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Music, it’s one of our greatest gifts in sound. When reflecting on a Musical Heritage a plethora of memories comes to mind. After much thought & research I found Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone, or otherwise called Madonna, the Queen of Pop, was the artist I wanted to link with my musical past. So in order to go about it logically let’s start from the beginning. Before going further I would like to place a disclaimer that the influence of Madonna in this term paper is more of an indirect influence or comparison if you will. Since both of our lives shared so much of the same kinds of attributes towards musical similarities & life in general, in my mind, that’s influence none the less. Musical greats of their time always have an impact on the youth in music one way or another. However, at the end I will describe how she directly influenced my musical taste. From an early age music was a major part of my adopted family’s life. At the age of five I can remember traveling around Michigan to local churches as our family sang publicly, we were called the VanderZwaag Family singers. The way our family found new venues to perform at was by word of mouth. We sang Hymns & Contemporary Modern Gospel Music; the sound of Bill Gather was a popular style we sang. When reviewing Madonna’s life I found that her upraising was Catholic, which I would find out later in life to be the original religion of my biological Mom. My bio Mom’s look has also reminded me of Madonna. The story of Madonna was interesting to me because she was originally from the Detroit area; this is where my bio Dad lives. This mild paradox of Madonna & my bio parents separate yet equally combined comparison to this has always been a fascination. In my youth during grade school a couple musical events happened. I was educated in the practice of the trombone & would soon discover hip hop. I found out about hip hop through my good friend Micah Foster, who is now an alumnus of GRCC. Micah was the only Afro-American student at our school. Since I knew what it was like to be different & be bullied I befriended him. One day he was beat boxing & I had no idea what he was doing, he said, ‘Its rap man.’ This style was foreign to me since my upraising was sheltered. DC Talk was a popular Christian hip hop group I listened to after


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that point. The radio primarily was my only musical outlet when he wasn’t around. Many hours were spent recording mixed tapes off the radio since I was too young yet to buy music. I remember sitting there excited when each song aired. Aside from hanging out w/ Micah I was very sociable as Madonna also proved to be. She was involved in many school events, one of them being a cheerleader at Rochester High. Madonna was also beginning to be heard on the radio during my grade school days, such songs as Like a Prayer & Express Yourself were played on 104.5 WSNX. She was beginning to make a name for herself. Acting was always one of her loves in art, this was portrayed in her Pepsi commercial & her go out & Vote! ads on MTV. She has made the claim that she can tell if someone will be a good friend of hers just by how they react to her paintings. Being presently involved in the pursuit of both Graphic Design & Music I can appreciate this observation of hers. She was seen everywhere in the media. School was going ok during this time, however the aggressive nature of school yard bullying would get the best of me & my parents decided homeschooling was my best option for Junior High. Being involved w/ my family at home opened up a whole new chapter in my life musically. We made frequent trips to church & I was enrolled into choir. Singing was a new experience. I can remember the sessions of practice rehearsal. Harmonizing was always the goal. Our instructor always said if you can hear yourself over everyone else you’re too loud. Eventually we all blended our vocals. Once on stage the results were exhilarating. In the biography Madonna, Madonna explains how when you sing you really have to put yourself out there you make yourself vulnerable. Everyone is watching as you sing. You just need to let go & go for it. I was surprised to learn that Madonna did not start out w/ a passion for singing but was more geared to dance & acting. Around 9th grade our family took a trip out east to NYNY for a field trip. It was during this trip that I would discover my enjoyment for Electronic Music. A friend of mine showed me the group Ace of Bass right before we left. This was a Swedish New Wave band from the 90’s, so I decided to pick up the cassette. Before Ace of Bass my


