Born in Bay City, Michigan, in 1958, Madonna — whose full name is Madonna Louise Ciccone — started dancing as a kid after convincing her dad to let her study ballet instead of the piano. After graduating from high school in 1976, she attended the University of Michigan on a dance scholarship, but she dropped out two years later and moved to New York City.
Madonna continued studying dance in the Big Apple, but she also started making music, and by 1981, she had her debut single, “Everybody,” ready to go. “First of all, I wanted to make a living. I was tired of being broke,” she recalled to The New York Times in 2019, reflecting on those early years. “But second of all, all I wanted was a song to get played on the radio. That’s all I was praying for. One song.”
That dream came true and then some. As of 2023, she’s the best-selling solo female artist of all time and is tied with Barbra Streisand for most multiplatinum albums by a solo female artist. “I have something new to say every time I make a record,” she told Entertainment Weekly in 2016. “I think that that’s kind of a no-brainer. I’m not a ‘greatest hits’ kind of girl. You could say it’s reinventing, but a real artist is continuously changing and evolving because the art is continuously changing and evolving. I mean, Picasso didn’t paint the same paintings over and over again.”
Keep scrolling for a look back at Madonna’s life and career through the years: