Madonna Ciccone Ritchie, (born Madonna Louise Ciccone; Veronica is her chosen confirmation name; on August 16, 1958 in Bay City, Michigan) is a famous United States pop singer, actress, composer and producer.
Madonna is widely regarded as the Queen of Pop music. According to Guinness Book of World Records she is the most successful female recording artist in the World. Her popularity and importance to pop culture is on the same level as acts such as The Beatles and Elvis Presley. Just as with those artists, Madonna's influence can be seen in countless performers today.
Madonna is quoted to have saying "I do not like Material Girl for the only reason that the nickname has stuck with me since. I do know that I will never come out with anything as big as that or Like a Virgin, but now I just make music for the fun of it."
As of December 2005, Madonna had 11 multi-platinum albums certified by the RIAA (US), which, in all, had certified her for shipments of 64 million units in USA. In a 2005 statement, her record label, Warner Bros., said she had sold more than 200 million albums and more than 75 millions singles worldwide.. Madonna's highest-selling albums are 1984's Like a Virgin and 1990's The Immaculate Collection.
Madonna currently resides in Wiltshire, England with her husband, film director Guy Ritchie, her daughter, Lourdes (b. Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon, 14 October 1996) and their son, Rocco (b. Rocco John Ritchie, 11 August 2000).
Childhood & beginning
Madonna was born to an Italian-American Chrysler engineer, Silvio "Tony" P. Ciccone, and Madonna Louise Fortin (from a French Canadian family in Bay City, Michigan) and identifies herself as an Italian American. She was raised in a Catholic family of twelve children in the Detroit suburbs of Pontiac and Rochester Hills.
Her mother died at the age of thirty, of breast cancer, on December 1 1963, when Madonna was only five. The singer has frequently discussed the enormous impact her mother's death had on her life and career. Following his wife's death, Silvio brought in a housekeeper, Joan Gustafson. He later married her and had two children.
Silvio required all of his children to take music lessons. After a few months of piano lessons, Madonna convinced her father to allow her to take ballet classes instead, and she proved to be a gifted dancer.
Madonna attended James Madison Memorial High School, where she was a straight-A student and excelled at sports. She was a member of the cheerleading squad, honing her dance skill. After graduating from high school in 1976, Madonna received a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan. At the encouragement of her ballet teacher, Christopher Flynn, Madonna left college at the end of her second year and moved to New York City to pursue a dance career. She studied with modern dance legend Martha Graham, as well as a Graham disciple, Pearl Lang. Madonna later performed with several modern dance companies, including Alvin Ailey and the Walter Nicks dancers.
After performing as a dancer for French disco star Patrick Hernandez on his 1979 world tour, Madonna abandoned her fledgeling dance career to pursue music. She formed several bands, including "Breakfast Club" and "Emmy". She also wrote a number of songs that brought her local fame in New York dance clubs, particularly Danceteria. It was in the band Emmy that Madonna found herself at the legendary underground NYC club called Max's Kansas City. http://www.maxskansascity.com: it was there that she saw and adopted the sexual stance of Andy Warhol's superstar Cherry Vanilla, who served as a blueprint role model for Madonna's 80s antics. http://www.cherry-vanilla.com
The first album
In 1982 the singer inked a deal with Sire Records. Her demo song, "Ain't No Big Deal", was written by her frequent collaborator, Stephen Bray, but was shelved for several years because it had recently been recorded and released by the group Barracuda.
Madonna's first single was "Everybody", produced by Mark Kamins, which peaked at #3 on the Billboard Dance chart. It gained heavy rotation on R&B radio stations, leading many to assume that Madonna was an African American artist. When "Everybody" was released as a single, Madonna's picture did not appear on the single cover sleeve, because Sire did not want to risk losing the black audience (Madonna's core audience at that point) by advertising that Madonna was white. "Burning Up", Madonna's second single like "Everybody" failed to break into the Billboard Hot 100, but this time "Burning Up" even failed to chart in the Bubbling Under chart. The song did manage to peak at number 3 on the Billboard Hot Dance/Club Play Chart, staying on the chart for 16 weeks.