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church youth group handed out a sampler Electronic Music CD by Christian Electronic Music producer Scott Blackwell, that CD started it all. I remember listening repeatedly to the entrancing cassette in my Sony Walkman. This style of music would become the focal point of my musical future. Just as I discovered my musical outlet in NYNY so would Madonna. There was also my trip with the family out west too that provided time for music listening along w/ countless voyages to Florida; so many good times growing up. When Madonna was a young girl her mom passed away from Cancer, as a result she forever had abandonment issues throughout her career. Her father, Tony Ciccone, remarried shortly after. This upset Madonna to no extent! She resented Joan Gustafson Ciccone with a great deal of effort. She has been said to say that it felt like a stranger raising her. Growing up in an adopted family was very much like that too. Family members seemed abstract. The biological connection was never there. This childhood detachment would later manifest itself into a chain of rebellious events that would later further her music career. I also went through this myself & am currently living this life situation of parental detachment as my adopted mom passed away last October from Cancer herself. I also have found out that my adopted Dad is remarrying a second wife. This feels too soon for me; however the family is trying to bring the roots closer together. Working hard on my Associates & nearing the end is what is holding me together. I am only .003% away from placing back on the Dean’s List w/ a hopeful future of a scholarship at GVSU. Nearing the end of Junior High I was becoming wrestless & was starting to go through what every kid eventually goes through, Adolescences. CD’s were beginning to gain popularity & I found myself buying yet another Electronic Music album. This one would be the Christian Electronic group, Code of Ethics. After a while my mood in music was changing to the genre of Rock. Bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, & Sonic Youth were becoming a staple sound in the mainstream. Melody had transformed into more of an experimental mode & dissonance was predominant in 90’s Alternative


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Rock. So began the legacy of Generation X. Madonna has been quoted saying if she had not have had all of those Catholic beliefs she would have had nothing to rebel against. Madonna wasn’t all bad though, her motivation & charisma saved her every time. Could she have gone about fame in a more upstanding way? Sure, but would she still be the Madonna she is today? I say never regret always look forward. Eventually however, around middle school, her mood changed. She went from prep to grunge. Comparable to Madonna my rebellious nature was beginning to grow & I was starting to get oversaturated w/ church. We were going 4 times a week. I felt the urge to venture out on my own thoughts & ideals. I was socially withdrawn from homeschooling; the thought of never going anywhere besides home & church was beginning to take a toll. It wasn’t that I hated the church or God, I just didn’t see eye to eye with how it operated or was organized. It was time for a change. After much pleading my parents enrolled me into private high school in 11th grade, Grand Rapids Baptist Academy. The culture shock was intense. Imagine for a moment jumping from 5 th grade to 11th grade w/out any social outlets, it’s extreme. I think this extreme change in life is what propelled me further into the secular mindset. Aside from going to private school I also went to KC/TC for their Graphic Design course in the afternoon. I met many new influences there. Kids were making me reconsider my stand on my musical choice. I was slowly moving away from Christian Rock bands such as Petra & Michael W Smith to bands from radio stations of WGRD & WKLQ. Now that I was driving 20 minutes to & from school the radio was always on. I felt the need to assimilate w/ my peers. High school was a wild ride & after graduation I was ready to move out. This however was not my parents plan. My parents wanted me to go directly to college first. So I did. A College education was the original path of Madonna. She pursued a dance major at U of M. Her dance instructor Christopher Flynn was the reason that she found the Underground music movement of Detroit. They would both go clubbing to both public & private dance music events.


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During the late 80’s this would have been pop culture magic. The word Techno is always used to describe Electronic Music, but actual Techno, the coined term for a specific type of Electronic Music originates from Detroit around this time. Here is a link for Detroit Techno Music History if you are interested in reading more: http://www.npr.org/2011/05/27/136655438/get-familiar-with-detroittechno-10-essential-songs Just like a lot of college kids I did not want to be there. The defining difference between now & then is motivation. I almost believe that kids should get a job first, work for 5 some years, & then go to College. My parents were forcing me to go, so I decided to stop going. Getting a job was the only other option I had at staying home. My friends by this time had changed & I was beginning to socialize w/ the Gothic kids. My choice in Popular radio Rock shifted to Hard Rock. The timbre was haunting & heavy, the tone was always dark, and chords rarely blended or flowed but rather clashed were sharp & abrupt. Korn, Limp Biskit, & Deftones among other bands were now being played in my player. In hind sight I now agree w/ my parent’s statement that bad company corrupts good morals. My new friends were leading me down a path foreign to my adopted families’ agenda. Eventually I had decided to leave on my own accord & live on the streets to be closer to my friends. Life was trying & interesting after this point in my journey of music. Madonna also led a similar lifestyle. She had decided to leave college; she was restless & wanted a life larger than life so she moved to NYNY with only $35 in her pocket. Being homeless is a gutsy move for anyone to lead, let alone by choice. One advantage to living on the streets is this: you are close to the roots of the Underground music culture. The Underground is a term for trends if you will, still in a subculture state. It is only after popularity is found in Underground elements that it is transformed into the Mainstream, musically the Underground is always one step ahead. So if you, the reader, really want to get to the root of a subculture go to the streets & live among the influential poor, you may be surprised at what you learn. I had all the time in the world, I was a free spirit. I found myself couch surfing from house


