Saturday, April 22, 1989

Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” hit #1

Like a Prayer


Writer(s): Patrick Leonard, Madonna (see lyrics here)

Released: February 27, 1989

First Charted: March 10, 1989

Peak: 13 US, 13 CB, 13 RR, 3 AC, 20, RB, 134 CN, 14 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.1 US, 0.85 UK, 5.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 88.61 video, 218.0 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Madonna’s return to the Billboard Hot 100 charts after a nearly year-and-a-half absence was marked by her third collaboration on a #1 song with Patrick Leonard. He had also worked on her hits “Live to Tell” and “Who’s That Girl?” He remembers “Like a Prayer” initially having bongos and Latin percussion. They abandoned that and went with a gospel sound with church organ and a choir led by Andraé Crouch instead. He also recalls that “it was written and the lead vocal was recorded within three hours.” BR

The song was intended for a more adult audience, thematically focused on a girl’s love of God as the only male figure in her life. WK The song was generally well-received by critics. In a biography by Mary Cross, she says “the song is a mix of the sacred and the profane…[that] still sounds catchy and danceable.” WK Medium’s Richard LaBeau called it “one of the…best pop songs ever made.” WK Still, the song’s mix of sex and religion raised eyebrows for some. For example, in the first verse she sings, “When you call my name/ It’s like a little prayer/ I’m down on my knees/ I wana take you there.” Leonard suggested changing the words so it didn’t sound like a reference to fellatio, but Madonna was determined to keep the double entendres intact. WK

The video proved controversial as well. Madonna signed a $5 million deal with Pepsi and used a commercial during the Grammys – which Pepsi said was seen by 250 million people – to launch the song. SF However, the Vatican condemned the “Like a Prayer” video and fundamentalists threatened to boycott Pepsi because of what they considered blasphemous images. BR Pepsi ended up pulling the spot. The video, which included images of burning crosses and Madonna kissing a black saint, portrayed a forbidden interracial love affair and was steeped in religious symbolism. The video won the Viewers’ Choice MTV Video Music Award and in 2005 was voted the most groundbreaking music video of all time. WK

The song was the top-seller of the year in Australia and Canada. WK It hit #1 in those countries as well as the United States, the UK, Japan, Belgium, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. WK

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Madonna
  • BR Fred Bronson (2007). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (4th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 840.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

Other Related DMDB Pages:

First posted 11/1/2019; last updated 10/11/2021.

Madonna’s Like a Prayer album hit #1

Like a Prayer


Released: March 21, 1989

Peak: 16 US, 12 UK, 16 CN, 4 AU

Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 1.2 UK, 15.0 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: dance pop


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Like a Prayer [5:41] (2/27/1989, 13 US, 13 CB, 13 RR, 3 AC, 20 RB, 13 UK, 14 CN, 14 AU, platinum single)
  2. Express Yourself (Madonna, Stephen Bray) [4:37] (5/9/1989, 2 US, 11 CB, 3 RR, 12 AC, 5 UK, 12 CN, 5 AU, gold single)
  3. Love Song (with Prince) (Madonna, Prince) [4:52]
  4. Till Death Do Us Part [5:16]
  5. Promise to Try [3:36]
  6. Cherish [5:03] (8/1/89, 2 US, 11 CB, 12 AC, 3 UK, 12Dear Jessie [4:20] (12/10/89, 5 UK, 51 AU)
  7. Oh Father [4:57] (11/4/89, 20 US, 15 CB, 18 RR, 16 UK, 14 CN, 59 AU)
  8. Keep It Together (Madonna, Bray) [5:03] (1/30/90, 7a US, 32 AC, 66 RB, 8 CN, 15, gold single)
  9. Spanish Eyes [5:15]
  10. Act of Contrition [2:19]

Songs written by Madonna and Patrick Leonard unless noted otherwise.

Total Running Time: 51:16


4.352 out of 5.00 (average of 31 ratings)

Quotable: --

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“This is the moment Madonna peaked as a pop star and mass media manipulator. First, the manipulation. In the title’s track’s video, Madonna kisses a saint, shows off some self-induced stigmata and dances in a field of burning crosses. Caving in to protests from religious groups, Pepsi pulled out of a Madonna sponsorship deal (she held on to a $5 million payday) and the whole episode generated enough publicity to ensure the album’s debut at No. 1. Brilliant.” TL

“As it happens, so was the record.” TL “Out of all of Madonna’s albums, Like a Prayer is her most explicit attempt at a major artistic statement. Even though it is apparent that she is trying to make a ‘serious’ album, the kaleidoscopic variety of pop styles on Like a Prayer is quite dazzling.” AMG

“Madonna displays a commanding sense of songcraft, making this her best and most consistent album.” AMGLike a Prayer was a genuinely soulful first single” TL and “Express Yourself merged Madonna’s dance sensibility with her strongest feminist message.” TL

Alongside the “deep funk of ‘Express Yourself’ and Keep It TogetherAMG and “the haunting Oh Father” were a “few middling tracks” TL “rescued…with production” TL from “Stephen Bray, Patrick Leonard and Prince (yes, that Prince)…that elevated Madonna’s voice out of its early bubble gum phase and into something resembling a real instrument.” TL

Notes: A 30th anniversary edition added additional material such as remixes of “Like a Prayer,” “Express Yourself,” and “Keep It Together” as well as an extended version of “Cherish” and the single version of “Oh Father.” The song “Supernatural” was also added.

