“I began my professional career at fifteen years of age, playing guitar at bars and clubs, first in NYC and then in Philadelphia.”
My mother provided me with music instruction at the age of six, sending my younger brother and I to piano lessons. At the age of eleven, caught up in the music explosion from Motown and England, I was smitten by the charms of the electric guitar, and my young , loving, and hard working mother indulged me. I received a brand new Japanese electric guitar for my eleventh birthday, and it was the beginning of a lifelong romance.
Rock, soul, jazz and blues consumed me, with artists like my lifelong hero Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, Bob Dylan, Otis Redding, Wes Montgomery, Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin being a few of those most significant to me.
At thirteen, I was jamming in small high school bands and listening to everything I could get my hands on. Psychedelic rock, funk, blues, jazz rock, soul, folk rock, you name it, I was into it. The sixties in NYC was a mecca for live music, and from the Fillmore to Central Park to Woodstock to the clubs in Greenwich Village, I was there. The wide world of music began to really open up to me. During high school, I learned all I could about the roots of rock and soul music. This meant, of course, the blues, from Robert Johnson to B.B. King, jazz, from Jelly Roll Morton to Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman and Coltrane, and Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, just to name a few. My early interest in the classics lead me to explore the music of many late 19th and early 20th century classical composers, such as Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Debussy, and Bartok. As a teenager, I played the guitar incessantly, and benefited from the guidance of a few gifted teachers, starting with Dave Barren, followed by Dennis Sandoli and finally, jazz great Pat Martino. Each one taught me an enormous amount about music, playing the guitar and life. I am grateful and forever indebted to each of them.
By 1983, Mtume and I amicably went our separate ways because of creative differences. He wished to pursue a career as a touring solo artist, which he did brilliantly with the group Mtume and the hit “Juicy Fruit”. I was primarily interested in studio production, and Madonna’s eponymous debut record was my first solo effort, along with my band’s release, Sunfire.
I wrote “Borderline,” Madonna’s first Top 10 Pop single from the album, and “Physical Attraction.” The Madonna album went triple Platinum, with songs that reached the Top 10 worldwide and produced six of the eight tracks on the album.