Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone (born August 16, 1958), simply known by the stage name Madonna, is a pop singer considered by many to be the queen of popular music. She has had a long career that has been marked by success and controversy.
Born Madonna Louise Ciccone in Bay City, Michigan, USA, she was raised in a large Italian American and French Canadian (both were devout Catholic) family in the Detroit suburb of Rochester. Madonna's mother died of cancer when Madonna was five years old. She took classes in piano and ballet, and was an active participant in a variety of artistic activities at school. She received a dance scholarship and attended the University of Michigan for two years but quit and moved to the Corona, Queens district of New York in 1978 to pursue dance and acting professionally. She appeared in a short film called A Certain Sacrifice and joined several punk-pop bands including Breakfast Club and Emmy. She eventually penned a number of songs that brought her local fame in gay dance clubs such as Danceteria.
Madonna scored her first recording deal in 1982 while sitting on the corner of the bed of an ailing Sire Records music executive. Her demo song, 'Ain't No Big Deal', was written by frequent Madonna collaborator Stephen Bray, and was shelved for several years since it had just been recorded and released by the Epic Records group Barracuda. Five years later, Madonna's version finally surfaced on the B-side of the 'True Blue' single, though it has never appeared on any of her albums.
Her first single 'Everybody' produced by Mark Kamins was released without her photo on the jacket. This led many listeners to believe that she was, in fact, black. Thanks to the advent of MTV, however, her label was able to aggressively market Madonna's image. A playful and sexy combination of punk and pop culture, Madonna became a quick fixture on the network. Her bleached blonde hair (with black roots), sexy lace gloves, lingerie on the outside and 'Boy Toy' belt buckle were soon all the rage in malls and schoolyards across America.
In 1983 her self-titled debut album Madonna was released, and the first hit 'Holiday' topped the charts around the world. Other hit singles included 'Borderline' and 'Lucky Star'. The album was a smash hit, and catapulted Madonna into instant stardom. Former boyfriend/producer and remixer DJ John 'Jellybean' Benitez was instrumental at this time of her career. The hit club track 'Burning Up' was remixed for release in the UK by DJ Rusty Egan (formerly of the new romantic group Visage).
In 1984 she followed her debut with Like a Virgin. The album's provocative subject matter (especially the title track) was praised by reviewers and fans. She aroused further controversy when she appeared at the MTV Video Music Awards singing 'Like A Virgin' in a combination wedding dress/bustier, writhing on the floor and revealing her underwear. The track topped the US charts for six weeks and became Madonna's signature song. The album also spawned three Top 5 hits: 'Angel' (#5), 'Dress You Up' (#5), and 'Material Girl' (#2). (The 'Material Girl' moniker would stay with her for some time.)
Madonna's rapid ascent into the firmament of pop stardom paved the way for her transition to Hollywood. In 1985 she made a brief appearance in the film Vision Quest playing a club singer. The title song of the movie, 'Crazy For You' became her second number one hit and earned her first Grammy nomination. She also played a supporting role alongside Rosanna Arquette in the hit film Desperately Seeking Susan, for which she received good reviews. Her acting generally received negative reviews for the following seven years.
On her 27th birthday (August 16, 1985) Madonna married actor Sean Penn. She appeared with him in the 1986 flop Shanghai Surprise, which was unanimously panned by critics. The couple soon earned a reputation for hostility towards the media, thanks to Penn's frequently violent outbursts against the paparazzi. Later in the year Madonna released her third hit album, True Blue. She co-produced the album with Stephen Bray and Patrick Leonard. This included the hits 'Open Your Heart' (accompanied by a video in which she played a stripper who befriends a young boy), 'True Blue' (which was the song chosen for an MTV amateur video-making contest), 'Live To Tell', 'La Isla Bonita' (accompanied by a video in which she played a Spanish woman, the first introduction to the public of her apparent fetish for Latino culture) and 'Papa Don't Preach', an anthem about keeping a baby conceived out of wedlock. The song 'Each Time You Break My Heart' which was written during the recording sessions for this album was donated to actor/model Nick Kamen to record on his debut record. It does not appear on True Blue.
