MadonnaTribe meets Billy Steinberg… for the very first time
In 2004, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the song Like A Virgin, we put together and article with its story through the years. Now, in 2006, we finally had the chance to have a chat with Billy Steinberg, the author of the song, who spoke to the MadonnaTribe team about this signature Madonna song and about other timeless compositions he wrote for the likes of Cyndi Lauper, The Bangles and Mel C among others.
Follow us through this interview with Billy, to discover the qualities a song must have to stay “shiny and new” through decades. Click on the banner below to read this month’s MadonnaTribe interview in full.
MadonnaTribe: Along with Tom Kelly you wrote one of the most popular songs ever. “Like A Virgin”.
Browsing an old interview in which you spoke about the song you mentioned it was written in 1983. You were driving around in your pickup truck and got the idea for the song out of a personal experience. Can you tell us more about that day you came up with the lyrics?
Billy Steinberg: In 1983, when I wrote the lyrics for “Like A Virgin”, I was very happy because I had extricated myself from a very difficult relationship and was enjoying a new one.
I felt like a virgin.
I wrote the first verse lyric first, starting with “I made it through the wilderness.” I didn’t start with the title.
But after I wrote the line, “you made me feel shiny and new”, the title “Like A Virgin” popped into my head.
Right away, I knew it could make a startling song and I was excited about working on it with Tom.
MadonnaTribe: Are there some alternate lyrics you didn’t use in the end?
Billy Steinberg: There are some alternate lyrics that we didn’t use in the end. Mostly junk. For example, “Ask my friends and they’ll tell you it’s true. Nobody’s had what I’m giving to you.”
MadonnaTribe: I heard that the song was originally intended as a ballad, is that true?
Billy Steinberg: No, the song wasn’t intended as a ballad. I had no pre-conceived idea about the music.
It’s just that when Tom read the first verse, it sounded romantic and serious and his first instinct was to approach the music as a ballad. But I knew that that was the wrong approach.
When I told him so, he tried something else. After doing this numerous times, he became frustrated and started playing the “Like A Virgin” bass line and singing in falsetto. I yelled, “That’s it!” After that, the song was written quickly.