If I Could Only Take One

My desert island tune by Madonna

Happy Wednesday and welcome to another installment of my desert island song exercise. If you’re a first-time visitor, I hope you’ll stick around and come back.

My song choice this week falls outside my ’60s and ’70s core wheelhouse, so in case you dig music from these two decades but are less excited about this pick, I hope you’ll check out some of the other posts and return. Should you love the tune I selected but are less sure about the ’60s and ’70s, come back anyway and allow me to demonstrate how much great music these two decades have to offer. BTW, you’ll also find some contemporary music on this blog.

After this shameless attempt of self-promotion, here are the rules: I’m about to embark on an imaginary trip to a desert island and need to decide which one song (not an album!) to take with me. Moreover, it must be a tune by an artist or a band I’ve only rarely written about or not covered at all. I’m doing this exercise in alphabetical order, based on my music library, and I’m up to the letter “m”.

Artists (their last names) and bands starting with the letter “m” are a sizeable pool in my music universe and, for example, include The Mamas & The Papas, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Paul McCartney, John Mellencamp, Men At Work, The Moody Blues and Mumford & Sons. And my pick is La Isla Bonita by Madonna.

Yes, I like a good number of her songs but must immediately qualify for the most part I’m referring to music on her first four albums. I’m also not familiar at all with her two most recent albums Rebel Heart (March 2015) and Madame X (June 2019). I vaguely recall sampling a few tunes from MDNA (March 2012). Afterwards, I stopped paying attention altogether. Other contenders for my specific song choice included Borderline, Into the Groove, Papa Don’t Preach and Like a Prayer. Not only has La Isla Bonita been among my favorite Madonna tunes for many years, but I also felt it’s a perfect fit for the occasion.

The Spanish pop-flavored tune was co-written by Madonna and co-producers Patrick Leonard and Stephen Bray. It first appeared on Madonna’s third studio album True Blue, which came out in May 1986. The song was also released separately as the album’s fifth and last single in February 1987.

Both the single and the album enjoyed substantial international chart success. La Isla Bonita went to no. 1 in Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland in the UK, while the album topped the charts in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. Europe definitely loved Madonna!

True Blue also became Madonna’s most commercially successful record globally, with more than 25 million units sold worldwide, and her third-highest seller in the U.S. where it reached 7x Platinum certification (verified sales of 7 million units) as of February 1995. In a review for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine called True Blue “the album where Madonna truly became Madonna the Superstar – the endlessly ambitious, fearlessly provocative entertainer who knew how to outrage, spark debates, get good reviews — and make good music while she’s at it.” The album was also well-received by many other music critics.

How about La Isla Bonita gypsy style. This cool live reinterpretation captured in 2007 features guitarist Eugene Hütz and violinist Sergey Ryabtsev, both from Gogol Bordello, a gypsy punk band formed in New York City in 1999. Check this out – man, what a performance!

I’m leaving you with a few additional tidbits from Songfacts:

“La Isla Bonita” means “The Beautiful Island” in Spanish. In the song, Madonna sings about the beautiful island of San Pedro, where she longs to be. San Pedro is not a real island. In a 2009 interview with Rolling Stone, Madonna said, “I don’t know where that came from. I don’t know where San Pedro is. At that point, I wasn’t a person who went on holidays to beautiful islands. I may have been on the way to the studio and seen an exit ramp for San Pedro.”

This song provided yet another look and sound for Madonna, as it had a Spanish theme. In an interview with the New York Times, she called the song, “A tribute to the beauty and mystery of Latin American people.”

Songwriter and producer Patrick Leonard wrote this for Michael Jackson, but Jackson claimed he didn’t like the title and turned down the song. Leonard then offered it to Madonna, who rewrote some of the lyrics in her style. Leonard worked with Madonna on many of her other hits including: “Live To Tell,” “Who’s That Girl,” “The Look Of Love,” “Like A Prayer,” “Cherish,” “Oh, Father,” “Frozen” and “Nothing Really Matters.”

Sources: Wikipedia; AllMusic; Songfacts; YouTube; Spotify

14 thoughts on “If I Could Only Take One”

  1. Wow. Major props to you for going so far outside your wheelhouse. And yeah, there are a couple of tunes by Madonna that I kinda sort of like. But desert island? No thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. WAY too many M’s to choose from!! But I do like this one and in fact, the whole True Blue album a lot, unpopular as it might be to admit. John Mellencamp might be my favorite “M” artist, and picking one song from him would be difficult …”Scarecrow”, “Minutes to Memories”, “Jackie Brown” (that one might really be a downer on a desert island though!)… tough call… “Overkill” by Men at Work and even “California Dreaming”by the Mamas and Papas would be in contention too…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Without my self-imposed rules, it would have been between Macca and Mellencamp. One of my all-time favorites from Paul’s solo career is “Band On the Run.” For Mellencamp, it’s more tricky since I dig many of his tunes. “Paper in Fire” from “The Lonesome Jubilee” would have been a top contender.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. McCartney has obvious talent and I do like quite a few of his ‘Wings era’ songs, but none would be high contenders for that category…but too many great choices. I just thought of two more “one offs” that I’d consider strongly for the M’s – ‘Tower of Strength’ by the Mission (the long, full version) and ‘Inside Out’ by Mighty Lemon Drops

        Liked by 1 person

      2. As a Beatles nut, of course, I had to mention Macca! 🙂

        I had not known the two additionak tunes you called out. Both sound good. The Mission does remind me a tiny bit of Simple Minds. I think I prefer the Mighty Lemon Drops – also love that band name!


  3. She was a great business woman! She knew how to see herself! I tried to like her Christian…but I just never could. I like a total of one song by her…Borderline….that is about it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I like you phrased that, Max, “I tied to like her”. 🙂

      In my case, it mostly comes down to some of Madonna’s earlier songs, “Borderline” included!

      I do respect her as an artist who at least in her earlier career constantly pushed the envelope and reinvented herself. She also co-wrote a good deal of her songs.

      I still remember when “Like a Virgin” came out, I thought Madonna was, I hate to say it, “a stupid blonde.” I completely didn’t get her and totally underestimated her.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When I heard “borderline” I turned to my cousin and told him…this woman will be huge…it’s the ONLY time I got anything right! I thought Lone Justice was going to be huge lol….in a fair world…they would have been.

        But I thought she relied on “shock” more than not….but she knew what she was doing. I just didn’t like her songs or her voice.
        Now Cyndi Lauper…I liked….Madonna I didn’t.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I had to scroll down to see if Max had commented… : ) He’s been quite restrained compared to other Madonna-based posts I’ve seen…

      I like a lot of her stuff, from ‘Holiday’ all the way through to ‘Hung Up’, but this one has never really connected with me.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s good to see somebody opens their heart and true blue admits he loves La Isla Bonita! 🙂

      While I’m not a Madonna fan, I respect her as an artist and definitely like some of her songs. From “True Blue”, I also enjoy “Papa Don’t Preach” and “Open Your Heart”.

      Liked by 1 person

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