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to house, sometimes residing at bands houses. When you’re at the core of a music scene like that you meet the behind the scene artists. This is exactly Madonna’s beginnings in music, Madonna started out where most musician begin, at the bottom. This would not be where she would remain though. Madonna had a knack for fitting in, being spontaneous & using seduction to her advantage. Just as Madonna used her flirtatious talent as a tool so did I w/ my looks. Let the truth be told that I look different, however I tried to be Stoic about it on the streets & used it as a calling card to become a public icon; I craved the attention & standing out was a teenagers dream. Attention is what I got & this is also what drove Madonna’s career. Most of the times when I was homeless we all flocked to the local coffee shops in town. Acro Iris on Bridge Street was a staple place we all hung out at Music Expresso or as the kids called it Music Depresso was the other hot spot. Grand Rapids in the late 90’s did an excellent job of housing, if you will, runaways or kids down on their luck. It is now no longer like this, Rosa Park Circle has been revamped & Acro Iris including the 24 hour coffee shop in East Town next to Yesterdog & Music Expresso are a thing of the past. When Arco Iris was around & ran by East Towns legend Hippy Micky, bands constantly played there; Punk Bands, Rock Bands, and even DJ’s. The place was a safe house for new & old talent alike. Here is a link to Arco Iris back in 1998. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4v1609M94M the place was sort of like the present day venue Skellotones/The Daac on Division. The 90’s were different, weird noise bands & a counter culture was embraced. I would soon find that Acro Iris would become my first venue played at ever. First however, I had to realize the direction my life was headed in. Soon after adapting to living on the streets & sleeping in my car I befriend a downtown kid & found myself living in the Morton House. The Morton House is subsidized living downtown. It’s the building that just closed next to Kendall College & GRCC. The place was not fanciest but it had to do. Madonna began her journey in NYNY in an abandoned synagogue. She would drift around the block going from synagogue to apartment to the


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local Music Building where locals practiced at. Here is an excellent link showing her early NYNY living conditions & history. After reading the book Madonna, this entire interview is very accurate. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSLUZx9N_Nc I recommend watching all parts of this MTV interview. Please do not under estimate Madonna’s homelessness, she was very much a nomadic drifter for quite some time until she was signed & leased an upscale apartment. At the lowest point in her journey she found herself living in the Music Building, crying on the floor living on nothing more than popcorn. The place was unsafe. My living conditions were not as severe but after being used by money I spent going to other things besides bills & empty promises not held, I was starting to miss my parents’ home. My Musical Heritage had seen a brick wall. The saying it’s always darkest before dawn comes to mind after I left the Morton House before making that fateful call home as the metaphoric Prodigal Son because it was around this time I would find my first warehouse party. Madonna basically met new people in NYNY through the nightclub circuit. This interest that she had was a continuation of her adventures back in Detroit through their local nightclubs. One thing can be said of her, she loves to dance. She also was there to dance to the Music, not the party favors, not hidden motives, the Music, I respect her for that. Dance is the strongest connection that I find with Madonna, myself, & the music I am now into. That feeling that you get when the pulse of the beat is driving, the bass is encompassing your body, the high hats of the treble applauding your every thought, & the indescribable dynamics flowing through you at an EDM (Electronic Dance Music) show is more than enough to get anyone to move their feet. Raves were a term I had never heard of & it wasn’t until I talked to a friend at work that I would find out about them. Raves, wow where do I begin? This was by far in my eyes the biggest musical movement of my youth ever. The Underground Electronic Music in Grand Rapids had launched! Clothing stores were appearing in the mall, flyers were being printed for exclusive warehouse events in Chicago, Detroit & Grand Rapids. Party kids by the 1000’s were flocking to our town to join in from all over the


