"Crazy for You" Turns 30: Madonna's First Hit Ballad

Madonna releases her latest album "Rebel Heart" this week. But we're hitting the rewind button and taking a look back her classic song "Crazy for You," which hit number one 30 years ago today.
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Madonna at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles, 1985. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage/Getty Images)

Madonna is still making headlines, most recently with her tumble off the stage at last week's Brit Awards and the release of her latest album, Rebel Heart, this week. But the provocative pop legend has actually been dominating the headlines and music charts for more than 30 years. Today in 1985, Madonna hit number one with her first big ballad "Crazy for You." The song helped cement her status as a bona fide pop star. She had already raised some eyebrows with "Like a Virgin," her first number-one smash in November 1984. But "Crazy for You" was a big departure from her usual sexy dance-pop sound, marking her first foray into the world of sentimental songs.

Madonna, however, was a little known artist when she signed on to sing "Crazy for You." The song, recorded in 1983, was part of the soundtrack for Vision Quest. This coming-of-age sports drama was then delayed for more than a year, which meant Madonna's second album, Like a Virgin, hit record stores months before the film made it to the theaters. Teenage fans had already started wearing rubber bracelets, rosaries and racy outfits by the time Vision Quest debuted in February 1985. Here are a few fun facts about the making of the song:

"Crazy for You" was a bigger hit than the movie it came from. Vision Quest stars Matthew Modine as a high school wrestler who decides to go up against the most feared opponent in the state. But equal time on screen was devoted to Modine pursuing an older woman played by Linda Fiorentino. In all, Vision Quest brought in more than $12 million, according to the Box Office Mojo website. The film makers even tried to capitalize on the success of the song, retitling the picture Crazy for You when it was released in England and several other countries.

You can catch one of Madonna's early acting appearances in Vision Quest. She played the singer in a club—not a stretch for her by any measure. According to Rolling Stone, Madonna's first film was the 1979 offbeat underground work called A Certain Sacrifice. Later in 1985, however, she tackled her first starring role as Susan in Desperately Seeking Susan. She also tied the knot with actor Sean Penn that August. The two would go on to star together in the 1986 box office bomb Shanghai Surprise.

Madonna 80's: Sean Penn and Madonna dining at Elaine's Restaurant in New York City. (Photo undated).

Sean Penn and Madonna dining at Elaine's Restaurant in New York City. 

"Crazy for You" wasn't Madonna's only song for Vision Quest. She also sang "Gambler" on the same soundtrack, which she actually wrote herself. The song was more true to her dance roots and she performed it in the film. In fact, Madonna has written or co-written many of her hits, including "Live to Tell," her next popular ballad after "Crazy for You."

Madonna's record company didn't want "Crazy for You" released as a single. She was signed with Sire Records at the time, but the Vision Quest soundtrack was put out by Geffen Records. Her label was concerned about the song competing with other tracks from her second album Like a Virgin. She already had a hit with "Material Girl" when "Crazy for You" came out. And "Material Girl" had been released just after "Like a Virgin." Several of Madonna's videos were getting a lot of airplay on MTV, and some worried the singer might get overexposed.

Madonna 80's: Madonna performs for Live Aid to raise funds for the Ethopian famine in 1985. Philadelphia, PA, 1985.

Madonna performing at Live Aid in 1985. (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns/Getty Images)

John Bettis and Jon Lind co-wrote "Crazy for You." Both were seasoned songwriters before making "Crazy for You." Bettis is best known for his work with The Carpenters, having written such hits as "Top of the World" and "Yesterday Once More." He later received an Academy Award nomination for the song "Promise Me You'll Remember" from The Godfather, Part III and Emmy Award nominations for his work on the family sitcom Growing Pains. Jon Lind co-wrote the 1979 disco hit "Boogie Wonderland" made famous by Earth, Wind & Fire. Later he wrote the Vanessa Williams smash "Save The Best For Last." Lind also had a successful career as an executive with Hollywood Records, working the likes of Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. In an interview with the Sound Universe website, Lind explained that he and Bettis wrote the song "in one long day."

Madonna's boyfriend John "Jellybean" Benitez produced "Crazy for You." He also produced her first pop hit, "Holiday," which made the charts in 1983. They dated for two years, from 1983 to 1985, according to People magazine. Madonna also gave his career a boost, too. She co-wrote his 1984 hit "Sidewalk Talk."

Madonna 80's: Madonna goes on 'Holiday' while performing in St. Paul, Minnesota, 1985.

Madonna live in concert in St. Paul, Minnesota, 1985. (Photo: Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

"Crazy for You" had a second life as a single in 1991. The song returned to the charts after being re-released to promote Madonna's greatest hits album The Immaculate Collection. "Crazy for You" nearly made it to the top of the UK charts the second time around.

Vision Quest was the first movie that Madonna both acted and sang in, but it definitely wasn't her last. She had hits with such other songs as "Who's That Girl" and "Causing a Commotion" for Who's That Girl. Madonna also scored with her tune "Hanky Panky" from Dick Tracy in 1990, playing opposite Warren Beatty, her then-paramour. Showcasing her athletic side, she also starred in the women's baseball flick A League of Their Own. The film featured her successful single "This Used to Be My Playground." In 1997, Madonna tackled a meaty musical role as the title character in Evita and landed the song "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" on the charts.