“Oh, Madonna! What is not to love and be inspired by?” declares Sarah Teeple, the stylish vocalist for the new Louisville rock band The Bang Bangs. “Madonna was and is so inspiring on so many levels — music, dance, fashion and attitude.”
Madonna, now 57, has been a dominant force in pop culture in the United States and around the world for more than three decades, surviving scandals, changing trends, younger stars, British accents and Sean Penn, among many challenges. Touring to promote her 13th full-length album Rebel Heart, Madonna performs Saturday, Jan. 16, at the KFC Yum! Center.
It’s the first Madonna show for Daniel Cole, who produces the “Hard Candy” series of drag queen shows in Louisville, usually at Play Dance Bar. The story of how Cole came to Madonna fandom is not uncommon in this region.
“Growing up in a conservative Christian family, I didn’t grow up on Madonna’s music like many in my generation did,” he says. “As a closeted gay teenager, I was intrigued by her (1992) Erotica era. She was openly sexual without compromise or any excuses.
“I remember recording ‘Erotica,’ ‘Bad Girl’ and ‘Deeper and Deeper’ from the radio on a cassette so I could sneak around and listen to them when my parents weren’t around,” Cole continues. “I’ve been a fan ever since.”
“Madonna was absolutely banned when I was a kid,” says Terri Whitehouse, bassist with the bands Opposable Thumbs and Complaint Dept. “I grew up going to Catholic schools and came from a large Catholic family, and my mom hated Madonna. She was strict about music in general, but Madonna is the only artist I remember her singling out as an object of her ire.”
“I was banned from listening to her while growing up in a super-evangelical Christian household, along with almost all other secular music,” says Twin Limb multi-instrumentalist MaryLiz Bender. “Just recalling images of Madonna in the media followed by the long, drawn-out, sexist conversations that ensued gets my blood boiling a bit.”
Though some, such as Whitehouse, dismissed Madonna for a long time as a pandering, vacant pop star — and some local cultural figures contacted declined to comment, citing a dislike for her — her influence has clearly provided hope, excitement and inspiration for many others.
“I remember always being inspired by her style, freedom of expression and the way she celebrated who she was,” Bender says. “These were not traits common to women I was associated with in the church, and it was incredibly inspiring to see.”
“I think she is awesome — a strong force for women in music, and for women’s sexuality, and that’s probably why so many saw her as a threat,” says Whitehouse. “She wrote all those songs. She’s a punker, a dancer, a musician and a visionary. And her stuff was somehow really feminist and subversive but also totally accessible.”
Madonna has meant something similar, though in different eras, to younger fans who missed her initial explosion in the early 1980s.
“Madonna was a little before my time, I think; I was born in ’84,” says Billy Goat Strut Revue trombonist Allison Cross. “But as a pre-teen, I was absolutely captivated by (1994’s) ‘Take a Bow’ … Kind of an original version of what Adele is doing right now, in that song, in my opinion.”
“The Madonna I knew best was the period when she released her (2000) album Music and took on the persona of a cowboy,” says Jenni Cochran, vocalist/keyboardist for band Frederick the Younger. Cochran was just beginning then to discover music for herself. “The thing that impresses me most about Madonna is her ability to reinvent herself for each generation. And even more than that — in every new phase, Madonna manages to maintain an air of strength and confidence.”
Which came first, the music or the revolution? Cole applauds her commitment to creating new, constantly evolving songs. IAmIs keyboardist Shawna Dellecave adds, “Madonna most certainly shaped my artistic development, showing me the strength and power that women possess and the ‘balls’ needed to get out there and live your heart’s desire.”
Bender says, “Musically, I’m just now getting to know Madonna’s material, and I’m excited for the amount of dance in my future.”