MadonnaTribe meets Gardner Cole, co-writer with Peter Rafelson of one of Madonna's classics: "Open Your Heart". Gardner gives our readers an insight into the "True Blue" days as we learn many interesting tidbits on how the song came to life.


: Hello Gardner and welcome to MadonnaTribe. You began writing songs when you were very young. How did it all start for you?

Gardner Cole: I was a musician at a very young age (4 years old) but I didn't really seriously start composing until I was around 12 or 13. I honestly only started writing songs for girls that I was in love with.


MT: Writing a song is about inspiration and it works differently for each composer.
How do you approach writing and where do you get the inspiration from?

GC: Most of my songs come to me when I am dreaming, I force myself to get up and record them on a portable cassette recorder and then I go back to bed and get up later and finish them. I also am inspired by events in my own personal life and other peoples conversations and stories and get inspired through them as well.
When I co-write with other people, there are many ways it happens.

Sometimes I'll have a lyric/melody idea and ask someone to help me with the track. Other times, writers come to me with a track and ask me to write a lyric/melody and sometimes we just start from scratch.

MT: You are a composer and a musician. Is it hard to let your own creation in the hands of other artists who may choose to use them differently from you.

GC: It is only hard when I think I can do a better job of producing the record!
Actually, I'm almost always thrilled with what others do with my songs.

As our readers know you're the co-author of one of Madonna's most popular and loved songs ever: Open Your Heart. When did you write that song and what was your original inspiration for it?

GC: The song was started with my good friend Peter Rafelson, we worked on the song for over a year.

The original title was "Follow Your Heart" which is the name of a vegetarian restaurant in Los Angeles. I was in love with a waitress there named Lisa and she was the original inspiration for the lyrics.


MT: Legend says that when you submitted a demo of the song to Madonna she didn't accept it at first. You then asked your friend Donna Delory, to sing a new version of the demo, right? Can you tell us a bit more about that?

GC: Actually the truth is, I did submit a song that Madonna didn't accept but it was titled "Motor City Girl" and was a song that I co-wrote with songwriter David Bryant (Whitney Houston).
The lead singer of the group Chicago (Jason Scheff) sang the original demo of "Open Your Heart".


I was being managed by a man named Bennett Freed who was part of Madonna's management company (Weisner and Demann management), I went in to the offices on Sunset blvd and played the
song for Bennett, Freddy Demman overheard the song and thought it would be a hit for Madonna and he asked me to re-demo a female demo version. Donna Delory was my very first girlfriend in LA and I immediatelay asked her to sing the demo.
Later, I became friends with Patrick Leonard and when he was helping Madonna put together a tour I suggested they use Donna to dance and sing back-up and I gave him her contact info.

: Speaking about demos, apparently there's a song called "Dance" floating around on sharing programs by some unknown artist which is passed for the "Open your heart demo". From what we heard it has nothing to do with your song but some fans believe it can be genuine.

GC: No, It is definetly not the original demo.

MT: What did Madonna add to your original song and how was the original different from the final version we have on the True Blue album?

GC: Madonna changed some of the verse and B section lyrics. Patrick Leonard changed the groove and made it more uptempo, I think his production is superb!


MT: The song went on being a number one single in many countries around the world, was that a surprise to you? How did you react to that?

: I had a dream that I was driving in my car and Casey Kasem (the host of the weekly top 40 countdown show) was announcing the song as the number one song in America, on my birthday a year later I was driving to Malibu beach and Casey Kasem announced on the radio that "Open Your Heart was number 1! It was an incredibly joyous moment.


: The video that accompanied the song, by Mondino, made "Madonna history" by presenting her in the first ever bustier, that later became a sort of a trademark. What do you think about the video?

: I absolutely loved the video from the very first time I saw it. I knew it would become a classic.




: Did you ever think about recording your own version of the song?

: Yes actually. I have a version that I started to put together that is slower and more dreamy.

You had the chance to work with so many artists, who is your favourite among them?

I have loved working with so many of them it would be very hard to name one, so I will name a few.
Michael McDonald, Al Jarreau, Jody Watley, Peter Murphy and Amy Grant.

: You are a multitalented musician who works on projects from different mediums: Music, Television, Cinema and you're a successful recording artist in your own right. How do you adjust yourself to each one of these mediums.

GC: I always do the very best that I can in any given situation and hope for the best. Doing work in Film and TV is usually dictated by the Director, so I listen very intently to what their vision is and do my best to accomodate their wishes.

When I am producing a recording artist I try to envision where their next step should be in their growth as an artist.

MT: What are the main influences on the music you write?

GC: I grew up in the Detroit area and have been heavily influenced by the sound of Motown music.

MT: What are your future projects?

GC: I just finished a great new record on Robbie Nevil (C'est La Vie) called "Soul Classics" and I'm currently in the studio with an amazing new female artist named Breanna Vansickle.

MT: Gardner, thanks for sharing some of your time with us.



Open Your Heart
was included in three Madonna world tours: Opening song in the Who's That Girl World Tour (1987), second song in the Blond Ambition Tour (1990) and as as short interlude in the Drowned World Tour (2001).

One of the most prestigious covers of the song is the one by the late singer Ofra Haza. The highly successful Israeli pop icon recorded two versions of this song for the second volume of "Virgin Voices / A Tribute To Madonna" just a few years before her premature death.

A few more cover version of the song in Spanish were released over the years, among them the most recent one is "Abreme Tu Corazon", a cumbia norteña rendition by Mexican singer Erika and her group El Ruedo published by Wea Mexico. (See Cover Art)

During the Los Angeles riots in 1992, thieves stole Madonna's bustier with gold tasseled cups from the Open Your Heart video from Frederick's of Hollywood's lingerie museum. A reward was offered to have the piece back but as the garment was never returned Madonna donated another bustier to Frederick's museum in exchange for a charity donation.

Open Your Heart reached the number one spot in the Billboard Hot 100 chart on February 7 1987.

Open Your Heart (Madonna's original version) can be heard in the opening scene of Britney Spears' debut film Crossroads when she is jumping and playing around in her bedroom. The song is one of Britney's all-time favorite songs that she considers light-hearted and fun. She personally chose the song.

To know more about Gardner Cole be sure to visit his official website:

Copyright 2005 MadonnaTribe


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