Around this time, a number of black and white nude photos of Madonna surfaced. They were published in both Penthouse and Playboy magazines. The photos were taken during the early 1980s when she posed for art photographers as a way to make money. Although the photos were potentially devastating to her career, she shrugged them off (her unfazed response — 'So what?' — was immortalized on a Ciccone Youth record sleeve) and they only served to fuel her popularity.
At this point Madonna transformed her image, something that would become a trademark for years to come. She began to pale her face and highlight her beauty spot, replacing her punky bleached blonde hair with a glamorous platinum blonde look reminiscent of her hero Marilyn Monroe. This coincided with her performance in the film Who's That Girl, which was also a flop in the U.S. and a minor success in the rest of the world. Nevertheless, the soundtrack spawned three hits: the title track, 'Causing A Commotion', and 'The Look Of Love'.
In 1987 Madonna embarked on the 'Who's That Girl World Tour' and began her longtime association with backing vocalists and dancers Donna DeLory and Niki Haris. That year she also released an album of dance remixes of some of her earlier material entitled You Can Dance. It failed to sell as well as her previous efforts. She also appeared as Hortense in a film called Bloodhounds of Broadway, which was harshly dismissed by many reviewers. Critics began to peg Madonna as a thing of the past; her career seemed to be fading fast.
On September 14, 1989 she divorced husband Sean Penn, citing spousal abuse.
Like a Prayer
Then, in 1989, Madonna once again changed her image. She traded in her closely shorn platinum coif for long, curly black hair and an almost wholesome look for her album Like a Prayer. Returning once more to provocative religious imagery, the title track compared the experience of lovemaking to praying. The video for the song featured Madonna portraying an apparent streetwalker who witnesses a violent rape and murder. A black man (played by Leon) is falsely accused of the crime and is jailed. She goes into a church where a statue of St. Martin de Porres comes to life and passionately kisses her. This experience motivates her to identify the real perpetrator, and the falsely accused black man, who resembles the statue, is released. The video, which also featured burning crosses, was denounced by the Vatican for its 'blasphemous' mixture of eroticism and Catholic symbolism, and sparked such controversy that Pepsi Cola, who had paid Madonna 5 million dollars for a commercial endorsement, pulled out of their contract, though Madonna kept her fee. As the single soared to number one around the world, Madonna thanked them for the publicity.
The album produced three further American top ten hits — 'Express Yourself', 'Cherish', and 'Keep It Together' — although 'Oh Father' only made the top twenty. A single and animated music video for the track 'Dear Jessie' was released in Europe and became another top ten hit. It also featured a duet with singer Prince entitled 'Love Song'. Madonna wrote the song 'Possesive Love' with Patrick Leonard during this period, and it was later recorded by Marilyn Martin on her debut album. Martin sang backing vocals on the Madonna song 'Cherish'.
The album was critically well-received and even earned Madonna some credibility as a rock musician: 'Till Death Do Us Part' and 'Act of Contrition' both featured confessional lyrics and grungy guitar played by Madonna herself, a budding guitarist.
In 1990 she starred as Breathless Mahoney in Dick Tracy alongside Warren Beatty, whom she also briefly dated. She earned some good reviews for the role though critics pointed out that it continued her tradition of performing well when portraying characters quite similar to herself (in this case, a demanding and powerful vamp). The film's soundtrack spawned the huge hit 'Vogue', which popularized a dance trend in which people in clubs struck poses like fashion models, and the top ten single 'Hanky Panky'. She also released her first greatest hits album, The Immaculate Collection towards the end of 1990. The album was dedicated to the Pope, her 'divine inspiration'. She included fifteen of her biggest hits and two new songs, both top ten hits, 'Rescue Me' and 'Justify My Love'. The latter was co-written by singer Lenny Kravitz. The sexual content of the song, coupled with an erotically charged music video, caused MTV, who had been so instrumental in Madonna's early success, to ban it. In response, the video was sold stand-alone on videotape, the first 'video single' ever released. In spite of the controversy and the video's still-standing American TV ban, the 'Justify My Love' CD single went on to sell over a million copies (platinum) and the video single has sold over 400,000 copies, qualifying it as quadruple platinum.
