MADONNA, the first lady of pop music, turns 60 on August 16 but she doesn’t care in the slightest and will still go on singing for many more years to come.
Defiant Madonna believes that age has nothing to do with personality or performance, and she plans to go on entertaining us and living life to the full for as long as possible.
“I don’t think about age or years,” she said. “What is a birthday? Just another day for some fun and nice things, and the next day everything goes back to normal.
“There are moments when I can’t believe I’m as old as I am but I am feeling good physically, perhaps even better than I did, say, 10 years ago.
“I have never been the sort of person that thinks that you have to plan your life like it is some kind of timetable.
“When I am 20 I must be like this, when I am 30 I must be like that, and when I am 60 I must get some cosy slippers. That’s not me at all. Maybe it works for some people but definitely not for me.”
Who could argue? Madonna has been pushing back the boundaries ever since she first arrived in the public eye and still rides the crest of a wave. Just announce that she is giving a concert at any venue you care to name and the tickets will be gone in minutes.
Madonna Louise Ciccone was born in Bay City, Michigan on August 16 1958 to an international family – her father’s parents were Italian emigrants, while her mother was of French-Canadian descent.
Her dad was an engineer designer in the motor trade. There were already two sons in the family when she was born, and later another brother and two sisters came along.
What was she going to do with her life? Her mother had died while she was still quite young and she felt the loss tremendously.
“I got on with my studies,” she said. “I didn’t really want a social life and I was quite a loner really. I was close to my dad, and when you lose your mother you have a constant fear that you might lose your dad too. I wasn’t into fashion and make-up or anything like that. I did have an ambition though. I wanted to be someone and the desire just grew and grew.”
When Madonna’s dad remarried she admitted later that she resented it, and for some time she was no longer as close to him.
“I just got into my school work, got my dad to let me have ballet lessons and fooled around at school quite a bit,” she recalled.
“I got good grades though. The ballet was good too and I thought that I might have a dance career. I didn’t really know what I was going to do, but I knew that whatever it was I wanted to be as good as I possibly could.
“I didn’t feel as if I was going anywhere at college so I dropped out and decided that New York was the place for me.
“Even though I was not sure of my route, I had a dream. I wanted to be a big star. New York just seemed to be the right place but it was a big deal for me. I had never even been in a cab before I arrived in New York.
“I didn’t have much money – about 35 dollars actually. I didn’t know anybody. I still wanted to dance and I also wanted to sing. I wanted to do all those things. I wanted to entertain and make people happy.
“I think I wanted to be famous. I wanted to be loved by everybody and that meant that I wanted to be a star. I knew it was going to take hard work but I was prepared for that.
“I got a job as a waitress which helped, and I also took more dance lessons at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.
“I joined a dance troupe and gradually got to find my way around. It was tough and it was scary but I learned to put on the strong girl image. I had a focus though and I worked really hard. I never lost sight of my dream and, well it came true, didn’t it?”
Madonna did not only dance, she also joined a rock band as a self-taught drummer and guitarist and, of course, she began to sing too. That’s where it really all began.
She was seen and heard and signed a contract with Sire Records who put together her debut album in 1983.
“It is very exciting when you have your first album released and you have to pinch yourself to make sure that it’s true, but I never let it get to me. I knew that it was just the beginning of where I wanted to go. My ambitions had not changed and I did not get carried away with just one album.”
In 1984 came Like A Virgin and now Madonna was an international star.
“I still didn’t see it as a pinnacle,” she said. “It was great, of course, but it was still only part of the journey. I have always wanted to go another step, whether in the studio or on stage.
“I wanted to make sure that people were getting something new and something all the time. There was never a one-time-for-all formula. To keep the audiences and fans interested I had to keep myself interested, and that meant breaking new barriers all the time.
“I was not trying to be controversial or headline-grabbing. I just wanted to keep changing and offering something new. One of the problems is that it becomes almost impossible to say or do anything without it being interpreted that you are making some great statement.”
Madonna has appeared in a number of films, played to massive concert crowds all over the world, and hit the headlines with her videos, press statements, marriages and adoptions, but essentially she is still a singing star with more than 300 million record sales to her credit, more than any other female artist – ever.
“I am grateful for all the help and success I have had and I am determined that there is more to come,” she said. “I like to take time off the planet, but I am still the same girl with the same desire to do something different and the same ethos to work hard.
“Anyone can achieve anything if they simply know what they want and work hard for it. People often don’t really know what they want, so how can they aim for something they cannot see?
“Many people have a great intensity of life and that can get in the way too. I often laugh at myself – I have been serious about what I wanted, but I have never taken myself too seriously.
“Perhaps the greatest challenge is to have some dignity and some style no matter what your situation.
“You may have no money, but it costs nothing to keep your head up. I have struggled and I identify with other people who have struggled. Some make it, some don’t, but the strong person is the one who doesn’t give up, who doesn’t lose their sense of worth and who keeps on trying.”
That sounds as if we can expect more recordings and more performances from Madonna.
“Of course,” she said. “That is what I do. That is my job and that is my challenge – to come up with something new. At home I am an ordinary mum who is there for her kids. I do not have a wild social life – I prefer a good book actually.
“But I am a performer with so many great fans. I owe it to them to keep coming up with something they will like and perhaps I owe that to myself too. We don’t do age barriers.”