The queen of pop turns 65 on August 16th, but it is hard to imagine Madonna hitting the age normally associated with retirement and slowing down, because she simply has not stopped lighting up the airwaves and the stage for more than four decades. The music icon is as busy and successful now as she ever was, and we take a look back at how her career has unfolded since her first hit in 1983.
It might be 40 years since ‘Holiday’ entered the US Billboard Hot 100 and scored Madonna her first top 10 hit song in various countries around the world, but she is showing no signs of easing into a slower pace of life and continues to set a high watermark for aspiring singers, artists and performers the world over.
While most 65-year-olds might find the idea of playing a single concert seriously daunting, Madonna’s ‘Celebration Tour’ will commence in October. It will take the pop legend around Europe for two months before she plays a string of dates in North America throughout December and January.
The tour is Madonna’s 12th but it will be the first in which she will perform her greatest hits, much to the delight of fans who have followed her career since those first TV appearances in the early 1980s.
If that was not enough, a Madonna biopic – directed by the singer herself – is rumoured to be in the making, with Madonna sharing a series of photos of herself with Julia Garner on her Instagram stories in May 2023. The photos revived fans hopes of the film being completed, following reports earlier in the year that it was no longer in development.
So, while most Americans turning 65 would be looking towards retirement (the full benefit age is 66 years and 2 months in the USA), Madonna is doing pretty much the opposite, and to celebrate her continued success we are taking a look back at her prolific career.
1982-86: A star on the rise
Madonna Louise Ciccone first began to grab the attention of pop music fans in 1982, when her debut single ‘Everybody’ was released in October of that year. She had previously performed in a dance troupe and then in a band called The Breakfast Club, but her solo work caught the attention of DJs around New York and punters at venues like Danceteria where she performed live.
She followed up with second single ‘Burning Up’, which paved the way for hit single ‘Holiday’ to enter the US Billboard Hot 100, and Madonna then scored top-10 hits with ‘Borderline’ and ‘Lucky Star’.
The upbeat, uplifting, highly danceable nature of Madonna’s singles brought her early success and she released her debut album, ‘Madonna’, in 1983.
Two years into her solo career, Madonna released her second album ‘Like A Virgin’, which propelled her to true pop stardom as singles like ‘Material Girl’ proved her to be a master of the art of the pop song, while her wardrobe choices tore up the style book and led a new wave of 1980s fashion trends.
Madonna showed she was different from other pop stars by cultivating a sound and an image that evolved to keep her ahead of the curve, making sure her ever-growing legion of fans always was kept guessing at every turn.
Her third album ‘True Blue’ delivered another armful of hits, with songs like ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ and ‘La Isla Bonita’ demonstrating her range as a songwriter, and the record topped the charts in 28 countries and became the all-time bestselling album by a female artist.
While also beginning to act in movies, Madonna embarked on the ‘Who’s That Girl’ world tour in June 1987, breaking concert attendance records as fans flocked to her shows to see a global star at the very peak of her powers.
The following year, Madonna starred in a Broadway production of Speed-the-Plow, wowing the critics with her ability to transition between the worlds of pop megastardom and theatre acting with ease.
The best, however, was still to come as Madonna stunned the world in 1989 with the release of her fourth album ‘Like A Prayer’, breaking new ground by blending her trademark catchy pop sensibilities with controversial themes and messages. The album sold more than 15 million copies worldwide and established Madonna as a true artist even in the eyes of those who were not fans of her music.
1990-95: ‘Vogue’ grips the world
Madonna’s acting career hit new heights when she starred in the hit film Dick Tracy, which went to number one in the US box office for two weeks. She released a soundtrack album to accompany the film, called ‘I’m Breathless’, featuring the track ‘Vogue’, which is now one of her most famous songs after it helped to introduce a new style of dance to mainstream audiences everywhere.
Madonna also embarked on the ‘Blond Ambition’ world tour in 1990 and sparked varied reactions with her groundbreaking choreography and highly charged and often-provocative performances of songs from Like A Prayer and the rest of her back catalogue.
She collected her first Grammy award for the live recording of the tour, and later in the year released her first greatest hits compilation, ‘The Immaculate Collection’, which sold more than 30 million copies globally.
Success for Madonna continued throughout the early 1990s, with ‘This Used To Be My Playground’ earning her a 10th number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 – the most by any female artist at that time in 1992 – and a fifth studio album, ‘Erotica’, followed in October that year.
In 1993 she toured the world with ‘The Girlie Show’, but after her stage performances and television appearances became more and more sexually explicit, a change of direction lay ahead.
Her sixth album, ‘Bedtime Stories’, saw Madonna soften her image and her musical aesthetic, and she was rewarded with two top five hits in the US, with the single ‘Take a Bow’ topping the singles chart for seven weeks – the longest period at the top for any Madonna single.
1996 – now: a cultural icon
Since the mid-1990s, Madonna has been one of the most famous people on the planet.
Her role in the 1996 Eva Peron film Evita cemented her status as a movie actress of the highest calibre as she won a Golden Globe award for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy, and she never stopped pushing the boundaries of pop with her musical releases.
Albums like ‘Ray of Light’ (1998) and ‘Music’ (2000) ensured Madonna stayed on the airwaves throughout the turn of the century and in 2006 she proved she had lost none of her live capabilities on the ‘Confessions’ tour, which was critically acclaimed for its spectacular sound and choreography.
Successful albums continued to flow throughout the years that followed, and Madonna was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.
As she turns 65, she can look back upon a career that has seen her sell more than 300 million records worldwide, making her one of the best-selling musical artists ever to have lived.
No other solo artist has had more than Madonna’s 38 top 10 singles on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, and her ability to reinvent her sound and her style throughout the decades has earned her several Grammy awards.
However, just because she is turning 65, don’t expect her to stop.