Additional controversy developed when Prince protégé Ingrid Chavez claimed partial songwriting credit for the lyrics of 'Justify My Love'. The track sampled the Public Enemy instrumental 'Security Of The First World'. Madonna claimed that she was unaware of any deliberate copying and Chavez was later granted a percentage of the song's royalties. The rap community was less forgiving and responded by releasing three 'answer records' to Madonna in defense of Public Enemy producer Hank Shocklee. 'To My Donna' by Young Black Teenagers, 'Al Will Justify Your Love' by Al B. Sure! and 'Justify Satisfy' by D-Melo. The tracks failed to generate much public interest.
In 1991 Madonna starred in a hit documentary film, Truth or Dare, which chronicled her 'Blond Ambition Tour'. In it her personality and private life were explored in intimate detail: the star came across as extremely ambitious, demanding, forthright, sexy and smart. It also showed her softer side as she confronted family members and visited the grave of her mother. Truth or Dare was retitled In Bed with Madonna for its UK release. These titles were parodied by the UK TV show In Bed With Medinner and the American TV spoof Medusa: Dare To Be Truthful, which starred former MTV personality Julie Brown.
In 1992 Madonna appeared in the Penny Marshall film A League of Their Own which revolved around a women's baseball team. Her performance was heralded by critics as an impressive return to the form she'd hinted at in Desperately Seeking Susan, though her character, 'All-The-Way Mae', a libidinous vamp, again seemed to play directly off Madonna's real life. She wrote and performed the movie's theme song, 'This Used To Be My Playground'. Its music video featured movie clips, and the song became a huge AC hit and Madonna's tenth Hot 100 number one single.
Sex and Erotica
1992 also saw the release of her erotic book, Sex. Adult in nature, it featured Madonna as the centerpiece of photographs depicting various sexual fantasies and acts (including lesbianism, anal sex and sadomasochism). The book was bound in sheet metal and mylar, and came with a CD single of the song 'Erotic' (a remix of her new single 'Erotica' with different lyrics), which was packaged to look like a giant condom.
She released her next album, Erotica, in the same year. She co-wrote and produced this record mostly with the legendary Shep Pettibone. Almost a companion piece to the book, it featured bold sexual anthems that made no attempt to disguise their star's appetite for erotic fantasy and role-playing. The album spawned a number of top ten hits, including 'Erotica' (which became the highest-debuting (#2) single in the history of the Hot 100 Airplay Chart) and 'Deeper And Deeper'. Outside of America 'Fever' and 'Bye Bye Baby' were also hits, while domestically 'Rain' and 'Bad Girl' went on to achieve modest chart success.
The music videos from Erotica were groundbreaking in a number of ways. Two different treatments of the title video were released: an 'uncut' European version which featured graphic nudity and overt depiction of sexual acts, and a censored American version, which contained more suggestive, rapidly changing images, edited in such a way that the most risqué scenes were obscured or omitted. Despite this, even the expurgated version of the video was deemed too raunchy for America in 1992. Though the song was a huge hit, the video only aired a total of three times on MTV, always after midnight, and always preceded by a warning (issued by Kurt Loder) that viewers should change the channel if S&M and homosexuality were not to their taste.
At present, the censored version of the 'Erotica' video has been unbanned by MTV and VH1, and has been aired in its entirety several times on VH1 and MTV2 within the past 5 or 6 years, not always late at night or early in the morning. Indeed, since 2000, MTV2 has broadcast the video several times in the middle of the afternoon, during Madonna-related special programming, as occurred around the time of the 2003 release of her American Life album.
The 'Rain' video, one of the first directed by Mark Romanek, was notable for its frame-by-frame colorization of black and white stock, a painstaking process which lent it a highly stylized appearance. The 'Fever' video, one of Stephane Sednaoui's first, was also well-received, and the video for 'Bad Girl', which featured Christopher Walken as an angel, told a disturbing tale of a woman whose lifestyle leads to her murder.
