Madonna’s Label Didn’t Want This Version of ‘Live to Tell’ to Be a Single

“Live to Tell” is one of Madonna’s most famous slow songs; however, the version of “Live to Tell” that became a single isn’t the version Madonna wanted on the radio. The Queen of Pop clashed with her record label, Sire Records, over the song. During an interview, Madonna’s regular songwriter revealed she only wrote lyrics for “Live to Tell” as a favor for him.

Madonna’s ‘Live to Tell’ was supposed to be on the soundtrack of 1 movie before being on the soundtrack of another

According to Stereogum, Madonna’s “Live to Tell” was originally supposed to be a song for the soundtrack to the romantic film Fire with Fire. Ultimately, it became a single for the soundtrack to Sean Penn’s movie At Close Range. During an interview with Boy Culture, Madonna’s regular songwriter, Patrick Leonard, discussed how “Live to Tell” became part of the At Close Range soundtrack.

“We got back from the tour and just kind of by accident wrote ‘Live to Tell,’ Leonard recalled. “I’d written some music for a film, trying to get a film score, and they didn’t hire me for the film, so in a 24-hour period it went from that film to At Close Range. Madonna had agreed, just as a favor, to write the lyrics for me because it would give me a leg up on getting this film score for her to write the lyrics to the end title, which was based on one of the themes that I was writing for this other movie.”

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Why Madonna came into conflict with Sire Records over the song

Leonard revealed Madonna and Sire Records had different attitudes toward “Live to Tell.” “‘Live to Tell’ wasn’t a popular idea with the record company when she wanted it to be the first single [from Madonna’s album True Blue] with no edit on it, this six-minute thing that stopped and started three or four times — they weren’t happy,” Leonard said.

A shortened version of “Live to Tell” was ultimately released as the first single from True Blue. This edit is over a minute shorter than the original song. The “Live to Tell” music video contains an edit of the song as well.

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How the world reacted to ‘Live to Tell’

This shorter version of “Live to Tell” was a massive hit. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for 18 weeks. True Blue was a hit in the United States as well. It topped the Billboard 200, remaining on the chart for 82 weeks.

“Live to Tell” also became popular in the United Kingdom. The Official Charts Company reports the song reached No. 2 in the U.K., staying on the chart for 13 weeks. True Blue charted even higher there, reaching No. 1 in the U.K. and remaining on the chart for 90 weeks. Sire Records worried the public wouldn’t embrace the unedited version of “Live to Tell.” The edited version became a hit.