Happy Birthday Madonna, From Ariel Rechtshaid
Growing up in L.A., there was the music on the radio and then the music that defined me personally. Usually, the latter was music I found at a record shop because the cover was cool, or through an older kid at school. Madonna was both.
She managed to feel cutting-edge throughout all of my life: visuals that inspired me (and most people) on MTV, songs that made me (and most people) dance when they came on the radio, a controversial book (Sex) that my parents and I were mutually interested in. On and on….
When I was asked to work with Madonna, I naturally jumped at the opportunity. The first day was surreal and stressful. I quickly forgot the impact she had on my childhood and went straight into my adult (semi-) professional self.
The second day, we had a bit of a song written, and it was time for M to try it on the mic. We were all in the same room with headphones on, and she started to casually sing some of the words she had written. I literally ruined the take and scared her when pulled my headphones off and yelled: “Fuck, you sound exactly like Madonna!”
Hearing THAT iconic of a voice three feet from you is a hard-to-describe experience. She didn’t kick me out of the session, and from that point on I proceeded to grill her on everything I could think of… We went through each page of the Sex book, delved into her relationship with Basquiat, New York in the early ’80s, Keith Haring, Warhol, Jellybean Benitez… literally everything.
I could write a not-so-short novel about all the questions that I asked her and all the stories she told. She is truly a legend and meeting/working with her only elevated my adoration and admiration for her. It seemed like part of every day was her worrying about charities she’s part of. Most of every day was her being a mom. And what was left was her being Madonna… it was wild. She is one of a kind. Happy Birthday!
Ariel Rechtshaid is a record producer, audio engineer, mixing engineer, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter. He has worked with and written for the likes of Vampire Weekend, HAIM, Usher, Troye Sivan, Kelela, Adele, Sky Ferreira, Lower Dens, Beyonce, Charli XCX and, of course, Madonna.
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