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The Rolling Stone Interview: Madonna

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The song on your album "Till Death Do Us Part" portrays a tormented, volatile and dangerous marriage. The implication is autobiographical. How honest are the lyrics?

Like most of the songs on my album, it's very much drawn from my life, factually speaking, but it's fictionalized, too. "Till Death Do Us Part" is about a destructive relationship that is powerful and painful. In this song, however, it's a cycle that you can't get out of until you die. It's futile. I wanted the song to be very shocking, and I think it was. It's about a dysfunctional relationship, a sadomasochistic relationship that can't end. Now that's where the truth stops, because I would never want to continue a terrible relationship forever and ever and ever until I die.

Has Sean heard the song?

Yes. And he loves it, strangely enough [laugh]. But Sean is very, very keen on being brutally frank in his work. He's attracted to writers and artists who don't mince words.

Do you ever think you married too young?

No.

Do you think the odds were stacked against this marriage from the start? It seemed people defied it to suceed.

Oh, yes. I felt that no one wanted us to be together. They celebrated our union, and then they wanted us to be apart. There were rumors about us getting a divorce a week after the wedding. We fought that. And, yes, that is difficult. I don't know if anyone can do it [under those circumstances]. You have to be really, really strong and immune. Very sure of yourself.

In terms of your chemistry, you are two strong-willed individuals, volatile in your own ways.

Both passionate people. Way over the top [laughs].

Did your marriage thrive on fiction?

Yes. I have an incredible fascination and attraction to it. Like I said about walking into the fire. Well, he's fire, that's for sure.

Do you regret you ever got married?

No. Ultimately, I have twinges of regret, but I feel more sadness than anything. Feeling regret is really destructive. I have learned a great deal from my marriage, so much. About everything – mostly about myself. Please don't ask me what. I just couldn't say.

You almost seemed an old-fashioned girl in your enthusiasm for marriage.

I'm a very old-fashioned girl. Marriage is a great thing when it's right. And I did celebrate it and embrace it, and I wanted the whole world to know that this is the man I loved more than anything. But there's a price to pay for that, which is something I now realize. Ever since I was in high school, when I was madly in love with someone, I was so proud of this person, I wanted the world to know that I loved him. But once you reveal it to the world – and you're in the public eye – you give it up, and it's not your own anymore. I began to realize how important it is to hold on to privacy and keeping things to yourself as much as possible. It's like a runaway train afterward. So if you ask, Did I complicate things by being very public about [my feelings]? Yes. I did.

And he is as famous for his shyness as you are for your forthrightness.

Yes, he is shy. But I have my shyness, and he also has his moments of exhibitionism. But I really don't want to analyze Sean in this interview. The point I was trying to make before was just about saving something for yourself. The romantic side of me wanting to announce my love, given my position in life, would ultimately work against me in the future. It's an incredible strain on the relationship. Because if you want everyone to know about the great things, then you're saying too that you want them to know about the bad things. So you never get left alone.

Are you a woman who loves too much?

No. I don't think you can ever love enough.

Your public persona is characterized by flirtatiousness, and Sean appeared to be a traditional guy, jealous of his woman's sharing herself so openly.

But I'm not immune to jealousy? We're both jealous.

Do you think you're the right woman for him?

I don't know. Life is long. Who knows? I couldn't say for sure. Was I the right woman, or am I the right woman? I was the right woman at the time. I mean, there are no accidents. What happened happened. I'm sure we learned a great deal from each other.

Are you a challenge to live with?

Definitely! Do you think it could be any other way? Yes, I'm pretty headstrong. And stubbornness comes with that, a certain amount of inflexibility. In going after what I wanted, other things tend to fall by the wayside, things you should maybe pay more attention to. Most passionate people are headstrong. [We were] two fires rubbing up against each other. It's exciting and difficult.

How accurate are the tablord tales of your night of terror – the nine hours in bondage?

Extremely inaccurate, as they usually are. They made it all up. But I expect it. They're always making shit up. I've completely reconciled myself to that fact.

So there wasn't one single breaking point?

It's been a slow breaking point all the way. I can't say there's anything specific that happened.

But you did file and later drop charges with the Mahbu police, right?

[Pauses] I understand your position. People want to hear the dirt. But this is not really anything I want to talk about here. It's totally unfair to Sean, too. I have great respect for him. It's like most relationships that fail. It's not one thing, it's many thing that go on over a period of time.

The he emotional context of the album is drawn from when I was growing up – and I'm still growing up,'

You're spoken before of your fascination with the painter Frida Kahlo, whose marriage to the muralist Diego Rivera was famously tempestuous. Are you drawn to the parallels in your lives?

I see some parallels. I mean, she was crippled physically and emotionally in ways that I'm not. But she was also married to a very powerful and passionate man and was tormented by him. Although he loved her and was supportive of her as an artist, there was a lot of competition between them. There weren't that many female artists at the time, and the Latin community is a very macho environment. It was very hard for her to survive that and have her own identity. And I can identify to a certain extent with having that awarenes of the male point of view of what a woman's role is in a relationship. It's tough to fight it. She was very courageous, and I admire and can relate to that.

You've maintained in your music that dreams come true. What are your dreams like?

Most of my dreams are really violent. But then, obviously, my life is pretty crazy. I'm always in the public eye. People are always sort of chasing after me and imposing on my privacy, my area, my space. So I have those kinds of dreams, where people are chasing me or I'm naked – you know, exposed. Also, I dream of children a lot. Specifically, I see different people in my life as children. That may be because, in a way, I feel I take care of a lot of people. But, yes, dreams are an important part of my life.

You're an insomniac on top of it, night? What's your secret to falling asleep? Do you count sheep?

No. You know what I do? I remember the past when I can't go to sleep. I think of a very specific moment in my life, like when I was nine years old and I was the fourth-grade hall monitor, and everyone in class was all lined up to go to the bathroom. I remeber every detail – what people were wearing, what I felt like, what I was wearing, the smell of the school. It works my mind and tires me out. Then I find myself drifting into sleep. Although I spend many a night not going to sleep at all.

How have you been sleeping lately?

I'm sleeping all right now, actually. When I'm really upset, I do actually sleep. The times I don't sleep are when my mind just won't shut off, and I'm either working on something or worried about something, or I've had too many cups of coffee.

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Song Stories

“Love Is the Answer”

Utopia | 1977

The message of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" proved to be a universal and long-lasting one, which Utopia revisited 10 years later on this ballad. "From a lyrical standpoint, it's part of a whole class of songs that I write, which are about filial love," Todd Rundgren explained. "I'm not a Christian, but it's called Christian love, the love that people are supposed to naturally feel because we are all of the same species. That may be mythical, but it's still a subject." Though "Love Is the Answer" wasn't a hit, a cover version two years later by England Dan & John Ford Coley peaked at Number Ten on the Billboard singles chart.

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