Madonna, The Early Years: DJ John Benitez On Adding His Magic To Her Debut Album, And What Early Criticism Meant To Her

Madonna has been a pop legend for 33 years as of 2016 according to Out magazine.

Madonna’s full name is Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone, but she is known all over the world today simply as Madonna thanks to her debut album of the same name. After the album hit stores the world of pop was never the same, and with the unmatchable combination of talent and a sheer will to succeed, Madonna won over the world with her style and musical talent. Her close friend, DJ John “Jellybean” Benitez played a very important role in Madonna’s early years.

DJ John Benitez spoke on the first album of Madonna and how he helped her with it, saying that she was “unhappy with the whole album,” so he went through and “sweetened up” the songs for her, adding small tweaks and extras to many of the now-iconic songs. And it seems that his tweaks made all the difference to Madonna’s debut album, as the album all but made Madonna a household name.

“I adding some guitars to ‘Lucky Star,’ some voices, some magic…”

DJ John Benitez went on to say that he just “wanted to the best job [he] could do for her,” and that he knew he had transformed many of the songs when he could see how “overwhelmed” Madonna was when he played the improved versions of songs like “Holiday” and “Lucky Star.”

The experience wasn’t entirely positive for the DJ though, as he admitted that as much as Madonna could be a “b*tch” at times, but when he was “in groove with her,” it was a very cool and very creative experience.

During the time of her debut, Madonna was effortlessly cool as she somehow defied all the expectations people had of her. Although the music critics at the time initially did not like the album when it came out, it went on to sell 10 million copies worldwide.

Madonna spoke about the criticism she received in the early days of her career during her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and how the criticism only pushed her to improve.

“The ones that said I was talentless, that I was chubby, that I couldn’t sing, that I was a one-hit wonder. They pushed me to be better, and I am grateful for their resistance.”

Though Madonna revealed that she does not spend much time thinking about her old material as she would rather focus on moving forward in her career, her back catalog of songs undoubtedly includes some of the best pop songs ever recorded by an artist. According to Rolling Stone magazine, Madonna’s gift for songwriting is matched only by her skill for finding the right collaborators for her music.

Madonna’s songs always have a story to tell, and they reveal how she has evolved into a person who can be at home in a club, a church, or even on a catwalk. On Rolling Stone magazine’s list of Madonna’s 50 best songs, “Like A Prayer” is ranked in the number one position, revealing much about Madonna’s obsession with the connection between sex and spirituality. And although the song may have a double meaning for many, Madonna went on to reveal that prayer is something she would do when she is happy, in trouble, or when her emotions go to the extremes.

The song stirred up controversy for its lyrics and the possible double interpretation behind the lyrics and the music video itself, which was shot inside a Catholic church and included shocking moments such as Madonna having sex with a statue and her experiencing the stigmata.

[Composite image containing photos by Mario Tama,Anthony Harvey,Alexander Sibaja/Getty Images]