Home Music Madonna: Writer of Her Songs Explains How “Like a Prayer,” Other Hits...

Does Madonna write her own songs? Yes, and no. She doesn’t write the music, that’s for sure. And now that Ms. Ciccone has been put up for induction in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, I thought it might be interesting to settle the question after all.

Last night I chatted with Patrick Leonard, the great composer of pop hits and sometimes even a ghost writer and ‘enabler’ for rock stars who need help getting their work onto paper. Leonard is a trained musician who can play anything at the drop of a hat. On the phone, from Amsterdam, where he’s working with Leonard Cohen, Patrick played “Like a Prayer” for me in different sections. He wrote the music for that hit, as he did for many of Madonna’s big hits during her top of the chart heyday.

Patrick Leonard wrote the music for, among others: “Like a Prayer,” “Cherish,” “True Blue,” “Live to Tell,” “La Isla Bonita,” “Frozen,” “Hanky Panky,” “Sky Fits Heaven,” “Nothing Really Matters,” “I’ll Remember,” and “Something to Remember.” He was a producer on “Open Your Heart.”

Madonna wrote the lyrics, Leonard says, with him, and helped create the melodies. He considers her a friend and mentor. “She put me on the map,” he says, “I’m grateful.”

“I’m one of those people behind the curtain.” Leonard says. “If she [Madonna] hadn’t sung those songs, no one would have heard them. She’s made it possible for me to do what I’m doing now.”

Their process was simple. He wrote the music, and brought it to Madonna. She would help supply lyrics and offer changes in the music to suit her. “She’d refine it,” he says. “You give her a track, she sings the melody. She’s very very talented.” Of their collaboration, he says, “One doesn’t exist without the other. She always showed up and she was always completely involved. I miss her, actually.”

They haven’t written together since 1997. Would he like to do it again? “Absolutely,” Leonard says. “She writes a lot with deejays now.”

Leonard is credited on all the songs he wrote with Madonna. They include the largest number of chart hits on which she is credited as co-writer. There are no songs that are credited just to Madonna. And a clutch of them were written solely by others including “Holiday,” “Like a Virgin,” “Material Girl,” and “Borderline.”

Leonard told me he didn’t care if Madonna goes into the Songwriters Hall of Fame without him. He doesn’t believe in awards. He doesn’t even hang his gold records. “They’re all in a closet somewhere,” he said. He just believes in moving forward. This week he comes to New York to work with Roger Waters.


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17 replies to this post
  1. Roger Friedman wrote this piece of article? How am I not surprised… You really have issues Roger and in a way I can’t help but feel sorry for you. You’re always looking for reasons to put Madonna down and put her on blast because in your mind you think you’ll be doing the world a favor for exposing Madonna as this less than relevant artist. Well, you know what Roger? Keep trying, but I will tell you this: no matter how many negative articles you write about Madonna, you’ll never be able to destroy her, nor her career, nor her legacy; that she worked so hard to build. So you can take your article and all your lies and shove it where the sun don’t shine!

  2. As Patrick Leonard seems to be saying, Madonna wrote the lyrics and helped create the melodies. This is consistent with everything her other collaborators have said about her. Nile Rodgers is on record as saying that Madonna has one of the greatest pop sensibilities he has ever encountered; David Forster corroborates the working pattern of lyrics/melody input in an interview; Rick Nowels recently stated his belief that she is underrated as a songwriter; Mirwais and Stuart Price both have the very highest opinion of her as an artist/musician. Madonna is an auteur in the Hitchcock sense. What would Vertigo be without the book it is based on, the score by Bernard Herrmann, the sensational performances by Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak? Any idiot with eyes and ears can see Madonna is as important to Patrick Leonard as he to her. Hell, I only know about him because of her. And have the highest regard for him too – as does every Madonna fan. I am a huge admirer of her as an artist/singer/songwriter and couldn’t care less about her private person. It’s the work that will live on. And yes, it would be wonderful if they collaborated again. Together they created magic.

  3. Thanks Roger for the great article. Don’t listen to the other troll Madonna fans. But seriously, even if she does just write melodies and lyrics, it’s a lot more than the usual pop star does.

  4. Dear Roger Friedman,

    Sir…you clearly did not do your research in regards to songs written by and solely credited to Madonna, and hence flopped at doing your job. You, Sir, have a lot in common it seems with a certain delusional fanbase that make up their own facts out of thin air and put forth an embarrassing attempt at rewriting history to suit your mission on bad mouthing the Most Successful and Greatest Female Artist in Music History!

    Take A Bow,

  5. She wrote Burning Up on her own in 1981, long before she met Reggie Lucas & Jellybean Benitez (who were both credited as producers of the songs she wrote on her own…Jellybean is a DJ and Holiday was his first time producing anything…he didn’t write music or play instruments at that time). Madonna composed Burning Up on guitar and she has confirmed that she wrote Lucky Star on her Rolland Synthesizer (which she purchased with the $5000 she was paid when she signed to Sire Records in 1982). The only song she received sole credit for that she didn’t write on her own is Everybody which was a collaboration with Steve Bray…he was given sole credit of another collaboration (Ain’t No Big Deal) in trade.

  6. Madonna was the sole writer on five of the eight tracks on her debut album – 3 of which were hits – “Lucky Star,” “Burning Up,” and “Everybody”

  7. Troll alert. Sorry excuse of a writer if ever there was one. Patrick Leonard is a fantastic talent but I’m sure he would be ashamed do the slanted nature of this ‘article’.

  8. ” There are no songs that are credited just to Madonna. ” That’s not truth. Lucky Star, gambler among others are solely credited to Madonna. Get your facts right and stop spreading bullshit about madonna.

  9. This article needs fact checking. When it states that:

    “There are no songs that are credited just to Madonna.” That is incorrect.

    Here are a listing of songs (per Discogs, ASCAP, and my own collection’s information) as written by Madonna:

    “Don’t You Know” off of the Stephen Bray Collection Pre-Madonna (later re-written as “Stay” for Like A Virgin (w/ Stephen Bray)
    “Lucky Star”, “Burning Up”*, “I Know It”, “Think of Me”, and “Everybody”* off the first album *listed as written by Madonna on the Stephen Bray Collection Pre-Madonna
    “Shoo-Bee-Doo” off of Like A Virgin
    “Gambler” from Vision Quest
    “Hey You” credited as both Writer and Producer (Mirwais played guitar on the song)

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