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Midwest. Still to this day I am not sure where the increase of interest came from, but I factor in the sale of vinyl Electronic Music records to it. EDM Vinyl records were being imported in from Europe, Japan, Canada, ect. to all places in Midwest America & California. The sales for singles were $10 & above a piece. DJs were buying them up in the hundreds. Music sales were up & so was the party mentality that went w/ it. The scene was alive! This was the time of the Clinton Administration; the economy was at a high & I was not going to be left out. It was a great time to be involved; I personally would compare it to the 1960’s hippy movement. The now proclaimed store Beatnics, formerly called The Hiphut was where Grand Rapids was buying their vinyl records at. It wasn’t until around 2003 when musical pirating became popular that Raves began to be shut down & clubs took over, the Underground mindset migrated to a Miami persona borrowed from the wild times of California. (This is why I am so passionate about buying music. Regardless of what scene is endorsed, the need for sales will always be there). Without money how can a scene survive? Currently the popularity of legally purchased downloads in music is on the rise for EDM. As a result the scene has moved from the Clubs to Festivals; I can only believe that there is something to the increase of sales that is helping this scene along, I for one am happy about the improved & evolved situation. The first rave I ever attended officially was in 1999 at a venue which was then an art gallery on Weston & Division. The whole essence of a rave is proposed to be a secret, only for the cool kids, invite only. In Madonna’s book Madonna there is a part that explains this perfectly: Madonna and her brat pack nevertheless made an impression on downtown New York, turning every head when they walked into a club. ‘Madonna and her friends were the kind of kids you wanted in your venue’ recalls Roxy manager Vito Bruno. ‘She was a stand-out, trendy and eye-catching. They got into VIP rooms before they were VIPs.’ It’s all about presenting yourself in a way that wows the crowd. Madonna also was very brazen when it came to attention. One time when standing outside a trendy Underground Nightclub in NYNY in order to get in faster she yelled at the doorman, ‘Remember me? We made out


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last night!’ Whether that was true or not was one of Madonna’s several tactics to stay seen. She always stood in front of the camera even when she wasn’t part of the shot. In order to be seen you have to be seen. Self-Promoting is a full time job in itself at times if you want to make it in the business of music. My days of couch surfing & meeting musicians in an exclusive way was beginning to pay off. This was how I was getting invites to the shows. Let the truth be told that the first rave’s entrance fee that I paid was $20 on a Wednesday night after a Blues Festival down on Monroe Mall amphitheater. I literally panhandled $20 in change to get in to that event. Am I proud of that?.. yes & no. After party hopping around since I had no other responsibilities in life I was becoming known as a party kid. This was about the time I discovered the genre of Punk Rock. My style of music never was fixed to one sound as a young adult, which would change as I got older. Greenday back then was still kind of unknown as was Pennywise. Some of the punks around town were known as the Monroe Mall Hooligans. We had our own posse of people. The Punks gathered w/ the Goths in fusion. Madonna also was involved in a nightclub reality meets punk fusion. Her first band The Breakfast Club was Punk oriented & her bookings were always at the local NYNY Underground clubs. Their name comes from them eating breakfast after each practice. It’s amazing how her life growing up compared to mine. Punk music in general saw its rise in the late 80’s, however it is still around today. It’s a style of rebellion, of angst, a breed of political outcry, & a musical escape not meant for the faint of heart. That’s the beauty of music; there is a side of it for everything & everyone. The time to decide my musical future was upon me. I was struggling between dedicating myself to Rock or Electronic Music. What made the final decision is an epiphany that both Madonna & I had in one defining moment. I think this is a moment that every musician has. The scenario goes like this: You are standing in front of the performer, enjoying yourself, & it’s like all the knowledge & experience of pursuing that musical trait precedes you in time. While standing there you sense it, take a deep breath & think to yourself, I can do that! Watching the DJ manipulate the turntables, turn those


