Live To Tell

Album: True Blue (1986)
Charted: 2 1
  • songfacts ®
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  • Lyrics
  • This was written for the movie At Close Range, staring Sean Penn, who Madonna was married to at the time. In 2004, Penn won an Oscar for his role in Mystic River. To this date, Madonna has never won an Oscar, not even for Swept Away.
  • Madonna wrote this with Patrick Leonard, who worked on many of her albums. Leonard also produced and played keyboards on albums by Rod Stewart and Elton John.
  • In a 2009 interview with Rolling Stone, Madonna said, "Sometimes when I'm writing songs, I'm just channeling. I could say that 'Live To Tell' was about my childhood, my relationship with my parents, my father and my stepmother. But maybe not. It could be about something in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel or a story that I heard once. It's true, but it's not necessarily autobiographical."
  • This was one of Madonna's first ballads. Early in her career, she relied on dance songs like "Lucky Star" and "Borderline," but she has done very well with slow songs like "Take A Bow" and "This Used To Be My Playground." It took her a few years to develop the vocal range for the ballads.
  • On her 2006 "Confessions" tour, Madonna performed this song while suspended from a giant cross and wearing a crown of thorns. Predictably, this caused a great deal of controversy and angered certain religious groups. When NBC aired a special of Madonna's concert, they refused to show the cross scenes. An uncut performance is available on Madonna's Confessions Tour DVD/CD collection.
    Madonna told Rolling Stone : "When I performed "Live to Tell" on a cross, I was supporting Jesus, paying homage to his message, which is to love your neighbor as yourself, to treat people with dignity. The Christians didn't like that."
  • Madonna told Mojo March 2015: "It was kind of inspired by the movie and family secrets and the things that make you who you are, but you don't necessarily want to share. Mix that in with my own childhood and my own growing up and all that. My real experiences get mixed in with things that I imagine."
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Comments: 11

  • Tj from TorontoThe song is very plausibly about Madonna selling her soul for success:

    "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.
    A man can tell a thousand lies, I've learned my lesson well, Hope I live to tell The secret I have learned, 'till then It will burn inside of me."

    Pretty clear, if that's what it's about. Oddly, some of the very best songs seem to be about selling souls. Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" was.
  • Molly from Niagara Falls, NyBetween the verses, the electric guitar is very subtle. (And almost completely mixed out of the 1990 remix, unfortunately)
  • Leo from Westminster 1, MdBeautiful song by Lady Madonna. In Live to Tell, Miss Ciccone's voice trembles, beseeches, seethes and cries with sadness and raw emotion. This song mad me a devoted fan of Madonna because in Live to Tell, Madonna realizes there is hope even in a no-win situation. It's no surprise that the beautiful ballad is her favorites song out of all the artworks she has done. Madonna's performances of Live to Tell on both the
    Who's That Girl? and the Confessions Tours are brilliant, sad and heartfelt. Yet in the end, Madonna is happy she wrote and sang Live to Tell for those like me who just some hope and encouragement in life. Thanks, Madge-for being my friend because of this beautiful
    art song. Live to Tell is a hopeful ballad that deserved its #1 position on the charts and made rock scribes believe in her. Live to Tell is her best song and my favorite Madonna tune
    -it's about being hopeful in hard times.
  • Ian from Nyc, NyThis song appears to have been written by Patrick Leonard. This is even noted on Wikipedia (relax, there is a citation). He wrote it for a movie other than Close Range. Another site had the original Leonard demo of the song, but it was removed from Youtube. Madonna's songwriting credit seems to be a subterfuge.
  • Rod from Gainesville, FlI don´t really think she wrote this song. Note how clueless she is when they ask her what it´s about.

    It is the best thing she ever sang I guess credit should go to this Patrick Leonard guy.
  • Marcus from Houston, TxThe song is very haunting. Definitely one of her best. The 12 inch version of this song is the best. I used this song in one of my mixtapes of 80's ballads and love songs. It came together perfectly. Loved the video. The movie was mediocre but the ending of it was sad and powerful.
  • Adam from Boyce, VaCan't believe nobody mentioned how well this song blended in with the movie AT CLOSE RANGE. It is the PERFECT song for the film and I will forever love the movie because of the song and vice versa, and where in the hell do you hear an electric guitar in this song? LoL...
  • Theresa from Murfreesboro, TnHer best ballad by a mile! This song made me a Madonna fan. Love the sound of the electric guitar, gives me goosebumps.
  • Shawn from Green Bay, WiVery underrated, seldom heard song that is actually Madonna's best. Being from a movie soundtrack can do that to a song. The song is about the movie it was written. Pretty good though not great movie.
  • Cooper from Somewhere, Althis is a song madonna wrote for a gay friend of hers who died. i'm guessig he died due to contracting HIV.
  • Jonathan from Natchitoches, LaAppeared in Season 1 Episode 4 of Cold Case on CBS. The name of the episode is "Churchgoing People."
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