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Papa Don't Preach by Madonna

Album: True BlueReleased: 1986Charted:
1
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  • This song is about teenage pregnancy. Madonna takes the voice of a confused teenager who wants advice from her father at a difficult time. In a 2009 interview with Rolling Stone, she said: "It just fit right in with my own personal zeitgeist of standing up to male authorities, whether it's the pope or the Catholic Church or my father and his conservative, patriarchal ways."
  • The line "I've made up my mind, I'm keeping my baby," caused anti-abortion groups to praise Madonna and abortion-rights groups to criticize her. Madonna refused to take a stance on the issue.
  • Madonna called this "a message song that everyone is going to take the wrong way."
  • This was one of the most controversial Madonna songs. Many articles were written about it in the context of abortion. The media attention helped make it a hit and keep it on the charts.
  • A producer named Brian Elliot wrote this song for a new artist he was working with named Christina Dent, who was on the same label as Madonna. When a record company executive heard it, he convinced Elliot to give it to Madonna instead, because she was an established star.
  • This was one of the first Madonna songs to take on a political issue. Her previous hits, like "Holiday," "Borderline," and "Lucky Star," stayed well clear of controversy.
  • The video featured Danny Aiello as Madonna's father. He recorded an answer song from the father's perspective called "Papa Only Wants The Best." Aiello was mostly unknown at the time, but went on to star in Do The Right Thing and Moonstruck.
  • Around this time, Madonna was working out and had a more toned body that she showed off in the video by wearing a tight black outfit. It was rumored that you could see her nipples when she leaned back.
  • Ozzy Osbourne's daughter, Kelly, recorded this with Mike Einziger and Jose Pasillas from the group Incubus for the soundtrack to The Osbournes, an MTV show about Ozzy's home life. Kelly's mom, Sharon Osbourne, asked her to do it. Her version peaked at #74, making it the first instance of a cover of a Madonna song reaching the Hot 100. Osbourne's rendition also reached #3 in the UK singles chart.
  • The guy who plays Madonna's boyfriend in the video is Alex McArthur, who is featured in the Desperado movies. (Thanks, Linda - Oudenaarde, Belgium)
  • In it's review of the album True Blue, Rolling Stone magazine referred to this song as "Madonna's Billie Jean." Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" had a similar theme, about a pregnancy complicating people's lives. Jackson has been called "The King Of Pop," while Madonna has been referred to as "The Queen of Pop."
  • Rock critic Dave Marsh gave this song a glowing review: "that ultimate rarity - a message song that opens with Beatles-esque cellos that you can dance to." (thanks, Adam - Dewsbury, England, for above 2)
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Comments: 20

I am pro-life but I think the message of the song is don't judge but have compassion.Martin - Fresno, Ca
When I was in my 20s I belonged to a theatre group. We specialized in improv, but also performed a few skits that we wrote. A few months before this song came out, I performed in a 2-person skit where I was playing a teenager who had to tell her father that she was pregnant. So many of the elements in the video were exactly like the skit (I even wrote that the boyfriend was an auto machanic!) that I wish someone could have taped it with a date stamp. Whenever I tell anyone about that show, they always assume that I got my ideas from her! I didn't even LIKE her at the time (still don't)!Karen - Manchester, Nh
I always thought that the song was about teenage love and Madonna marrying the guy in the video. Being that she is a teen in the video, I thought the guy asked her to marry him but she is unsure because of her young age. When you look at the video, you see nothing that aludes to an unplanned pregnancy. I think the video was one of her best because the dramatic elements in it. I especially liked the long ending.Marcus - Houston, Tx
It's just a good song no matter what your beliefs are.Theresa - Murfreesboro, Tn
Rather than abortion, I thought it meant the girl in the song wasn't going to give the baby up for adoption.Ekristheh - Halath, United States
Madonna's mom died when she was very young - so is it any wonder that she might untilmately want to be a mother (maybe not in '86 but some day - which she did) and would actually want to keep it? Madonna means one with a child! So I think she liked this song for a number of reasons and I am glad she recorded it.Linc - Beaumont, Tx
The Simpsons had an epidsode called Papa don't leach which is a parody of the title. The episode is about the Simpsons getting a country singer bac with her father.Austin - Smallsville,new England, --
every teen girl should listen to this song...Mackenzie :) - Fairmont , Wv
Vauxhall Motors used the strings in the introduction to this song in their TV commercials between 1994 and 2002. In 2000, a dance act named Progress Presents The Boy Wunda sampled "Papa Don't Preach" on their club hit "Everybody"Dave - Cardiff, Wales
I always thought - and indeed had it confirmed by some music critics - that there was some ambiguity in the song - Was she keeping her baby i.e. she was pregnant, or was she keeping her baby - her boyfriend who it seems did not meet her father's approval. It's not written in stone in the lyrics.Ian - Swansea, Wales
Definitely the best Madonna song ever made and after 20 years it still remains in my top 3 of all time by a female solo singer.Terry - Northampton, England
Does Madonna write any of her own songs?Kelli - Cedar Rapids, Ia
The rumours of this song being about Sean Penn are so stupid..! Madonna doesn't even write her own songs, this song was not even written for her. It has absolutely nothing to do with Sean Penn, okay? It's stupid enough for people to give credit to Madonna for this song.Ozzzy - Sydney, Australia
in the video when madonna is sitting in the boat with her boyfrfriend and the piano is being played, what was she eating? it looked like soup sticks...any idea?Sum Sum - New Delhi, India
I forgot to write my grandfather's name....his name is Milton Rothfeld.Melissa - Hartsdale, Ny
In this video, there is a shot of Madonna and her boyfriend on a boat, with an older man and woman looking on at them. The man in the video is my grandfather....Melissa, New York.Melissa - Hartsdale, Ny
I can't wait until her kids sing this to her.Wes - Springfield, Va
I heard that her "baby" was really Sean Penn and people were telling her to break up with him,acting like a father bossing her around, hence the "Papa" part. But she was "keepin' her baby"Alex - New Orleans, La
Altho vogue sealed the deal of madonna erotica sealed the deal showing that madonna is a true super star because she posed nude in a book and got it on NYT best seller list, being able to sing a song about teen sex was pretty amazingConnor - Woodbridge, Va
Appears on Ë?"True Blue," referred to by many critics as Madonna's first mature album.Keith - Mt. Pleasant, Mi