Madonna Co-Wrote This Hit Song With a Member of Her Family

Members of Madonna’s family occasionally make the news and one of them even co-wrote one of her hit songs. The Queen of Pop changed the song quite a bit from its original version. During an interview, a member of her family revealed the song was partially inspired by some classic movies.

Madonna sitting on a chair
Madonna | Virginia Sherwood/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

A member of Madonna’s family is a musician as well

Madonna’s brother-in-law, Joe Henry, is a musician. He makes country, folk, and Americana music. While his style is very different from the Queen of Pop’s, she decided to record a modified version of one of his songs.

According to Variety, Madonna heard a demo of Henry’s song “Stop.” She liked the track’s lyrics very much. She transformed the track into “Don’t Tell Me,” one of the biggest hits she released in the 21st century.

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How Joe Henry reacted to a member of his family changing the song

Henry discussed how he created his version of the song. “My [demo] version was written in about 20 minutes, and I did not revise it — I let it stand for the burst that it was,” Henry recalled. “I always hear its primary influence to be tango, [and] I was thinking about [Argentine composer] Astor Piazzolla, but Madonna heard its pop sensibility, and sculpted a chorus out of a passing stanza from my original take.

“That repetition gave it weight, and expanded it, sharpened a hook that I had barely gestured toward,” he opined. “That evidences her gift of taking something fairly obtuse, and translating into something memorable.”

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Henry revealed he drew inspiration from classic movies while crafting the song. “That verse is dark, but playfully so,” Henry recalled. “I was watching a lot of Luis Buñuel’s movies at the time, and relishing how darkly comic are many of the films from his so-called ‘Mexican period’ can be. I think as little as possible when I am initially writing [for a song].” For context, Buñuel was a surrealist filmmaker with an unusual sense of humor.

The way the world reacted to Madonna’s ‘Don’t Tell Me’

“Don’t Tell Me” became a massive hit. The track reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, remaining on the chart for 21 weeks. The song’s parent album, Music, became a success as well. The album topped the Billboard 200, staying on the chart for 55 weeks.

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“Don’t Tell Me” became a more modest hit in the United Kingdom. The Official Charts Company reports the track reached No. 4 in the U.K. and remained on the chart for 11 weeks. Meanwhile, Music peaked at No. 1 in the U.K. and remained on the charts for 73 weeks. “Don’t Tell Me” garnered new attention when the Queen of Pop and Miley Cyrus performed it in a medley with “We Can’t Stop.”

While Henry isn’t as famous as Madonna, he left a mark on pop culture with “Don’t Tell Me.”