In 1983, her self-titled first album, Madonna, was released, and its first single, "Holiday", was Madonna's first top 20 hit single in several countries. Other hits on Madonna included "Borderline" and "Lucky Star". The album was produced by Reggie Lucas and with contributions from John 'Jellybean' Benitez, with whom Madonna had had a brief romance. Although the album sold only moderately at first, thanks to heavy rotation on a brand new cable channel called MTV, Madonna gained nationwide exposure and the album peaked at number eight on the Billboard chart, and went platinum five times.
MTV aggressively marketed Madonna's image as a playful and sexy combination of punk and pop culture, and she soon became a fixture on the network. Her bleached blonde hair (with brown roots), sexy lace gloves, lingerie on the outside and "Boy Toy" belt buckle became popular in malls and schoolyards across America. In many ways, she defined pop fashion of the era.
Like a Virgin
In 1984 Madonna released Like a Virgin. The album, produced by the legendary Nile Rodgers, had a distinctive soul and funk flavor, with hard, loud drums and plenty of bass guitar, yet remained pop-friendly and accessible. The title track has been a worldwide hit and topped the U.S. charts for six weeks.
Madonna's performance at the First Annual MTV Video Music Awards in 1984 at the age of 26 is considered to be the first controversial incident since then in a career that would see many more. She took the stage to sing "Like a Virgin" wearing a combination bustier/wedding gown, which included her trademark "Boy Toy" belt. During the performance, she rolled around on the floor, revealing lacy stockings and garters, and made a number of sexually suggestive moves. While such a performance would probably not raise eyebrows today, it was shocking to a mid-1980s audience. However, Madonna seemed to thrive on the controversy, and it only served to increase her popularity. The record spawned three other hits, all of which went to Billboard's Top Five.
Like a Virgin was the first time Madonna used what became a continuing career strategy: a change of image. Where Madonna had been mostly synthesizers and dance beats, featuring a "street urchin" version of the singer, the image projected in Like a Virgin was lacy and sensual, with Madonna portraying Lolita-like sexual decadence.
In 1985, she made a brief appearance in the film Vision Quest playing a club singer, with the song she performed, "Crazy for You", becoming her second number-one hit. It garnered her the first of many Grammy nominations, and the song's video, combining clips from the movie with Madonna singing, was in heavy rotation on MTV for months. Later that same year, she received commercial and critical success for her starring role in Susan Seidelman's film Desperately Seeking Susan.
This era of Madonna's career also saw the advent of the "Madonna Wannabe". Across America, teenage girls went to great lengths to emulate their idol, dressing in spandex, miniskirts, torn t-shirts, and lacy bras, with armfuls of black rubber bangles, teased, bow-tied hair and a stressed mole above the lip. Madonna has remarked in interviews that it was startling to see girls dressing like her all over the country, because her "look" was based mainly on recycled streetwear during her lean years, using old hosiery to tie up her hair and cutting up old shirts.
Also in 1985, Madonna launched her first full-scale live performance tour, called "The Virgin Tour". Every stop on the tour sold out; tickets for the opening night performance in Seattle were gone in thirty-three minutes.
Around this time, a number of black and white nude photos of Madonna surfaced, published in both Penthouse and Playboy magazines. The photos were taken during the late 1970s, when she posed for art photographers in New York City as a way to make money.
1985 proved to be a pivotal year both professionally and personally for Madonna. Along with enjoying the commercial success of the Like a Virgin album and tour and her film appearances, she also met and fell in love with actor Sean Penn. On her twenty-seventh birthday, August 16 1985, Penn and Madonna were married in an outdoor ceremony in Malibu, California. They divorced four years later due to Sean's abusive nature and Madonna's self proclaimed self absorption.
In 1986, Madonna released her third album, True Blue. The album marked the first time in American music history for a female to enter the Billboard chart at Number 1. The album was co-produced by Patrick Leonard and Madonna's longtime friend Stephen Bray. It included the hits, "Open Your Heart", "True Blue", "Live to Tell", "La Isla Bonita", and "Papa Don't Preach". True Blue was described by Rolling Stone as her "blue collar album", while other critics felt the songs were reminiscent of the 1950s.
One of the hit songs, "Papa Don't Preach", caused some cultural debate and controversy. In the song, a girl is confessing to her father that she is pregnant. Madonna portrayed a variety of characters in the music videos that accompanied the True Blue album. In the video for "Open Your Heart", Madonna played a stripper who befriends a young boy. In "La Isla Bonita", she played a Spanish woman, which was one of the first indications of Madonna's fondness for the Hispanic culture.
