Madonna: An Intimate Biography

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Madonna: An Intimate Biography
Image of a blond, middle-aged woman in greyscale, on a white background. She has bright eyes, and looks upwards towards the left of the image. Beneath her image, the title "Madonna" is written in red capital letters, followed by "An Intimate Biography" below it. Further down, the words "J. Randy Taraborrelli" is written in black.
Book cover (UK)
Author J. Randy Taraborrelli
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Subject Madonna
Genre Biography
Publisher Sidgwick & Jackson
Publication date
April 2001
Media type print (Hardcover)
Pages 416
ISBN 978-1-4165-8346-2

Madonna: An Intimate Biography is a book by American author J. Randy Taraborrelli, chronicling the life of American recording artist Madonna. The book was released in April 2001 by Sidgwick & Jackson in the United Kingdom, and in August 2001 by Simon & Schuster in the United States. Taraborrelli first considered writing the book in 1990, but, realizing the project might be premature in respect to Madonna's fledgling career, set it aside. He began writing the book in 1996, when Madonna gave birth to her daughter Lourdes.

Other books about Madonna's life and career had been based on previously published material, but Taraborrelli’s biography was the product of research spanning a decade and includes exclusive interviews with Madonna's close friends, business associates, family members, and her father, Tony Ciccone. These interviews were conducted by the author himself, as well as his team of private investigators. Taraborrelli also interviewed Madonna over the course of years, and drew from those many, first-hand experiences while writing the book.

Madonna: An Intimate Biography received a mixed response from critics. Some considered it a compelling piece on Madonna's life, while others thought Taraborrelli's writing was unprofessional. Despite the mixed response the book was a commercial success, and became a bestseller in the United Kingdom. In the United States, the book debuted atop The New York Times Best Seller list, and remained there for three months, selling about two million copies.

Summary[edit]

The book opens with Madonna's birth, her early years in Michigan, and her 1977 move to New York City where she was involved with modern dance, two pop groups, composing, and releasing her 1983 debut album, Madonna. Her rise to superstardom as a pop icon is chronicled and her cutting edge music videos, albums, first concert tour, film roles, and marriage and divorce to Sean Penn are examined. The book investigates her controversial religious imagery and her erotic productions, Erotica, Sex, and Body of Evidence. The book describes a mellowing in her appearance and provocativeness, and, among other things, the release of her next several albums, her Golden Globe Award-winning musical film portrayal of Eva Peron, and her high-grossing Drowned World Tour. The births of her elder daughter and son are chronicled and her marriage to Guy Ritchie.

Development[edit]

"While it may not always be easy to find the real Madonna amidst the hocus-pocus of public relations she manufactures to hide her true self, she's there just the same. In pursuit of her, one has to be perceptive enough to look beyond the thick smoke, away from the confusing mirrors. There hides the real woman. As I found in the years of researching and then finally writing Madonna: An Intimate Biography, finding her is worth the effort.[1]


—J. Randy Taraborrelli
Los Angeles, January 2001

American journalist and celebrity biographer John Randall Taraborrelli first met Madonna at a press conference in 1983. She spoke of her youthful struggles before the release of her debut album, and of her belief that she would someday enjoy great success as the "century's biggest star". Taraborrelli thought her brash, cocky, petulant, self-indulgent, and a mediocre beauty with a voice to match.[2]

Taraborrelli was proven wrong, and, in 1990, he considered writing her biography but put the thought aside, thinking such a venture was too premature. He pointed out that "most subjects need time for evolution and personal growths, before their stories are ripe enough to put on paper. Madonna was in an ambitious, self-involved phase during which nothing mattered more to her than her career." He picked up the writing again in 1994, but felt the same way about her, and hoped the time would come when the singer would focus on her personal life, rather than her career. A personal evolution occurred in her life with the birth of daughter Lourdes in 1996, and it was then that Taraborrelli sensed the time was ripe to begin writing her biography.[3]

Writing and release[edit]

Taraborrelli decided to focus on the private life of Madonna, and who she really was. Many books about the superstar were based on previously published material, but Taraborrelli had ten years of research to draw upon including interviews with people who had not spoken about Madonna in public and his own interviews with the icon. Taraborrelli and his team of private investigators interviewed Madonna's close friends, business associates, and family members including her father Silvio Ciccone.[4]

During the course of writing the book, Taraborrelli realized that one of the greatest misconceptions about Madonna was the general perception that she was cold and unemotional in her personal relationships. The opposite proved true; Madonna was indeed emotionally vulnerable, and Taraborelli cited as an example the icon's 1990 relationship with actor Warren Beatty. Their relationship was generally perceived as nothing more than a means to promote their film Dick Tracy, and Madonna was regarded under the circumstances as opportunistic. Taraborelli discovered however that Madonna actually had strong feelings for Beatty. The actor however was not as emotionally invested as Madonna, and the relationship ended with her heart being broken. Taraborelli observed, "So, what I think will surprise people with this story are the many times that Madonna has ended up feeling alone and rejected. She has built her entire career on an image of indestructibility. But at least in her personal life, and again, I make that distinction, because this isn't necessarily true in her business life, she is one of the most fragile subjects I've ever written about [...] This book is really about placing her life into the proper historical context, and once again answering the why questions about her." [5]

Critical response[edit]

