Friday, September 14, 1984

Madonna performed “Like a Virgin” at the MTV Video Awards

Like a Virgin


Writer(s): Billy Steinberg/Tom Kelly (see lyrics here)

Released: October 31, 1984

First Charted: November 16, 1984

Peak: 16 US, 15 CB, 15 GR, 13 RR, 29 AC, 9 RB, 3 UK, 11 CN, 15 AU, 4 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.14 US, 0.93 UK, 6.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 136.85 video, 276.59 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

One could potentially mark September 14, 1984 as the date when Madonna became a superstar. Over the last year, she’d had three top twenty Billboard pop hits with “Holiday,” “Borderline,” and “Lucky Star.” However, the title track from her sophomore album launched her into the stratosphere. She premiered the song on the aforementioned date at the first MTV Video Music Awards. When she writhed on the floor in a wedding dress, the world took notice of her no-holds-barred sexuality. It was “one of the seminal moment in the history of MTV” SF and “one of the most iconic pop performances of all time.” WK

The song wasn’t originally written for Madonna, or even a female singer. Lyricist Billy Steinberg wrote the song from personal experience. He said it wasn’t about truly being a virgin, but about the positive feeling that came with a new relationship. Madonna also denied that the song was about sex, saying, “It means a woman who has obviously been mistreated and kind of looked over and not treated well.” SJ

Steinberg also said the song started as a “sensitive ballad” RC but it didn’t work when Tom Kelly, the song’s co-writer, tried to put it to music. The pair also found success with “So Emotional” by Whitney Houston, “Alone” by Heart, “Eternal Flame” by the Bangles, and “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper. Kelly started playing the bass line and sang with “a falsetto, almost Motown inspired vocal” RC and Steinberg said, “Yeah, that’s it.” RC

At a meeting with Warner Brothers Record’s Michael Ostin, Steinberg and Tom Kelly, the song’s co-writer, played a demo of the song and told him they weren’t sure who it would fit. Ostin happened to have a meeting with Madonna the next day and thought it would be perfect for her. FB Ostin said, she “went crazy, and knew instantly it was a song for her.” WK Madonna said, “I certainly wasn’t a virgin, and, by the way, how can you be like a virgin? I liked the play on words; I thought they were clever.” WK She said she never realized it would become one of her signature songs. WK

Producer Nile Rodgers gave the song “a masterful pop sheen,” TC bring in bassist Bernard Edwards and drummer Tony Thompson, his bandmates from Chic (“Le Freak,” “Good Times”). Rodgers didn’t want Madonna to record the song initially. He didn’t think the title was, as he told the Los Angeles Times, “the all-time catch phrase. But after about four days I couldn’t get the song out of my head.” FB Audiences couldn’t get it out of their heads either. “Like a Virgin” became her first of twelve #1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 and the biggest song of 1984. CPM Madonna became “an icon to a generation of emancipated women.” TC


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First posted 11/14/2019; last updated 5/1/2024.

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