Reviews of the book and album were, for the most part, unsympathetic, with many critics lambasting the 'aging' provocatrice for her 'tasteless' use of sexuality to 'shift units'. Nevertheless, despite the press brickbats, the book became an instant bestseller and the album went on to sell more than five million copies worldwide (less than previous albums, but still a huge hit by anyone else's standards).
The Madonna 'industry' appeared to go into overdrive in 1993 when she appeared in a number of film roles. Body of Evidence was regarded by many commentators as an exercise in soft-core pornography, with Madonna portraying a woman accused of killing her lover by means of sexual intercourse. The film contained copious nudity and graphic sex scenes. Dangerous Game was similar in plot and content. Madonna would later comment that this entire period of her life was designed to give the world every single morsel of what they seemed to be demanding in their invasion of her private life. She hoped that once it was all out in the open, people could settle down and focus on her work.
1993 also saw single release of the obscure single 'Get Over' by actor/model Nick Scotti which was written by Madonna and Stephen Bray. It was used in the 1992 Sountrack for the film Nothing But Trouble. It was a minor US dance hit and was produced by Madonna and Shep Pettibone. She also made a prominent appearance on the backing vocals.
In 1994 Madonna released Bedtime Stories. The album, which took her back to her R&B roots, found her in sultry voice as she tackled a number of topics which extended far beyond the subject matter of her early songs. The top ten hit 'Secret' told the story of a heterosexual man in love with a transsexual, while 'Human Nature' — which included lines such as: 'I'm not sorry / I'm not your bitch' and 'Did I say something wrong? Oops, I didn't know I couldn't talk about sex' — appeared to be directed at the media and critics who had questioned her decisions in recent years. Other top ten hits included 'Bedtime Story', penned by singer Björk, and 'Take a Bow', penned by singer Babyface, who also sang vocals. 'Take a Bow' topped the Billboard Hot 100 for 7 consecutive weeks, breaking her previous record of 6 weeks with 'Like a Virgin'. The album was nominated for a Grammy in the same year, and Madonna sang 'Take a Bow' at the American Music Awards. The success of the album belied its uncertain origins. It spawned several Unreleased Madonna Songs co-written with Shep Pettibone in 1994 that were shelved as Madonna changed creative gears. One throwaway song entitled 'Love Won't Wait' was later sent to Gary Barlow to record. He took his version of the song to #1 in the UK in 1997, earning Madonna yet another co-writing credit on a number one hit.
At the time it was made in 1995, 'Bedtime Story', which cost over $2 million, was the most expensive music video in history. Madonna only held this record for a few months, however, as Michael Jackson's 'Scream' video — which cost $7 million and still holds the record to this day — broke it later that year.
Despite the apparent 'maturity' of Bedtime Stories, Madonna seemed in no rush to put her reputation for controversy behind her. In March 1994 she made an appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman in which she repeatedly uttered profanities, saying the word 'fuck' 13 times.
In an attempt to improve her acting credentials, Madonna opted over the next few years to take small roles in independent films. She appeared as a singing telegram girl in Blue in the Face (1995) and as a witch in Four Rooms (1995). She also appeared as a phone sex company owner in Spike Lee's flop Girl 6 in 1996.
In this period the world also saw her very public falling out with former DJ pal and remixer/producer Junior Vasquez due to the release of his huge club hit 'If Madonna Calls'. She did not approve.
In a further attempt to soften her image, Madonna released a second greatest hits album in 1996, this time collecting a number of ballads under the title Something to Remember. She began to wear fashionable designer dresses and softened her (by now medium length) hair to honey blonde. This may have helped her to secure the coveted role of Eva Perón in the 1996 film Evita. The film marked the first time Madonna was heralded as an actress in a leading role. She delivered a Golden Globe winning performance and was critically praised; nevertheless, her detractors still managed to point out the similarities between the character (a former actress and fame-hungry politician's wife) and Madonna's own life.
