By Ray McDonald
Last week, I noticed that Huey Lewis and the News were celebrating the 30th anniversary of their album “Sports.” This got me thinking of all the other musical milestones from the year 1983, and once I started investigating, I was impressed.
Bon Jovi formed in 1983. So did Megadeth, the Flaming Lips, and Phish. Metallica released its first album in 1983, as did R.E.M., Pulp, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Michael Jackson electrified the world with his moonwalk at the Motown Records 25th Anniversary TV special. Of them all, however, the event with the most enduring cultural impact may have come on July 27, 1983. On that day, Sire Records released Madonna’s self-titled debut album. It opened in 123rd place on the “Billboard” album chart – can you imagine? One year later, Madonna was the hottest new star in the world and the album hit number eight.
A hard-charger from Bay City, Michigan, Madonna Ciccone started as a dance club favorite and ended up becoming the template for all subsequent female stars. Outrageous costumes – or lack of them…controversial pronouncements to the press…constant reinvention: Madonna showed us how stardom would look in the video age. It’s all there on display in the clip for her breakout single, “Lucky Star.”
Madonna’s been a star for 29 of the past 30 years. You can read all about her here, but what I find especially intriguing is, why her? Was it her insatiable drive to be a star? A need to be loved? Natural charisma? All of them, perhaps, and more. Like many artists of her generation, Madonna has lost ground on the domestic music charts. As of December, her most recent album “MDNA” had barely edged the half-million seller mark here in the United States (although I should note it did reach number one in more than 40 countries). Madonna’s real strength lies in her live presence. Her MDNA Tour brought in more than 305 million dollars, becoming the year’s top grossing tour – and, in the process, making her a billionaire.
At age 54, Madonna’s seen it all, done it all, and remains the moving target her competitors still seek to match.