Like a Prayer — Madonna, April 22, 1989

Sire 25844

Producers: Madonna, Patrick Leonard, Stephen Bray, and Prince

Track listing: Like a Prayer / Express Yourself / Love Song / Till Death Do Us Part / Promise to Try / Cherish / Dear Jessie / Oh Father / Keep It Together / Spanish Eyes / Act of Contrition


April 22, 1989

6 weeks

Things were decidedly different for Madonna when the singer went to work on her fourth full-length album in early 1988. For one, her marriage to actor Sean Penn had begun to sour. Also, having already dabbled in such films as Desperately Seeking Susan, Shanghai Surprise, and Who’s That Girl, Madonna decided it was time to take a stab at Broadway with a role in Speed-the -Plow. Meanwhile, on the recording front, Madonna and producer, Patrick Leonard agreed it was time to abandon the small home studios used for True Blue in favor of Leonard’s Johnny Yuma Recording in Burbank, California.

“It was a real coming-of-age record for me emotionally,” says Madonna. “I was at the end of my marriage and I was working with Pat, who was also in a very dark state of mind, and we worked in a very isolated place n the Valley. I was very lonely when I was working on the record. I had to do a lot of soul-searching and I think it is a reflection of that.”

Perhaps the most telling song on the album is “Till Death Do Us Part,” a track originally

titled “State of Matrimony,” which can be taken as an autobiographical account of Madonna’s ill-fated marriage to Penn.

Despite the troubles that were brew­ing in Madonna’s personal life, several of the songs on the album came togeth­er very quickly. “I would start working on the music and then Madonna would come in the afternoon and work on some lyrics, then we would do a vocal and that was usually the vocal we kept,” says Leonard. “In the first week, we wrote ‘Cherish,’ ‘Like a Prayer,’ ‘Spanish Eyes.’ ” The track “O Father” was written in New York, while Madonna was working on Speed the Plow, Leonard says.

Madonna also had her mother on her mind when she was working on Like a Prayer. “This album is dedicated to my mother, who taught me how to pray,” Madonna wrote in the liner notes. The singer’s mother, also named Madonna, died of cancer. Madonna was six at the time. “‘Like a Prayer’ is a very important song to me,” she says. “I felt the impact that it was going to make. That song means a lot more to me than ‘Like a Vir­gin.’ I wrote it and it’s from my heart. It’s a very spiritual song. I think I was much more spiritually in touch with the power of words and music by the time I was recording that album.”

Another emotionally charged cut on the album is “Oh Father.” Says Madon­na, “it was like the second half of ‘Live to Tell,’ in a way. It was a combo pack­age—it was about my father and my husband. I was dealing with male authority figures once again. That is a great source of inspiration to my writ­ing.”

To give various songs the appropri­ate atmosphere, Madonna turned to a number of outside sources. On “Like a Prayer,” for example, the singing of the Andre Crouch Choir added an authentic hymn-like feel to the song, while “Love Song” is a collaboration between Madonna and Prince, record­ed at the latter’s Paisley Park Studios. “We were friends and talked about working together, so I went to Minneapolis to write some stuff with him, but the only thing I real­ly dug was ‘Love Song,’ ” Madonna says. “We ended up writing it long-distance, because I had to be in L.A. and he couldn’t leave Minneapolis, and quite frankly I couldn’t stand Minneapo­lis. When I went there, it was like 20 degrees below zero, and it was really desolate. I was miser­able and I couldn’t write or work under those circumstances.”

In all, Leonard says Like a Prayer is a better record than True Blue. “It is much more musician-oriented and much more live,” he says. The musicianship, however, took a back seat to controversy. The video clip for “Like a Prayer,” which crossed an interracial love story with religious imagery, raised the ire of fundamentalist groups and led Pepsi-Cola to yank a TV commercial featuring the song from the air. But Madon­na had the last laugh, pocketing the money from the commercial and benefitting from the publicity, as the single went on to top the Hot 100. The same week Like a Prayer hit the summit in its third week on the chart, making it Madonna’s fastest-climbing album to date.

The Top Five

Week of April 22, 1989

1. Like a Prayer, Madonna

2. Loc-ed After Dark, Tone Loc

3. Electric Youth, Debbie Gibson

4. Don’t Be Cruel, Bobby Brown

5. The Raw & the Cooked, Fine Young Cannibals

Like a Prayer — Madonna, April 22, 1989


Sire 25844


Producers: Madonna, Patrick Leonard, Stephen Bray, and Prince