The Evita soundtrack would go on to become Madonna's twelfth platinum album, thanks to the singles 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina' and 'You Must Love Me', the latter receiving an Oscar nomination for best original song in a movie. While 'You Must Love Me' was a moderate hit on radio and MTV, it was actually a dance remix of 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina' that cemented the soundtrack's mainstream pop success. The remix became a worldwide top ten hit in early 1997, and helped 'Argentina' to peak at #8 on the Hot 100.
The 3rd single 'Another Suitcase in Another Hall' became a European top ten hit. The announced 4th single 'Buenos Aires' was only released as a promo.
Ray of Light
In 1998 Madonna reinvented herself yet again. During 1996 and 1998 she began studying mystical Judaism and The Kabbalah. She took Yoga lessons and pursued a vigorous exercise regime that brought her body to a peak of toned fitness. She became pregnant by her then lover, personal trainer Carlos Leon, and gave birth to her daughter, Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon, on October 14, 1996. In 1998 she released Ray of Light, an album co-produced by European techno music performer William Orbit, and co-written by Orbit, Patrick Leonard and Rick Nowels. Her first critically-acclaimed recording since 'Like a Prayer', the album became her biggest hit in nearly ten years, selling over 15 million copies. It spawned the top ten singles 'Frozen', 'Ray of Light', 'Drowned World / Substitute For Love', 'Nothing Really Matters' (accompanied by a video in which she portrayed a cross between a clubber and a geisha girl), and 'The Power of Goodbye'.
Her vocals were notably stronger, likely an after effect of the vocal training she received for 'Evita'. The lyrics were some of Madonna's most introspective. 'Mer Girl' dealt with motherhood from the perspective of a woman who had lost her own mother as a child; 'Little Star' was a paean to the wise choices her own daughter would make in the future; 'Swim' addressed the topic of violence in popular culture. Still, critics were quick to note that Madonna was doing only what she knew best: taking things from the cultures around her (in this case, techno, Eastern mysticism and alternative rock) and refining them for mass consumption. Madonna received her first Grammy award in her 15 year career for Ray of Light.
After endlessly promoting Ray of Light, Madonna focused next on her pet project, a film called The Next Best Thing. Co-starring her friend, the openly gay actor Rupert Everett, the film told the story of a heterosexual woman and her gay best friend. After a drunken night of sex they discover that she is pregnant, and decide to raise the child together, but outside romances intervene to cause conflict and estrangement. Critics praised the first half of the film, but panned the second half in which it assumed the trappings of a courtroom drama. The soundtrack spawned the worldwide (excluding the US, where it was not commercially released) number one hit 'American Pie', a dance cover version of the Don McLean classic. The film itself, released in 2000, was a flop. Madonna contributed the top ten hit 'Beautiful Stranger' to the soundtrack of the Austin Powers: the Spy Who Shagged Me film in the same year.
In 2000 Madonna released the album Music. A bona fide commercial and critical hit, it saw Madonna abandon her earlier sexual and religious themes for throwaway lyrics and the 'party' spirit of dance, pop and techno. Music was produced partly by Orbit and partly by French techno musician Mirwais Ahmadzai. It spawned her 12th number one single 'Music', plus the hits 'Don't Tell Me' and 'What It Feels Like For A Girl'. The latter was accompanied by a striking music video directed by Madonna's then boyfriend, film director Guy Ritchie. In it Madonna robs an Automatic Teller Machine, runs over several innocent bystanders, blows up a gas station and eventually commits suicide by driving into a lamppost. The video was meant to showcase the fact that when men in film commit violent acts it is accepted, but when women do it just as mercilessly, it is shunned. Her point was arguably confirmed when the video was banned by MTV. Music was notable for another revamping of Madonna's image, this time as a cross between a disco-loving party girl and a rustic cowgirl. It started yet another fashion trend, with pink cowboy hats adorned by tiaras cropping up on high streets and catwalks around the world.
