Suggest a Songfact / Artistfact
Album: Like A PrayerReleased: 1989Charted:
"Oh father," is often the start of a prayer, typically a child talking to God and often as part of a confession. Like the song "Promise To Try
" on the album, it relates to Madonna's childhood and finds her taking on the emotional burden she carried as a little girl. Regarding "Oh, Father," she said it was "me dealing with all authority figures in my life."
The black-and-white video was influenced by the photography in the movie Citizen Kane. Some of the material for the video was autobiographical, which led to questions about Madonna's relationship with her father, to which Madonna replied it was about her coming to terms with all the men in her life who had hurt her. She added that her own father had never asked about the song and they had never spoken of it. (thanks, Mike - Santa Barbara, CA)
The single did poorly as a commercial release, ending Madonna's streak of 18 Top 10 hits in the US. However it reached #1 in South Africa. In the UK it wasn't released as a single until 1995 when it was issued to promote her compilation album Something To Remember.
Madonna wrote and produced this with one of her frequent collaborators, keyboardist Patrick Leonard. She explained their working relationship to Smash Hits in 1989: "Lots of times Pat Leonard will come up with a piece of music like 'Oh Father' - we did very little to change it musically - he throws the music at me and I just listen to it over and over again. And somehow the music suggests words to me and I just start writing words down. Other times I will come to Pat with an idea for a song, either lyrically or emotionally and say 'Let's do something like this' or I'll have a melody line in my head which I will sing to him and he will sort of pound out the chords. It takes a lot longer to do it that way because I don't play an instrument but ultimately it's a lot more personal."
Madonna had yet another censorship battle with this song's music video, but she won: "Well, every time I do a video they say they're not going to show it. When I did 'Oh, Father,' they said, 'We're not going to show the scene with the lips sewn up.' And I said, 'F--k you,' And then they showed it," she told Interview Magazine.
The scene in question involved a little girl's dead mother in a casket with her lips sewn shut, inspired by Madonna's memories of her own mother's funeral. Madonna Ciccone died of breast cancer at the age of 30 in 1963 when the future singer was 5 years old.
After "Express Yourself
," this was the second in a string of Madonna videos to be directed by David Fincher, followed by "Vogue
" and "Bad Girl
." He also went on to direct popular films like Seven
(1995), Fight Club
(1999) and The Social Network
Australian Pop singer Sia covered this for her album We Are Born in 2010.