Madonna appeared with husband, Sean Penn, in the 1986 film 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. The paparazzi often referred to the couple as the "Poison Penns".
In 1987 Madonna starred in the film Who's That Girl, which was a minor worldwide success but flopped in the U.S.. Nevertheless, the soundtrack spawned three hits: the title track, "Causing a Commotion", and "The Look of Love". She also appeared as Hortense in a film called Bloodhounds of Broadway, which was harshly dismissed by many reviewers.
Madonna embarked on the "Who's That Girl World Tour", beginning her long association with backing vocalists and dancers Donna DeLory and Niki Haris. The tour marked her first run-in with the Vatican; the Pope urged fans not to attend her performances in Italy. The fans were not affected, however, and the tour went on as scheduled. That year she also released a successful remix album entitled You Can Dance.
Like a Prayer
In 1989, at the age of 31, Madonna released the album Like a Prayer. The album released five singles, including top ten hits "Like a Prayer", "Express Yourself", "Cherish" and "Keep It Together", as well as the top 40 hit "Oh Father". Like a Prayer is often cited by critics as the best album of her career.
The music video for Like a Prayer featured many Catholic symbols, such as stigmata, and was denounced by the Vatican for its "blasphemous" mixture of eroticism, Catholic symbolism, and its implied story about racism. (In addition to a scene where police mistake an innocent black man for a murderer, the video features Madonna dancing in a field of burning crosses, a symbol of the KKK's historic terrorism against African Americans.)
Madonna had signed a deal with Pepsi, according to which the song "Like a Prayer" would be debuted as a Pepsi commercial in which Madonna would appear. When Madonna's own music video version of the song debuted on MTV, Pepsi pulled theirs off the air and cancelled all plans for future commercials with Madonna. Though the contract with Pepsi called for three future commercials, Madonna got to keep her five-million-dollar endorsement fee without fulfilling her contractual obligations.
In 1990, at the age of 32, 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). I'm Breathless: Music from and Inspired by the Film 'Dick Tracy' spawned the huge number-one hit, "Vogue", which popularized a dance trend in which people struck poses like fashion models in magazines (such as Vogue, hence the term "voguing").
Widely considered one of her best songs, "Vogue" (also directed by David Fincher) would routinely be ranked as one of the top four music videos of all time by MTV during the early 1990s.
The Immaculate Collection
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.
Despite the radio success of the single release of "Justify My Love", the sexual content of both the song's lyrics and its ground-breaking video proved to be too much for MTV, and network executives decided they could not air it. Madonna's record company then decided to sell the video on VHS as a "video single", the first one ever released. The video sold over 400,000 copies, and the CD single sold over one million.
In 1991, Madonna starred in her first documentary film, Truth or Dare / In Bed with Madonna, which chronicled her "Blonde Ambition Tour"; the title was changed to Truth or Dare for its U.S. release. In it, her personality and private life were explored in intimate detail: the star came across as extremely ambitious, demanding, forthright, sexy, and highly intelligent. It also showed her softer side as she confronted family members and visited the grave of her mother. The documentary grossed fifteen million in the U.S. and another twenty million overseas.
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. She wrote and performed the film's theme song, the number-one hit "This Used to Be My Playground". It became a worldwide hit and Madonna's tenth Hot 100 number one single.
The erotic book Sex, photographed by Steven Meisel, was released October 21, 1992 and sold for $49.95 each. Adult in nature, it featured Madonna as the centerpiece of photographs along with other pop music artists of the time depicting various sexual fantasies and acts (including lesbianism, and sadomasochism). It became an instant bestseller.
In the wake of publicity generated by the book, Madonna, at the age of 34, 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 (number three) single in the history of the Hot 100 Airplay Chart. It was a huge hit, but the controversial erotic video only aired a total of three times on MTV.
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 was R-rated and contained copious nudity and graphic sex scenes. Dangerous Game was similar in its graphic and violent content. A movie about making movie and the effects of a demanding Director on his leading actor through affairs, violence and drug abuse. 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.
In 1994, at the age of 36, Madonna released Bedtime Stories. It included "Secret", produced by Dallas Austin (Who was experiencing incredible popularity with TLC and their song "Creep"), and the number one smash "Take a Bow", co-written and co-produced by singer/songwriter/producer Babyface, who also sang backup on the track. "Take a Bow" topped the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for seven consecutive weeks, breaking her previous record of six weeks with "Like a Virgin", and would later assist her in her winning the lead role in Evita. The album was nominated for a Grammy in the same year, and Madonna sang "Take a Bow" at the American Music Awards. At the end of 2005, the album was certified triple platinum in the U.S.