Resources and Related Links:

Other Related DMDB Pages:

First posted 3/26/2008; last updated 12/2/2021.

Tuesday, April 18, 1989

The Pixies released Doolittle: April 18, 1989

Originally posted 4/18/2012. Updated 6/10/2013.

image from

Released: 18 April 1989
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) 1. Debaser (10/4/97, #23 UK) 2. Tame 3. Wave of Mutilation 4. I Bleed 5. Here Comes Your Man 6. Dead 7. Monkey Gone to Heaven (4/1/89, #60 UK, #5 MR) 8. Mr. Grieves 9. Crackity Jones 10. La La Love You 11. No. 13 Baby 12. There Goes My Gun 13. Hey 14. Silver 15. Gouge Away

Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, -- UK, 0.5 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 98 US, 8 UK


Review: Review here The Pixies became one of “the handful of bands that every ‘90s indie band worth its salt cites as an essential influence.” PK Nirvana’s “Kurt Cobain himself acknowledged the Pixies’ influence on the soft/loud dynamic that powered ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’” RS Like Sonic Youth, the Pixies “completely deconstructed the pop format, twisting basic surf guitar chord progressions into wholly original new forms…The results could be brilliant, but also occasionally distancing.” PK

“After 1988’s brilliant but abrasive Surfer Rosa, the Pixies’ sound couldn’t get much more extreme” AMG so on Doolittle the band “reins in the noise in favor of pop songcraft and accessibility.” AMG “It’s as though the band finished touring Surfer Rosa and realized that it was taxing work to bludgeon people for an entire evening.” TM The band “find a comfortable balance between angry distortion and some of the bounciest sunshine music this side of flower power.” CS

The Boston foursome even manage some “relatively mainstream college pop-rock” PK such as on “the environmental-themed Monkey Gone to Heaven.” PK Both that and Hey “stretch Francis’ lyrical horizons” AMG making for the “Pixies’ versions of message songs and romantic ballads.” AMG There’s also “the irresistible” AMG and “straightforward jangly” PK single Here Comes Your Man. “Had The Pixies had enough of a public profile at the time, this could have been a huge hit for them.” AD

Debaser “is the quintessential sound of The Pixies in full-flight.” AD and the one which supposedly inspired “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” PK “Inspired by [Luis] Bunuel’s classic surrealist short Un Chien Andalou,” AMG switches “between quiet and loud but…much more dramatically than anything they’d done before.” AD It “is a nonstop barrage of lyrical imagery, tempo changes, and insane riffage, more or less the perfect Pixies track.” PK “Guitarist Joey Santiago has said that this is the best single-song distillation of the Pixies experience” TM and, indeed, “the band plays as though this one song is its only shot at a manifesto.” TM


The “wide-ranging moods and sounds make it one of their most eclectic and ambitious. A fun, freaky alternative to most other late-‘80s college rock, it’s easy to see why the album made the Pixies into underground rock stars.” AMG “It became one of those buzzed-about landmark records that traveled far on word of mouth. If you cared about rock noise in 1989, you needed to hear it. That's still true.” TM

Resources and Related Links:


Saturday, April 8, 1989

On This Day (1939): Kate Smith charted with “God Bless America”

God Bless America

Kate Smith

Writer(s): Irving Berlin (see lyrics here)

First Charted: April 8, 1939

Peak: 5 US, 8 GA (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 (sheet music), 2.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.74 video, 0.29 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Irving Berlin originally wrote this song in 1918 while he served in the Army, intending it for a 1918 revue called Yip, Yip, Yaphank. WK However, Berlin shelved the song, considering it inappropriate for the comedic musical. SF

Two decades later, Kate Smith, a popular soprano and “one of the most-listened-to of all radio singers,” PM asked Berlin to write something new for her radio show on Armistice Day. TY1 When he couldn’t come up with anything new which he considered satisfactory, he revived “God Bless America,” TY1 updating the lyrics to make it a peace song SF taking the form of a prayer. WK

Smith performed what would become her signature song NRR for the first time on in November 1938. With the United States on the verge of war, the song tapped into the country’s sense of patriotism. Not only did both political parties use it at the 1939 nominating conventions, TY1 but many have advocated making this the national anthem instead of the harder-to-sing “Star Spangled Banner.” LSC In a national poll in the late ‘50s, “God Bless America” ranked second only to the national anthem as the country’s favorite patriotic song. TY1 The song also inspired Woody Guthrie to write “This Land Is Your Land” as a response; he considered Berlin’s tune “unrealistic and complacent.” WK

Because Berlin considered it inappropriate to capitalize on patriotism, he directed all proceeds to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. As of 1981, that had amounted to more than a million dollars. TY1 Berlin considered it one of his five best songs – the others being “Always,” “Easter Parade,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” and “White Christmas.” TY1


First posted 4/8/2012; last updated 9/6/2023.