Shiny And New
Today’s fact of the day is devoted to one of Madonna’s signature songs: Like A Virgin.
Virgin is one of the few Madonna’s big hit she hasn’t penned in any way herself, but it was written by
Billy Steingberg and Tom Kelly.
Steinberg, who wrote the lyrics in 1983 has shared some nice tidbits about the song with us and here they are:
• 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.
• 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.”
• 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.
• Sometimes a song will only “fit” one artist. “Like A Virgin” is one. When we submitted it
for other artists, we were told that “no one will sing a song with that title.”
One A&R guy suggested I re-write the lyric. Michael Ostin, a Warner Brothers record executive, came to our studio to hear what Tom and I were writing.
He loved “Like A Virgin” and said he would play it for Madonna.
• The bass line to “Like A Virgin” was inspired by “I Can’t Help Myself“. And, as I said
before, when Tom started singing, he sang in a falsetto that was inspired by Smokey Robinson‘s vocal style.
Songwriters are always influenced by the things they love.