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 played the part of a phone sex company owner in Spike Lee's flop Girl 6 in 1996.
Madonna released a greatest ballads album in 1996: 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 adaptation of Evita.
In 1996, Madonna is Eva Perón in Alan Parker's motion picture Evita. The film marked the first time that Madonna was heralded as an actress in a leading role. She delivered a Golden Globe winning performance and was critically praised. The Evita soundtrack went 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 for best original song in a film. 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 December 1996/January 1997. The final release from this soundtrack was "Another Suitcase In Another Hall" which reached No.7 in the UK. There were also plans to release "Buenos Aires" as the fourth single but it was shelved although there are official remixes of this title around.
Ray of Light
In 1996 Madonna became pregnant by her then lover, personal trainer Carlos Leon, and on October 14 gave birth to her daughter, Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon (Lola). The next year Madonna began studying Kabbalah, a mystical interpretation of the Torah. She took Yoga lessons and pursued a vigorous exercise regime that brought her body to a peak of toned fitness. In March of 1998, at the age of 39, she released Ray of Light, an album co-produced by European electronic music performer William Orbit. The release was Madonna's most critically-acclaimed recording since Like a Prayer, and her biggest hit in nearly ten years, selling more than seventeen million copies worldwide. It spawned two U.S. top-five singles, with "Frozen" going to number two and "Ray of Light" going to number five. Madonna also received three Grammy awards for Ray of Light. Her only previous Grammy was for "The Blonde Ambition Tour", which won the Best Long Form Music Video award in 1992. Other singles were "Drowned World (Substitute For Love)", "The Power of Good-Bye", and the fan favorite "Nothing Really Matters" in which the video Madonna was dressed up as a Geisha. The video for "Ray Of Light" was directed by Scandinavian director Jonas Åkerlund and won Madonna a couple of MTV Video Music Awards in 1998 - including Video Of The Year.
After Ray of Light, Madonna contributed the top twenty airplay hit "Beautiful Stranger" to the soundtrack of the Austin Powers: the Spy Who Shagged Me film in 1999. In 2000, Madonna focused next on her pet project, a film called The Next Best Thing. Critics and audiences alike panned the film, which marked yet another disappointment in Madonna's ill-fated film career. The soundtrack spawned the worldwide (excluding the U.S.) number one hit, "American Pie", a dance cover version of the Don McLean classic. As of November 18, 2005 the song "Frozen" is banned from Belgian radio and television. A judge ruled that Madonna's song plagiarized another song by composer Salvatore Acquaviva, who was born in Mouscron, Belgium. The opening theme of "Frozen" was said to be similar to the theme from the Belgian song.
In 2000, at the age of 42, 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 house. Music was produced partly by Orbit and partly by French techno musician Mirwais Ahmadzai. It spawned her twelfth number one single, "Music", plus the hits "Don't Tell Me" and "What It Feels Like for a Girl". Madonna was pregnant with her second child, Rocco, during the shooting of the "Music" video, parts of which contain animation. The controversial "What It Feels Like for a Girl" video was directed by Madonna's husband, film director Guy Ritchie. "Music" was nominated for four Grammys and was certified triple platinum in the US.
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. In June 2001, she appeared in Star, a short commercial film directed for BMW by Ritchie, and then began working on Swept Away. The film, released in 2002, was critically panned and went on to become yet another in a string of acting flops.
In 2002, Madonna performed the theme song to the James Bond film Die Another Day, a worldwide top-ten hit (number eight on the Billboard Hot 100). She also had the opportunity to have a cameo in the film as a fencing instructor named Verity. The song was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Song.
Her reputation appeared to take a turn for the worse in the U.S.A., however, when the critical drubbing she received for Swept Away was followed by an disputed reception for her 9th studio album, American Life. Its electronic-acoustic sound and the political/spiritual nature of its lyrics divided fans. 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 lighter shaped like a hand grenade into the lap of a President George W. Bush lookalike. Perhaps mindful of the protests and boycotts in the U.S.A. that had greeted the Dixie Chicks after they made some anti-war comments (though she publicly denied it in an interview with Matt Lauer), the video was revoked on the day it premiered; it was later replaced by a video simply featuring Madonna performing the song in military garb in front of changing flags of the world. The album was an average worldwide success (except the U.S) where the subsequent singles "Hollywood" and "Love Profusion" continued to place Madonna on the charts.