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knobs, & move those sliders in musical bliss was both perplexing & mesmerizing all at once. I wanted to learn; this meant returning home & getting my life back in order. My life had musical purpose now; the DJ in me was born. Returning home wasn’t easy. I had to clean up my act, get a job, & truly follow the rules. Music at the time was what was encouraging me forward in excellence. I landed a fulltime job in Graphic Design at a Print Shop & decided to buy my first DJ Starter Kit. The Starter Kit cost $600 & included 2 turntables, a mixer, & 1 vinyl record. Since that day I have gone through 3 different DJ sets, bought & gained over 500 vinyl EDM records & have tallied up the cost in the thousands. After going to a multitude of shows I had a pretty good idea of how to practice. So practice is what I did. The trends at the time consisted of a funky Chicago sound similar to Disco & Jazz however I had my ears on the more Melodic & European genre of Trance. Eventually I began to make demo cassettes & started handing them out. If there is one thing that seals the deal in the music business it’s that pinnacle demo. Madonna also had a demo tape. It was her song Everybody. How did Madonna get her demo out there so fast? A DJ, yes.. a DJ, DJ Jellybean to be exact. Before this fortunate run in with John ‘Jellybean’ Benitez, a DJ at the club The Funhouse, Madonna had been climbing the ladders of shows & was signed to Sire Records through a Camille Barbone. Camille Barbone & Madonna had a professional & somewhat questionable off screen romance; whether that is totally solidified is another story altogether. Going back to DJ Jellybean, Madonna as always club hopping met John at the Funhouse & soon began dating him. John had connections with Warner Records. After some time John passed Madonna’s demo along to Warner & she is still signed to them to this day. The fact that Madonna got her name out there in the industry from a DJ is both awe inspiring & also makes a lot of sense. Once she started the ball going on gigging, she never quit. When you’re a musician getting to the top is literally like a car ride. The gigs are the stops in the road & if you don’t hop back in for the


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next stop you get left behind. It all moves very fast once you get in for the ride of your life. My advice to any musician is to just keep going. Sometimes risks need to be taken & yet the wisdom of knowing when a bad deal is in front of you takes experience. Performing in front of others is quite the experience. At first I had DJ invites to spin at local house parties. During this time my record collection wasn’t all the bells & whistles it is today. I found myself playing just about anything that was on a vinyl record to keep the music going. You would be surprised the combinations I found to match. One of my proud moments was mixing Night on Disco Mountain from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack to a John Williams Star Wars track to this day I can’t remember what one it was, but it fit! It’s been a long journey after performing at clubs like the Old & New Intersection, The Orbit Room, McFaddens, Clubs located on Division come & gone, house parties, Raves & the list goes on. Going from a nervous kid hardly able to keep the needle still long enough to place it down due to anxiety to now actually preferring a crowd to perform in front of to get better vibes & results, I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. So how has Madonna affected my music listening directly? Over the last decade DJing has been my mistress & Madonna remixes both in my studio & at musical social events has been frequent. Whenever she releases new material for mixing her remixes in the clubs are always an instant hit! Her album Ray of Light was kind of the moment she transited into the EDM focal point entirety. I can always remember dancing to her track Music, Hung Up, & Sorry. She always goes after the most sought after & recognizable producers. I have literally structured DJ sets around her choices. The way that I spin is like this: I find an artist and/or label that is good & buy it up, by doing this the tracks piece together like a puzzle forming the final product of sound. Some of my favorites by Madonna lately are Above & Beyond’s remix of her track What it Feels Like for a Girl, any remixes she is involved with the Italian Electro House Producer Benny Benassi, Turn up the Radio & so many more.


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