Turning 40 today is Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone -- better known simply by her first
name -- who was born in Bay City, Mich., to an auto engineer and his wife. She was
named after her mother, who died when Madonna was six.
Madonna, who has five brothers and sisters, acted and danced as a child. After attending
college for a time in North Carolina, Madonna moved in 1978 to New York City, where
she won a scholarship to Alvin Ailey's noted dance studio. In 1980, Madonna toured in a
dance troupe headed by Patrick Hernandez, who had a worldwide disco hit with "Born to
Be Alive." After leaving Hernandez, she played drums and sang for the band the
In 1980, Madonna began the band Emmenon, and re-encountered an old Michigan
boyfriend, Steve Bray, with whom she began working on demos. One of these demos got
into the hands of a DJ at the hot Manhattan, N.Y., club Danceteria, who brought it to the
attention of Sire Records. In 1982, Madonna signed with Sire, and her first single,
"Everybody," became a hit on the dance chart. "Physical Attraction" followed suit on
dance radio and, by the end of 1983, Madonna's eponymous debut album was
ensconced in the U.S. top 10, while "Holiday" became a top 20 pop hit.
Madonna entered the top 10 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1984 with "Borderline."
That same year, she gave her superstar-making performance on the first MTV Video
Music Awards, where she performed her new single "Like a Virgin" (which topped the
U.S. charts for six weeks) in a wedding dress. The album of the same name became
Madonna's most successful release to date, selling 9 million copies and making her an
In 1985, Madonna began her first concert tour, "The Virgin Tour," with the young Beastie
Boys as her opening act. Her string of smash singles continued with "Material Girl,"
"Crazy for You" and "Angel," and she began to pursue an acting career, gaining her first
starring role in the film "Desperately Seeking Susan."
Madonna soon married actor Sean Penn and her skyrocketing success, coupled with his
angry, bad-boy behavior, made them tabloid sensations.
True Blue (1986) was another mammoth seller, spawning the smash title track
and the #1 singles "Papa Don't Preach" and "Open Your Heart." These singles also
came with popular, salacious videos that lengthened Madonna's reign as the queen of
MTV. Her reputation for constantly changing her persona and look for videos and the
media was now a central part of her public image.
The more mature pop of 1989's Like a Prayer was fairly well-received by rock
critics, many of whom had written Madonna off as a musical lightweight in the past.
Madonna backed the album with her successful "Blonde Ambition" tour. In 1990, she
had one of her biggest hits with the dance number "Vogue" and co-starred in Warren
Beatty's film version of the popular comic strip "Dick Tracy."
Never a stranger to controversy, Madonna attracted attention with the song and video
"Justify My Love" (co-written with rocker Lenny Kravitz), on which she moaned
suggestively and appeared in sexually provocative shots with male and female actors.
In 1992, Madonna continued acting in "A League Of Their Own," for which she sang the
#1 song "This Used To Be My Playground." She also continued to titillate with her racy
photo book "Sex" and the sexy, techno-inspired music from Erotica.
Over the next few years, Madonna's seemingly unstoppable ability to keep the public
interested appeared to be waning as a few singles from Bedtime Stories (1994)
failed to make the top 40. She began to shift her emphasis to acting when she got the
chance to star in the film adaptation of the Broadway smash "Evita," detailing the life of
Argentine martyr Eva Peron. In 1996, the film appeared to mixed reviews, but won
Madonna a Golden Globe Award. More importantly, that same year Madonna gave birth
to a daughter, Lourdes.
In early 1998, Madonna gave a preview of songs from the electronica-flavored Ray of
Light album to a select audience at the Roxy nightclub in Manhattan.
"It's been a long time since I performed in a club," Madonna reportedly told the crowd.
"And I've got to say -- it feels pretty f---ing good!"
When nominees for the MTV Video Music Awards were announced recently, it was clear
that Madonna's star has still not dimmed. Madonna led the list with nine nominations for
her videos "Ray of Light" and "Frozen." She is scheduled to perform on the show, which
will be aired September 10 from the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.
Other birthdays: Barbara George, 56; Gordon Fleet (Easybeats), 53; Gary Loizzo
(American Breed), 53; Barry Hay (Golden Earring), 50; James "J.T." Taylor (Kool and the
Gang), 45; Tim Farriss (INXS), 41; Chris Pedersen (Camper Van Beethoven), 38; Matt
Lukin (Mudhoney), 34; and LL Cool J, 30.