Madonna performed in 2003 MTV Video Music Awards in which she kissed Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera on stage. It became one of the most memorable performances in the history of MTV Video Music Awards. (See main article Madonna Kiss)
In 2004, Madonna embarked on her greatest hits tour, the "Re-Invention World Tour", during which she played fifty-six dates across the world. The tour became the highest-grossing tour of 2004, earning 125 million dollars according to Billboard magazine, and once again confirmed the longevity of Madonna's popularity. After a brief battle with Warner Brothers Records (with whom she shared record label Maverick), Madonna sold her shares in the label and announced that she is no longer involved in its dealings.
On December 26 2004, after a tsunami hit India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Indonesia among other countries, Madonna appeared in an NBC organized aid concert called Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope, televised on January 15 2005. Madonna sang a cover of John Lennon's song "Imagine". Then on July 2 2005, Madonna participated in the British Live 8 concert, performing 3 hit songs. Before performing, she greeted Birhan Woldu, a young woman who had almost died in the Ethiopian famine in the 1980s, on stage. Woldu's unexpected appearance on stage, followed immediately by Madonna's performance of "Like a Prayer" (hand-in-hand with Woldu), was hailed worldwide as one of the highlights of the event. However, her explicit langauge was met with complaints.
Confessions on a Dance Floor
The day of her forty-seventh birthday, Madonna was thrown by a horse while riding with friends at her English country home, Ashcombe House. She was admitted to a hospital with five cracked ribs, a broken collar bone, a misaligned fibula, a mild case of angina, and a broken hand. She was released later that day. A couple of months later, she released her 10th studio album Confessions on a Dance Floor which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 350,606 copies in its first week. Her record label reported that it debuted at #1 in over 25 different countries, and shipped over 3 million copies that first week alone. According to a press release, "On her highly anticipated new Warner Bros. Records release, Confessions on a Dance Floor, Madonna brilliantly re-invents dance music for our time. A stunning creative leap into the dazzling dimension of 'future disco', these dozen new originals simultaneously capture the spontaneous thrill of the iconic superstar’s early hits." Confessions was co-produced by Madonna, Stuart Price and a host of others including Mirwais Ahmadzai and the Bloodshy & Avant. The first single, "Hung Up" peaked at number one in more than 25 countries becoming one of Madonna's biggest hits worldwide. The track is remarkable in that it contains, at its heart, a sample of the popular ABBA song "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme (A Man After Midnight)". Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA were quoted as saying they allowed the use only because it was so good. "I see that as a tribute," said Ulvaeus, explaining: "We almost always say no to these things. Madonna's assistant came over to Sweden and played the track, and it was so catchy that Benny and I immediately said 'Yes'. We have loads of offers like that but we never say yes, but in this case it was so cleverly done."
The album continued the worldwide success of the single and peaked at number one in nearly 40 countries, a record (The Beatles are in second place with a recent No.1's compilation). She also filmed her documentary titled I'm Going To Tell You A Secret during her Re-Invention world tour showcasing Madonna behind the scenes. On October 21, 2005 the documentary made its TV debut on MTV.
Madonna opened the MTV Europe Music Awards 2005, performing "Hung Up" live for the first time. Performances at shows in Mannheim (Germany), Paris, and London's KOKO, G-A-Y, annual charity telethon BBC Children in Need, followed. She also appeared at clubs in New York, and London to promote the album on the 18th of November, 2005. She also played in Tokyo as part of her promotion in Japan, that included several interviews and appearances in some Japanese TV shows.
Also in 2005, Madonna appeared, along with other artists in a TV commercial for the Motorola ROKR phone. The commercial features her song "Hung Up".
- Madonna's next single from her new album Confessions on a Dance Floor will be called "Sorry". Madonna will begin shooting the video for the new single in January. Her longtime choreographer, Jamie King, is going to direct this new video.
- Madonna is lending her voice to the big budget (approximately eighty million dollars) 2006 animated film Arthur and the Minimoys. Madonna provides the voice of Princess Selenia. The film by Luc Besson is expected to be released in December 2006.
