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Madonna: Changing times, changing style

In this story:

Going solo

Breaking sexual taboos

Her softer side


(CNN) -- As the story goes, Madonna arrived in New York in 1977 with just $35 to seek her fortune as a ballerina.

  • Madonna's secret to making 'Music'
  • The creative forces behind "Music"
  • Madonna shakes, shines in latest album

    We all know the rest of that story.

    She became an international pop icon with more than a dozen albums and 16 films to her credit. Her knack for reinventing her image, setting fashion trends and creating a stir has kept Madonna in the public eye for two decades.

    Her beginnings were hardly so auspicious. Madonna, born Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone in 1958, was the third of eight children. She grew up in Bay City, Michigan, where she spent her younger years cheerleading and dancing.

    Her moves earned her a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan, but Madonna found academia too stifling. She made tracks to the Big Apple to become a ballerina instead.

    There she studied with Alvin Ailey and became a member of the pop/dance outfit the Patick Hernandez Revue, known for the hit "Born To Be Alive."

    But life took a different spin -- or piroutte.

    Going solo

    Madonna entered the club scene, forming Breakfast Club with boyfriend Dan Gilroy, whom she met in Paris. Both the band and the relationship dissolved, but Madonna was hardly daunted. She'd later team up with another boyfriend, Stephen Bray, to form Emmy -- another band and boyfriend not meant to last.

    She struck out on her own in 1982, signing as a solo performer with Sire Records. That year, she broke into the mainstream with the song "Holiday." She followed up with "Lucky Star" and "Borderline," which also did well on the charts.

    It would take two years until she scored her first No. 1 single. "Like a Virgin" was the first of ten songs to top the charts. That song and video established her provocative sexual pop style.

    Combining daring changes in her image with savvy marketing instincts, Madonna became the darling of music television. She flirted her way to No. 1 with "Material Girl," in which she mimicked blond bombshell Marilyn Monroe.

    But the public wasn't quite prepared for the bombs she would drop later in her career.

    Breaking sexual taboos

    Madonna received a Golden Globe for her work in "Evita," co-starring Antonio Banderas. "The Next Best Thing" released this year, with Rupert Everett  

    Madonna took her interest in sex and sexuality where few musicians, especially women, had trod before. In 1989, she took on the church with "Like a Prayer," a video showing her making love to a black Jesus. The Vatican condemned it, and Pepsi canceled a sponsorship deal with the star after its release.

    The next year saw more controversy. The explicit images and lyrics in her 1990 album "Erotica" prompted MTV to ban her video "Justify My Love" and sparked criticism from religious and conservative groups.

    Her personal life was tumultuous, too. She divorced from actor Sean Penn in 1989, ending two years of of stormy marriage.

    Still, those setbacks didn't stifle her film career. She went on to star opposite Warren Beatty in "Dick Tracy" (1990); Antonio Banderas in "Evita" (1996); and Rupert Everett in "The Next Best Thing" (2000). She won a Golden Globe for her role as Argentine first lady Eva Peron in "Evita."

    Her softer side

    Some of the softer edges to Madonna's music have come from her love of Latin culture and rhythms.

    "I wrote 'La Isla Bonita' and that was it. I always tell people I'm sure I was Latin in another life," she said. "I always end up writing Spanish songs or songs that have a Spanish flavor to them.

    "I love Latin music, and I love spanish, I love flamenco, I love Spanish guitars -- I love all that stuff."

    Madonna and boyfriend Guy Ritchie  

    As with her music, which she controls closely, Madonna says she has always taken the utmost care in choosing who producers her videos. "Ray of Light," from the 1998 album of the same name, earned her one of five Grammys.

    She's also protective of her two children, Lourdes and Rocco, keeping them out of the limelight and limiting TV time. She gave birth in 1996 to Lourdes, whose father was former personal trainer Carlos Leon. In August, she had Rocco, whose father is British film director Guy Ritchie.

    Balancing mothering and music might become a super challenge for even a superstar. She's planning her first tour since 1993 to promote "Music," her latest album.

    Warner Bros. Records, Madonna's label, is owned by Time Warner, which is the parent company of CNN.

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    September 27, 2000
    Review: Madonna plays Madonna in 'Next Best Thing'
    March 3, 2000
    Justify my tribute: Madonna honored with 'Virgin Voices'
    April 7, 1999
    Interview: Madonna reviews life on Larry King Live
    January 19, 1999
    Madonna sings of life as 'Evita'
    December 17, 1996

    Official Madonna Fan Club

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