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Madonna (16th August 1958-Present)

She is a singer-songwriter and actress born Madonna Louise Ciccone in Bay City, Michigan and raised in the Detroit suburbs of Pontiac and Avon Township as the third eldest of six children.  Her mother died of cancer in 1963 and her father remarried in 1966.   Also in 1966 she had her Catholic Church confirmation  where she adopted the name Veronica.

She was initially given classical piano lessons at her father’s behest but was allowed to take ballet lessons later.  Her ballet teacher advised her to follow a dancing career.  She became a student at Rochester Adams High School where she was in the cheerleading squad and a straight-A student. This led to the University of Michigan awarding her a dance scholarship and during the summer months taking studies at the American Dance Festival.

She decided to leave college in 1978 and go to New York City where she lived in East Village’s Alphabet City area. She worked with some dance troupes and at Dunkin’ Donuts and took lessons at the Alvin Alley American Dance Theater before performing at the Pearl Lang Dance Theater.

After studying with the dancer and choreographer Martha Graham she became a back-up dancer and singer for other artists which included Patrick Hernandez on his world tour in 1979.  She started a relationship with the musician Dan Gilroy and they formed the band Breakfast Club with her remaining with the band for a year or so.

She went on to form the band Emmy with the drummer Stephen Bray who had also been a member of Breakfast Club. They worked as a songwriting team but she later went on to pursue her solo career and signed a singles deal with Sire Records after a meeting was set up by the record producer Mark Kamins.

In 1982 she released “Everybody” followed by “Burning Up” the next year and reached No.3 in Billboard magazine’s Hot Dance Club Songs chart.  “Holiday” was released next and saw her success as an international Top Ten hit.  This led to her  first album Madonna being issued in 1983 after several changes to the production and reaching No. 8 on the Billboard 200 in 1984. It contained the two Billboard Top 100 Top 10 singles “Lucky Star” and “Borderline”.

In November 1984 Like a Virgin was released and became the No. 1 in the album charts in the US, UK, New Zealand, Spain Germany and The Netherlands and was later certified diamond.  She was also gaining immense popularity with her unique style which became a fashion trend in the 1980s.  The title track of the album topped the Hot 100 chart for six weeks  although both the song and accompanying video were seen as controversial by some, but the popularity was immense.  As was the media coverage at the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards.

Next from the album was the release of “Material Girl” which reached No. 2 on the Hot 100.  When she was filming the video for the single she met the actor Sean Penn who became her husband in 1985.  Also in 1985 she ventured into acting and appeared as a club singer in the film Vision Quest.  The soundtrack from the film included her tracks “Gambler” and the No. 1 “Crazy For You”.  The same year she landed the title role in Desperately Seeking Susan and the soundtrack include “Into the Groove” which was her first No. 1 single in the UK.  The busy year also saw her embarking on her first North American concert tour and releasing the singles “Dress You Up” and “Angel” which meant there four singles from the album reach the Top 5 of the Hot 100 chart.  She also appeared at the Live Aid concert that year.

In 1986 she released her internationally chart topping True Blue, dedicated to her husband, which produced the US No. 1 singles “Live to Tell”, True Blue”, “Papa Don’t Preach”, “La Isla Bonita” and “Open Your Heart”.  The album became listed as the best-selling album of all time by a woman in the 1992 Guinness World Records.

That same year she won the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress after her starring role in the film Shanghai Surprise.  She switched to acting on the stage and appeared in the theatrical production of Goose and Tom-Tom, which also starred her husband.

1987 came along and she was featured in Who’s That Girl film and of the four songs from her that were added to the soundtrack including the title track “Causing a Commotion”.  That same year she started out on her Who’s That Girl World Tour which broke attendance records at several venues.  She also issued You Can Dance which was an album of remixes of previous hits.  At the end of the year she filed for an annulment of her marriage which later resulted in divorce in 1989.

1990 saw her embarking on the Blond Ambition World Tour and the tour’s live recording earned her first Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video.  She also had a starring role in the film Dick Tracy which earned her a nomination as best actress for a Saturn Award.  The resultant soundtrack album, I’m Breathless, produced “Sooner or Later” and the No. 1 song “Vogue”.

Later in 1990 she released The Immaculate Collection which produced the new songs “Rescue Me” and “Justify My Love” which became a 9th No. 1 single in the US.  The video, however, was banned by the network as too explicit for MTV.  The next year the documentary film Truth or Dare was released and became the highest grossing documentary ever at the time.

A couple of years later in 1992 she had a starring role in the box office No. 1 hit film A League of Their Own.  This saw the release of the theme song “This Used to Be My Playground” that gave her her 10th No. 1 song on the Hot 100 chart making it the most achieved to date by a female artist.   She also founded the entertainment company Maverick as a joint venture with Time Warner.  Her Maverick Records label, which is part of the company, produced music for several successful artists.  She also released her controversial book Sex and the album Erotica which became her lowest selling even though entering the Billboard 200 chart at No. 2, and providing the Top 10 hits Deeper and Deeper” and “Erotica”.

Continuing her acting career she performed in 1993’s Body of Evidence and starred in the video Dangerous Game.  She also went on The Girlie Show tour and around 6 months later appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman, both of which were seen as controversial and lost some of her popularity.  Later in 1994 she released Bedtime Stories which softened her image and entered the Billboard 200 chart at No. 3 and gave the No. 1 hit “Take a Bow” and the Top 5 hit “Secret”.

