The Ballad of the In-law: Joe Henry Thanks Madonna
Interview translated from Belgian Magazine HUMO by Madonna_Dot_Refugees’ forum Member Acko
Joe Henry is in Belgium to do some shows so expect reporters to probe him on Madge. This is his first interview here. Published today in HUMO magazine.
Joe Henry would be one of those many struggling american singer-songwriters.
The meter for his biggest selling album ‘Scar’ clocks in at a modest 25.000 copies (worldwide). Nice little detail, his sister in-law goes by the illustrious name of Madonna. In fact the Diva was so impressed by Henry’s song ‘Stop’ she used it as the basis for her world-wide smash ‘Dont’ Tell Me’. And u know how these things go. All of a sudden people became interested in Henry’s solo material. Rightfully so.
HUMO: Did Madonna’s ‘Don’t tell Me’ give u any financial security?
Henry: I’ve been able to make a living out of doing music
for years now. I work as a producer and I write music for films as well.
But, DTM did make my life a whole lot easier. I can finally buy my children a pair of braces now.
My wife (Melanie Ciccone) instantly felt it was the right song for Madonna. She insisted that it be sent to her. At first I thought the idea was completely insane.
I mean if I was to send her a tune I had a few songs that seemed far more appropriate. But I was wrong. She fell for DTM immediately. When she told me,
I thought oh well, she probably won’t record it. And when she did record it, I had this idea that it would never make it onto the album. Wrong again. But I was so very sure that it would never, not in a million years, become a bonafide hit. The song then stranded at #4 in the US, in many countries it even made it to #1. Shortly after I went to a Madonna concert where she sang it live. Hearing twenty thousand 15-year-olds sing along to your words is quite an extraordinary feeling.
HUMO: Did she ask you for more songs, afterwards?
Henry: Well, right now we’re writing some songs for a musical.
It’s about the era of the ‘silent movie’. I learned not to harbour any expectations and just cease every interesting opportunity.
You know, I’ve noticed that many journalists think I resent DTM. But what can b more beautiful for a songwriter than having one of your songs covered? And when they still ring true in a completely different version… .
I can’t think of a bigger compliment.
HUMO: The only song you recorded together was ‘Guilty by Association’. In the liner notes for its parent album ‘Sweet Relief II’ you dub Madonna: ‘The voice of a generation’. Irony?
Henry: A little laughs. But irony only works when there’s truth to it.
For better or for worse, Madonna is the voice of a certain generation. Otherwise GAP wouldn’t pay her 10 million dollars for a commercial. She’s just not the voice of my generation. The age gap is a bit too small for that.
HUMO: What do you call her when you’re among family? Madonna (her real name by the way) or Louise (her middle name)
Henry: Usually, it’s Nonnie, her nickname since childhood. I just can’t call her Madonna. It feels like a brand, not a name. I called her Louise for so many years, but after we named our daughter that we had to go back to Nonnie.
HUMO: You named your daughter after Madonna?!?
Henry: Laughs… no. Melanie’s mother died when my wife was still a toddler, her name was Madonna Louise. So, we wanted to name our daughter after her. You understand that Madonna was not an option.
HUMO: You also went to school with notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
Henry: Yes, we were good friends in elementary school. David Letterman said to me: “It’s astonishing that you went to school with Dahmer and Madonna. They’re both cannibals!”.
Special Thanks to Acko from Madonna Dot Refugees’ forum.