Song of the Day #4,786: ‘Live To Tell’ – Madonna

Most iconic artists have the one album that cemented their status, breaking sales records and establishing their chokehold on the culture.

Michael Jackson had Thriller. U2 had The Joshua Tree. Prince had Purple Rain.

Madonna, arguably, had two such albums. Two years after Like a Virgin became a global smash and the top-selling album by a woman, she dropped True Blue in 1986 and managed to top herself.

This collection fell just short of Like a Virgin‘s U.S. sales, but was a worldwide phenomenon, reaching #1 in a record 28 countries and selling more than 25 million copies globally. It cemented her status alongside Michael Jackson as the biggest star of the 80s.

Madonna co-wrote every song on True Blue and co-produced the album with longtime collaborators Stephen Bray and Patrick Leonard. The record label that hesitated to give her the creative reins on her previous album knew better by now.

On True Blue, she sought a more mature sound, introducing strings, acoustic guitars and non-programmed drums to her usual mix of dance-heavy tracks. She tackled teenage pregnancy on unlikely hit ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ and embraced Latin influences on ‘La Isla Bonita.’

In ‘Open Your Heart,’ Madonna explored romantic longing and produced a video that had quite a corrupting influence on my 14-year-old self.

This is mostly a bright and joyous album, and likely the sweetest thing ever inspired by a romance with Sean Penn.

Amid the bubblegum pop is ‘Live To Tell,’ the greatest ballad Madonna ever recorded. Written for Penn’s film At Close Range, this moody masterpiece was the first of three True Blue tracks to reach #1 on the singles chart (two others peaked in the top five).

[Verse 1]
I have a tale to tell
Sometimes it gets so hard to hide it well
I was not ready for the fall
Too blind to see the writing on the wall

[Chorus]
A man can tell a thousand lies
I’ve learned my lesson well
Hope I live to tell the secret I have learned
‘Til then, it will burn inside of me

[Verse 2]
I know where beauty lives
I’ve seen it once, I know the warm she gives
The light that you could never see
It shines inside, you can’t take that from me

[Chorus]
A man can tell a thousand lies
I’ve learned my lesson well
Hope I live to tell the secret I have learned
‘Til then, it will burn inside of me

[Post-Chorus]
The truth is never far behind
You kept it hidden well
If I live to tell the secret I knew then
Will I ever have the chance again?

[Bridge]
If I ran away, I’d never have the strength to go very far
How would they hear the beating of my heart?
Will it grow cold, the secret that I hide? Will I grow old?
How will they hear? When will they learn? How will they know?

[Chorus]
A man can tell a thousand lies
I’ve learned my lesson well
Hope I live to tell the secret I have learned
‘Til then, it will burn inside of me

[Post-Chorus]
The truth is never far behind
You kept it hidden well
If I live to tell the secret I knew then
Will I ever have the chance again?

[Chorus]
A man can tell a thousand lies
I’ve learned my lesson well
Hope I live to tell the secret I have learned
‘Til then, it will burn inside of me

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,786: ‘Live To Tell’ – Madonna

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    Up until the hits from this album, my feelings about Madonna’s music ran from largely indifferent to annoying. However, that began to change with True Blue. As you mentioned, the music took on a more mature, diverse quality, with more interesting subject matter, and reflected Madonna’s evolution as an artist.

  2. willedare says:

    I had no idea it was so successful — 25 million albums worldwide!!! I have always likes this song. It holds up very well performed with just a guitar and voice.

  3. Amy says:

    LOL your Sean Penn observation 🙂 🙂

    Loved this album, this song, every video for it… this was the height of my Madonna appreciation. Loving this deep dive!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.