrutiny that came Madonna’s way. For what it is worth, if you ever find yourself visiting the Vatican, you are unable to buy any Madonna records nor publicly play her songs aloud…by decree of The Pope…..just so ya know.

Before I play the video for “Papa Don’t Preach”, it should also be noted that, for this video, Madonna drastically altered her appearance. Gone were her “Like A Virgin” lacy layered frocks and, in their place, was a close-cropped Pixie haircut, t-shirt, jeans and a leather jacket. Like David Bowie, Madonna was a stylistic chameleon, who underwent many different “costume changes” over the course of her career. For those who were worried about a spike in teen pregnancies as a result of this song…what really happened was a spike in Pixie haircuts.

In any case, here is Madonna with her big hit from the album, “True Blue” called, “Papa Don’t Preach”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Papa Don’t Preach” by madonna, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Madonna, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #286: Ray of Light by Madonna (KEXP)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #286: Ray of Light by Madonna.

The Hopi Peoples have a word, “Koyaanisqatsi” which roughly translates into English as, “Life Out of Balance”. Indigenous Peoples hold a worldview that says that balance is critically important to living a happy, healthy life, to keeping our environment thriving and, living in harmony with others. In 1982, a movie was made about this philosophy and the impact humans are having on the world. The movie was part of a trilogy of movies entitled, “Koyaanisqatsi”, “Powaqqatsi” and “Naqoyqatsi”. All three movies followed the same format; time-lapse photography was used, no dialogue uttered and original music created by Philip Glass was used to augment the cinematography.

In 1998, Madonna had just become a mother for the first time and had just received Tony and Grammy awards for her role on Broadway in the musical, “Evita”. 1998 was a time of change for her. As she surveyed the musical landscape around her, she noted that electronic or house music was increasing in popularity. So, in order to centre herself, she decided to record a new album. The album she recorded was called, “Ray of Light”. Making music brought balance back to her life. The album was heavily influenced by Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and was well-received by critics and fans, alike. One of the first releases from this album was a song on the same name as the album, “Ray of Light”. While the dance-oriented grooves of the song were a hit, it was really the unique music video which helped to raise this song up above many others. The music video for “Ray of Light” was mirrored after the movie, “Koyaanisqatsi”. There is much use of time-lapse photography and stop-motion photography. The effect is to create frentic energy and constant movement. The message of the song being an examination of meaning and purpose of one’s life, as we all seemingly get swept along the currents of the day. The song, “Ray of Light” is about balance and harmony and purpose and joy. “Ray of Light”, the song, won two Grammy awards (“Best Dance Recording” and Best Short Form Music Video”) and the video, itself, won multiple awards, including five MTV Video Awards.

“Ray of Light” is one of the last albums/songs from Madonna that became award winners. She is now 63 years old, as I wrote these words….two years away from officially being a senior citizen. But, using record sales, #1 hits and winning awards as a barometer, it can be argued that Madonna is the single-most successful female music artist of all-time and, not only that, that she belongs in the same rarified company as “The Beatles”, “Elvis Presley” and “Michael Jackson”, in terms of a career marked by artistic excellence and cultural significance. For her career, Madonna has sold over 300 million albums worldwide. She has had a string of #1 hits such as “Holiday”, “Like a Virgin”, “Material Girl”, “Into the Groove”, “Live to Tell”, “Papa Don’t Preach”, “Open Your Heart”, “La Isla Bonita”, “Who’s That Girl?”, “Like A Prayer”, “Vogue”, “Justify My Love”, “Nothing Really Matters”, “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”, “Beautiful Stranger” and “Ray of Light”. She has won acting awards for her work in “Evita” and praise for films work in “A League of Their Own”, “Desperately Seeking Susan” and “Dick Tracy”. She has written a series of children’s books and, quite quietly, has become a major philanthropic donor to causes around the world (which is financed, in part, by the 1.5 Billion dollars she has earned touring, which makes her the highest grossing solo performer ever!).

Despite her success, Madonna tends to be a polarizing figure in cultural circles. On the surface, many of the barbs aimed at her revolve around her aggressive take on sexuality, as well as, her refusal to honour an organization that she feels is undeserving of her support….the Catholic Church. If only she were more “lady-like” some folks say. If only she knew her place and was more respectful, they say. Well, Madonna has been nothing, if not, consistent in working hard to avoid placing herself at the mercy or whims of anyone else; including organizations like the Catholic Church. Madonna lost her mother when she was a child; instilling in her the fervent belief that Life was meant to be lived in the moment and that one couldn’t always trust relationships to always be there for you. This belief has manifested itself in several ways:

1- She has wanted to be as in charge and in control of her life and her career, as possible. This has meant forming personal relationships with men who could further her career (such as artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat, actor, Sean Penn and producer, Guy Ritchie, among others).

2- This has meant changing her on-stage persona to meet the Times. She has gone from her lace and torn punk outfits of her early days, to her Marilyn Monroe phase, her erotic Kink clothing phase, to her sharp-dressed “Vogue” styling and then, her “Earth-Mother” casual, natural look in “Ray of Light”. In many ways, her astute, chameleon nature reminds me of how David Bowie constantly re-invented himself in order to stay creatively fresh.

3- Madonna has always wanted to be in charge of how she interacts with the world, sexually speaking. When you get right down to it, sexual acts are political acts. Madonna has always wanted to push the narrative of what is appropriate for a woman to expect, sexually. In her world, consent is key and, beyond that, demanding satisfying sexual experiences is something all women should be able to enjoy, without fear or condemnation. For every critic who slams Madonna for being sexually provocative, I can supply them with dozens of male celebrities who are hailed as conquering heroes for their sexual “achievements”.

Madonna has achieved much success in her career; success that is well-earned. Madonna has shrewdly adapted to the cultural environment that she has found herself in. At times, she has even driven the conversation as to where the personal and professional boundaries exist for women in our society. She has lived her life on her own terms; earning her own money as a result of her own efforts, spending it according to her own wishes, squiring mating partners as she saw fit, refusing to buckle under to society’s norms when she disagreed with them. In short, she has acted, almost like a man. When I think of Madonna, I see someone who exudes power and confidence and is passionate about achieving her goals. Nothing wrong with that. If being in control is a form of bringing balance into her life then, she has achieved her dreams.

Without further delay, here is the award-winning video for “Ray of Light”, based upon the Indigenous-inspired movie, “Koyaanisqatsi”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Ray of Light”, can be found here.

The link to the trailer for the movie, “Koyaanisqatsi”, can be found here. *I am including this link so that you can compare Madonna’s video to the one from the movie.

The link to the official website for Madonna, can be found here.

The link to the official website for radio station KEXP< who helped inspire the writing of this post, can be found here.