In 1995 she released Something to Remember which reached No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and topped the charts in several other countries.  There were four songs and a promotional single released and although the others didn’t achieve commercial success, “You’ll See” reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the top 5 in several other countries.  The following year, in 1996, she starred in Evita and received much critical acclaim for her performance of Eva Peron.  For this role she won a Golden Globe Award as Best Actress in Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.  The soundtrack was released as a double album and she was given the Artist Achievement Award at the Billboard Music Awards in 1996.  Also in 1996 she gave birth to her daughter Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon whose father is Carlos Leon.  Their relationship ended in 1997.

Ray of Light became her 7th studio album  released in 1998 gaining her 4 Grammy Awards, 2 further Grammy nominations and Rolling Stone magazine listing it in “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.  The single from it, “Frozen”, debuted at No. 1 in the UK and reached No 2 in the US and “Ray of Light” debuted at No. 5 in the Billboard Hot 100.  She founded the Ray of Light Foundation.

“Beautiful Stranger” was recorded in 1999 for the soundtrack of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and this saw her winning another Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Media.

The new millennium saw her continuing to be busy and in 2000 she released Music which topped the charts in at least 20 countries and contained the No. 1 single Music along with “What It Feels Like for a Girl” and “Don’t Tell Me”.  2000 was also the year she married the director Guy Ritchie, whom she had met in 1998.  She gave birth to their son Rocco John Ritchie in August 2000 the day before their wedding.

She embarked on The Drowned World tour in 2001, eight years after her last tour.   Her second hits collection, GHV2, was also released.  Continuing with her acting career she went on to have a starring role in Swept Away and had a stage role in Up For Grabs in London’s West End.  She also had a cameo role in the James Bond film Die Another Day  and sang the theme song which received a nomination for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song and Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.

In 2003 American Life, which was her ninth studio album, was released.  The title song  reached No. 37 on the Hot 100 but the accompanying controversial video was withdrawn.  That same year she appeared at the MTV Video Music Awards and was a guest vocalist on Britney Spears’ “Me Against the Music”.  Also in 2003 she released an EP and was contracted to write five books for children by Callaway Arts & Entertainment.  The first book, English Roses, had all its proceeds donated to a children’s charity and debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller list.  The following year she started on the 2004 Re-Invention World Tour which  led to her documentary I Want to Tell You a Secret.  The UK Music Hall of Fame inducted her in November 2004.

2005 saw her performing “Imagine” at Tsunami Aid and later performing at the benefit concert Live 8.  In November of 2005 she released the critically acclaimed and international No. 1  chart hitting album Confessions on a Dance Floor with its singles “Hung Up” and “Sorry” topping the charts in many countries.  In 2006 she performed in her Confessions Tour and during that time the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry announced that she had sold more than 200 million albums worldwide.  That same year she adopted the child David Banda, which was finalised 2 years later and was the founder of Raising Malawi charity.

The next year she changed labels from Warner Bros. Records to a 10 year 360 deal with Live Nation and performed “Hey You” at the concert London Live Earth.  She also debuted as a director with the film Filth and Wisdom.  In 2008 she released Hard Candy which debuted in 37 countries at the No. 1 spot.  The single from the album “4 Minutes” reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 in the UK.  She promoted the album with the Sticky & Sweet tour, which had a live album released in April 2010, and went on to be awarded Artist of the Year from the Recording Industry of Japan for the fifth time.  That same year she filed for divorce from Guy Ritchie and her brother Christopher published the book Life with My Sister Madonna.

She adopted Chifundo “Mercy” James in Malawi in 2009 and in September of that year she released Celebration which topped the album charts in the UK, Germany, Italy and Canada.  She spoke at the MTV Video Music Awards in tribute to Michael Jackson.  In 2010 she was a performer at Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief.   She collaborated with her daughter Lourdes on the Material Girl clothing line, unveiled the fashion brand Truth or Dare and opened Hardy Candy Fitness centres internationally.

In 2011 the film W.E., which she directed, premiered at the 68th Venice International Film Festival and her theme song “Masterpiece” won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.  The next year she was the performer at the Super Bowl XLVI halftime show in Indianapolis, becoming the most watched ever, where she sang “Give Me All Your Luvin” from her 12th studio album MDNA, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 when it was released in 2012. Her MDNA Tour followed later that year.

In 2013 she directed the short film secretprojectrevolution and launched the Art for Freedom Initiative with the film.  Also in that year she visited Malawi to see the schools Raising Malawi had contributed to, donated funds to assist bankruptcy in Detroit, Michigan and launched MDNA Skin products in Japan in 2014.

2015 saw the release of Rebel Heart and she undertook the promotional tour from September into March of 2016, with the tour’s live album released in 2017.  She was named Woman of the Year by Billboard in October 2016 and she gave an impromptu performance in Washington Square Park during Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in November.  The next year she adopted the 4-year old twin sisters Estere and Stella and opened the Mercy James Institute for Paediatric Surgery and Intensive Care in Malaw.

She and her family relocated to Lisbon, Portugal where she was inspired to make her album Madame X, released in 2019, which became her 9th No. 1 album on the Billboard 200.   The singles released from it all reached the top of the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart.  That same year she performed at the Eurovision Song Contest interval show and went on the Madame X Tour, which ended prematurely in 2020 due to a knee injury and later admitted to a positive COVID-19 test.  Helping in the fund to create a vaccine by donating $1 million dollars to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.