- Madonna is planning a world tour for 2006. Madonna about the tour: "I'm currently exploring the possibility. If I go on tour, it would be next summer. And it would be all out disco, with lots of disco balls. I would focus on dance music and the new record. I already did the older stuff on my Re-Invention tour."  Madonna also confirmed that she's planning in using a new state-of-the-art sound system to improve the listening experience to both, public and performers.
Though Madonna Ciccone is half French Canadian, more often the influence of her Italian American heritage has been reflected in her work. Perhaps this is because Madonna's French Canadian mother died when Madonna was five and Madonna was subsequently raised by her Italian American father. (It has been claimed that Madonna shares a common French Canadian ancestor with Celine Dion.) Despite this, and being born in Michigan, Madonna uses a British accent when talking.
References to Madonna's Italian heritage have often been found in her work. In the video for "Truth or Dare", Madonna describes herself as "Italian American". She says, "I'm an Italian American and proud of it." In her 2005 documentary I'm Going To Tell You a Secret, Madonna jokingly states that she has "big Italian thighs". In the video for Papa Don't Preach she wears a shirt that says, "Italians Do It Better".  Madonna has described her birth name -- Madonna Ciccone -- as being "very Italian". The video for her second concert tour, the "Who's That Girl?" tour, was filmed in Turin, Italy; the video is titled "Ciao Italia: Madonna Live from Italy".  The video to her first #1 song, Like a Virgin, featured Madonna performing in Venice, Italy. 
Fellow Italian American pop singer Gwen Stefani has been quoted as saying that she and Madonna share a common relative. Stefani has claimed that her great aunt married a man from Detroit, Michigan (the area of Michigan that Madonna is from) with the last name "Ciccone."
Involvement with Kabbalah Centre
Since the late 1990s, Madonna has become a devotee of the Kabbalah Centre and a disciple of its controversial head Rabbi Philip Berg and his wife Karen. Madonna and husband Guy Ritchie attend Kabbalah classes and have been reported to have adopted a number of aspects of the movement and associated with Judaism. The media has reported that Madonna has taken-on the Biblical name of Esther, has donated millions of dollars to the Kabbalah Centre in London, New York and Los Angeles, no longer performs on Friday nights because it's the time when the Jewish Sabbath begins, wears a red string, has visited Israel with members of the Kabbalah Centre to celebrate some of the Jewish holidays, studies personally with her own private-tutor rabbi Eitan Yardeni whose wife Sarah Yardeni runs Madonna's favorite charitable project, "Spirituality for Kids", a subsidiary of the Kabbalah Centre . Madonna reportedly donated 21 million dollars towards a new Kabbalah school for children. 
Recently references to Kabbalah Centre beliefs and principles have appeared in her music, including the track "Nobody Knows Me" from American Life (I sleep much better at night / I feel closer to the Light / Now I'm gonna try / To Improve my life). Controversy again surrounded her well before the release of her most recent album Confessions on a Dance Floor when many Israeli rabbis condemned Madonna and the forthcoming song "Isaac" (tenth on its track listing) for they believed the song to be a tribute to Rabbi Isaac Luria, also known as Yitzhak Luria (1534-1572), one of the greatest Kabbalists of all time. Jewish law forbids using a holy rabbi's name for profit. In interviews, Madonna had called this song: "The Binding of Isaac" and rumors spread that it was based on the major episode in the life of the Hebrew patriarch Isaac. Despite continued accusations that the song is about Isaac Luria, Madonna has repeatedly denied such accusations, claiming she could not think of a title for the song and, thereforere, named it after Yitzhak (Isaac) Sinwani. In the song, Madonna sings with Sinwani, an Israeli singer, who is chanting a Yemenite Jewish song. Said Madonna: "The album isn't even out, so how could Jewish scholars in Israel know what my song is about? I don't know enough about Isaac Luria to write a song, though I've learned a bit in my studies." 
Madonna has openly defended her Kabbalah studies by stating, for example:
- I wouldn't say studying Kabbalah for eight years goes under the category or falls under the category of being a fad or a trend. Now there might be people who are interested in it because they think it's trendy, but I can assure you that studying Kabbalah is actually a very challenging thing to do. It requires a lot of work, a lot of reading, a lot of time, a lot of commitment and a lot of discipline. 
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