On 22 December 2000 Madonna married director Guy Ritchie at Skibo Castle in Scotland. She released her second Greatest Hits album, GHV2, in 2001; unlike her previous greatest hits compilation, GHV2 featured a selection of her hits from the 1992–2001 period, but did not contain any new songs. Without a single to promote the album, Madonna decided to release a single and video entitled the 'Thunderpuss GHV2 Megamix'. While the medley earned relatively subdued radio coverage, the innovative video was a modest success on MTV, MTV2, and VH1. In June 2001, she appeared in Star, a short film directed for BMW by Guy Ritchie, and then began working on a remake of the classic film Swept Away, the story of a wealthy socialite who, after a shipwreck, is trapped on a deserted island with a poor male servant. The film, released in 2002, was critically panned and went on to become yet another in a string of acting flops.
Die Another Day
In 2002 Madonna continued to make music ('Die Another Day' for the James Bond film of the same name, in which she had a cameo as Verity, a fencing instructor), and to act. Incidentally, Madonna seemed to have settled into the role of an Earth Warrior/Mother (she gave birth to her second child, a son — Rocco — in the same year), spiritualist and elder 'stateswoman' of pop. Apparently content with her second marriage, her career, although only a shadow of what it was in the mid 1980s, continued to keep her in the limelight.
Her artistic reputation appeared to take a turn for the worse, however, when the critical drubbing she received for Swept Away was followed by an equally brutal critical reception for her 2003 album American Life. American critics described the album as 'tired', monotonous, and an indication that she was 'in need of a vacation' from the stress of her career. In yet another move that followed her pattern of creating 'controversy' in the wake of an album's release, she filmed a music video for 'American Life', which included a scene of her tossing a hand grenade into the lap of a President George W. Bush lookalike. Perhaps mindful of the protests and boycotts that had greeted the Dixie Chicks after they made some anti-war comments, the video was revoked, presumably at Madonna's request, on the day it premiered (it was aired for only a few hours) and was later replaced by a more 'neutral' treatment.
Shortly after this incident, the online world was surprised and amused when marketers and promoters of her album attempted to disrupt the Internet file sharing networks by uploading a large number of 'junk' musical files bearing her name. Instead of downloading an actual Madonna song, seekers of online music instead found themselves downloading a file of Madonna saying, 'What the fuck do you think you're doing?'. The Madonna Remix Project took this file and added music to mock Madonna's attempt to 'inspire guilt' in peer-to-peer users. 1 (http://www.irixx.org/madonna/madonnaremix.html)
The album was a huge success outside the U.S. where the subsequent singles 'Hollywood' and 'Love Profusion' continued to place Madonna on the charts. Madonna tried to warm up American radio to the collection with a promotional campaign with rapper Missy Elliott sponsored by The GAP retail clothing chain using the tune 'Into The Hollywood Groove'. 'Love Profusion' was also used in commercials by Estée Lauder. Neither promotion however was able to revive the album in the States.
Famous for her appearances at the MTV Video Music Awards, in 2003 Madonna provoked the public once again by portraying a groom and kissing her 'brides' Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera on stage. The gender role-reversal and lesbian theme instantly made front page headlines. The three singers performed a medley of her early hit 'Like A Virgin' and her latest release 'Hollywood' with a guest rap by Missy Elliott. The design resembled Madonna's performance of 'Like A Virgin' at the 1984 VMA's: the same wedding cake set, wedding dresses and 'Boy Toy' belt worn by Madonna in 1984 now adorned Aguilera and Spears, who many — not least the pop 'princesses' themselves — believe to be the heirs and beneficiaries of Madonna's pop legacy.
Madonna currently resides primarily in England - with a $6.8 million home in Marylebone and a $13 million mansion (Ashcombe) in Wiltshire. Despite spending markedly less time within the United States, Madonna publicly endorsed Wesley Clark for the United States Democratic Party 2004 presidential nomination in December 2003.