The book received mixed reviews. Caroline Foulkes wrote in The Birmingham Post: "The thing about this biography is the depths to which Taraborrelli has dug to get information on a famously controlling woman. He relates revealing anecdotes as if they were mere bagatelle, making News of the World style revelations look like kid's stuff. If Taraborrelli were to include in his list of acknowledgments 'thanks to the maid who let me into Madonna's bedroom to raid her underwear drawer', it wouldn't be any great surprise." She also felt that "despite the sensationalism, Taraborrelli's writing style lets him down. Too often it descends into the kind of mush you expect from an airport novel, with the singer coming across more like a character from Shirley Conran's Lace than a real woman."[6] Peter Sobczynski reviewed the book for the Post-Tribune and felt that "the problem with writing an unauthorized tell-all biography is that, in this information-rich world that we live in, by the time a book gets written on somebody, most of the juicy stories are already common knowledge. To make up for that, the tell-all author needs to fill his or her pages with either a thoughtful analysis of the subject at hand, or, frankly, newer and better dirt. Unfortunately, celebrity biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli does neither with his latest concoction, Madonna: An Intimate Biography."[7]

William Leith of The Evening Standard was impressed with the biography, and noted that "the thing about Madonna is not in her sensationalism, it’s in the fact that how much humane she appeared in the book. Taraborrelli does a fine job of capturing the world's most famous courtesan, in the most infamous way",[8] and John Smyntek from Knight Ridder thought "Taraborrelli [is] retelling all [the known facts about Madonna] and more. After all, in those 10 years, the Great Woman has had two children, wed and maintained her image as a major pain in the keister. He does a great job of bringing forth these unknown facts."[9] Ward Triplet of the Kansas City Star felt that although the book is "an eerie, but compelling day by day account of Madonna, and how she became who she is, sometimes Taraborrelli feels like revealing more about his process of writing than the his subject",[10] and Ann O' Neil in the Los Angeles Times complimented the book for being "different" from the "regular dirt written everyday about Madonna."[11]

Sylvia Sharma from The Daily Mirror felt that "Taraborrelli's rummage through Madge's life can bring you to shame. This is the Madonna biography all had been waiting for, this is who she is. Not the staunch woman that we see, but a woman who is no different than one of us."[12] Mike Thomas from Chicago Sun-Times said that "Filled with private details from Madonna's life, Taraborrelli gives us the first in-depth look at the Material Girl in more than a decade. The following outtakes from friends, former friends, Taraborrelli and Madonna herself were hand- picked for your perusing pleasure. Or displeasure. Madonna, as with all pop icons, is an acquired taste."[13]

Publication history[edit]

Region Release date Format
United Kingdom April 20, 2001 Hardcover[14]
April 12, 2002 Paperback[15]
February 1, 2008 Paperback – Extended edition[16]
April 9, 2008 Amazon Kindle[17]
United States June 6, 2002 Paperback[18]
October 18, 2007 Paperback – Special edition[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Madonna: An Intimate Biography, 2002, Author's Note, p. 15
  2. ^ Madonna: An Intimate Biography, 2002, Author's Note, p. 13
  3. ^ Madonna: An Intimate Biography, 2002, Author's Note, p. 14
  4. ^ "Taraborrelli Books: Madonna Biography". JRandyTaraborrelli.com. Retrieved August 6, 2010. 
  5. ^ CNN Online Transcript (July 19, 2001). "J. Randy Taraborrelli: Madonna biographer". CNN (Turner Broadcasting System). Retrieved August 6, 2010. 
  6. ^ Foulkes, Caroline (April 6, 2002). "Book Views: Madonna: An Intimate Biography. By J Randy Taraborrelli". The Birmingham Post. Retrieved August 6, 2010. 
  7. ^ Sobczynski, Peter (August 26, 2001). "Unauthorized Madonna biography unfortunately deficient in material". Post-Tribune. Retrieved August 6, 2010. 
  8. ^ Leith, William (April 23, 2001). "In bed with a bad girl". The Evening Standard. Retrieved August 6, 2010. 
  9. ^ Smyntek, John (August 11, 2001). "'Madonna: An Intimate Biography,' by J. Randy Taraborrelli". Knight Ridder. Retrieved August 6, 2010. 
  10. ^ Triplet, Ward (August 12, 2001). "The Justify My Book". Kansas City Star. Retrieved August 6, 2010. 
  11. ^ O'Neill, Ann (August 7, 2001). "Let's Make A Deal". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 6, 2010. 
  12. ^ Sharma, Sylvia (December 28, 2001). "2001 Greatest Hits: Books – Between the covers". Daily Mirror. Retrieved August 23, 2010. 
  13. ^ Thomas, Mike (July 20, 2001). "Who's that girl? Bio has an idea". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved August 23, 2010. 
  14. ^ "Madonna: An Intimate Biography UK Hardcover". Amazon.co.uk. April 20, 2001. Retrieved August 23, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Madonna: An Intimate Biography UK Paperback". Amazon.co.uk. April 12, 2002. Retrieved August 23, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Madonna: An Intimate Biography UK Extended edition Paperback". Amazon.co.uk. February 1, 2008. Retrieved August 23, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Madonna: An Intimate Biography Kindle, only UK". Amazon Kindle. April 9, 2008. Retrieved August 23, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Madonna: An Intimate Biography US Paperback". Amazon.com. June 6, 2002. Retrieved August 23, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Madonna: An Intimate Biography US Special Edition Paperback". Amazon.com. October 18, 2007. Retrieved August 23, 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]