In 2004, Madonna embarked on her 'Re-Invention World Tour', during which she played 56 dates across the United States, Canada, and Europe. The tour explored social, political and religious themes, and included images of yoga, sacred geometry, tarot cards and astrology, as well as Judeo-Christian iconography such as the tree of life.The tour became the highest earning tour of the year 2004, grossing 125 million dollars according to Billboard. Once again proving Madonna was still present and at the top. The tour ended with the Palestinian and Israeli flags side by side. Many believe that Madonna's next passion is protecting the children of Israel and Palestine from continuous fighting. Her musical horizons also expanded as she added a cover version of the John Lennon favorite 'Imagine' to her live repertoire. Madonna met Fahrenheit 9/11 filmmaker Michael Moore backstage for a photo opportunity during the tour and openly embraced political commentary in her act, which included a scathing indictment of George W. Bush and the 2003 Iraq war.Also, in 2004 Madonna became one of the five founding members of the UK Music Hall of Fame, joining Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Bob Marley, and U2 as automatic inductees.
After a brief battle with Warner Brothers Music (with whom she shared her record label Maverick at a percentage of 40/60 respectively), Madonna sold her shares in the label and announced that she is no longer involved in its dealings.
In the same month, Madonna announced that she had adopted the name Esther, a tribute to the ancient Persian Queen who helped the Jewish people. In an interview with ABC, she said: 'This is in no way a negation of who my mother is. In a metaphysical world, I wanted to attach myself to a different name.'
This decision and much of the artistic imagery used in her recent work have been driven by Madonna's intense study of Kabbalah at the controversial Kabbalah Centre, and her abandonment of Catholicism. The faith is popular among a number of other celebrities, some of whom were introduced to it by Madonna herself. Devotees include Elizabeth Taylor, Britney Spears, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Winona Ryder, Roseanne Barr, Jerry Hall, Jeff Goldblum, Courtney Love and Paris Hilton.
In recent years, Madonna has become a very successful author. On September 15, 2003, she released her first (of five) children's books, The English Roses, and it instantly became the biggest and fastest selling book ever by a first-time children's author. The book debuted at #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers List for children's picture books, and also received the widest launch in publication history as it was released in over 100 counties on the same day; it also debuted in 30 languages. It is now available in 40 languages and in more than 110 countries world wide.
Her series of books may very well mark the existence for the first time of kabbalist children's books. All of the books strive to teach lessons the author has learned in her study of this branch of Jewish mysticism. For example, in 'The English Roses', her lead character's name, Binah (who is loosely modelled on her daughter), comes from the word Kabbalists use for 'Understanding'.
Madonna's subsequent releases, Mr. Peabody's Apples and Yakov and the Seven Thieves, were both released within a year of The English Roses and also debuted at #1 on the New York Times list and became international best sellers. Combined, Madonna's first three children's books have sold over 1.5 million copies world wide. Callaway Arts & Entertainment is currently releasing Madonna's next book, The Adventures of Abdi, and her latest book, Lotsa de Casha, is scheduled for release in April 2005. Also an adaptation for the big screen of her book 'The English Roses' is scheduled for release in 2006.
In December 26, 2004 after a tsunami wave hit India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh among other countries NBC organized an aid concert called, Tsunami Aid: A Concert Of Hope where big celebrities such as Madonna, Diana Ross, Maroon 5, and Elton John among others donated their voices for this effort. It was televised January 15, 2005 and Madonna sang a cover of John Lennon's song Imagine. In February, writers and producers of the song 'Holiday' sued singer Mary J. Blige, Eve and producer/singer Dr. Dre citing copyright laws infringment. Apparently the song 'Not Today', which was part of the soundtrack for the movie Barbershop 2 closely resembles Madonna's 1983 classic hit Holiday. Madonna did not sue, as it is widely thought. Those who sued where the producers and writers of the song.
During Thanksgiving of the year 2004 Madonna had a photoshot with Mario Testino for her upcoming Versace campaing in the year 2005. To date, 6 pictures of the photo shot have glanced various fashion magazines around the world. And the campaing still goes on.
Some projects long awaited by fans for the year 2005 are her Re-Invention Tour Documentary, the Re-Invention Tour on DVD and a possible new album in the spring or fall of the same year. Madonna is also recording her voice for the animated film 'Arthur' with an aprox. $80 million budget where she lends her voice to the princess Seleina.
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