The Madonna Timeline: Song #23 – ‘Til Death Do Us Part’ – Fall 1991

{Note: The Madonna Timeline is an ongoing feature, where I put the iPod on shuffle, and write a little anecdote on whatever was going on in my life when that Madonna song was released and/or came to prominence in my mind.}

This is, luckily, one of those Madonna songs I have no real personal connection to, but it’s one of my favorites for her riveting musical portrayal of a marriage gone way off the mark. Written at the time that her relationship with husband Sean Penn was hitting the skids, this may be one of her most brutally honest, and jarringly unsentimental, songs.

You need so much, but not from me,
Turn your back in my hour of need,
Something’s wrong but you pretend you don’t see.
I think I interrupt your life,
When you laugh it cuts me just like a knife,
I’m not your friend, I’m just your little wife.

Powerful, gripping, profoundly sad, and all the while the beat is relentless, driving and pushing towards an inevitably tragic conclusion. Madonna said Sean Penn actually loved the song, embracing such unflinching, if unflattering, honesty. A brief glimpse into the madness of a marriage winding down, ‘Til Death Do Us Part’ offers hints of the personal terror of a destructive relationship. Whether it’s exactly Sean and Madonna may never be known to anyone other than the two of them.

Our luck is running out of time,
You’re not in love with me anymore,
I wish that it would change, but it won’t, if you don’t,
Our luck is running out of time,
You’re not in love with me anymore,
I wish that it would change, but it won’t,
Cause you don’t love me no more.

In honesty there is sometimes forgiveness, and maybe this was Madonna’s first step to letting go. It is certainly one of her finest artistic moments, and a highlight of the classic Like A Prayer album. I think it’s the next set of lines that is the most heartbreaking:

The bruises they will fade away,
You hit so hard with the things you say,
I will not stay to watch your hate as it grows.
You’re not in love with someone else,
You don’t even love yourself,
Still I wish you’d ask me not to go.

I rediscovered the song in the Fall of 1991, following the Truth or Dare splash that reignited my Madonna passion that subsists to this day. In that dark Fall, this had a bitter resignation to which my soul responded, finding some bit of a heroine in the rush of music, the downward spiral, fighting valiantly in a losing battle – the kind of battle that ends with no winner, that only serves to destroy.

He takes a drink, she goes inside,
He starts to scream, the vases fly,
He wishes that she wouldn’t cry,
He’s not in love with her anymore.
He makes demands, she draws the line,
He starts the fight, she starts the lie,
But what is truth when something dies?
He’s not in love with her anymore.
She’s had enough, she says the end,
But she’ll come back, she knows it then,
A chance to start it all again,
‘Til Death Do Us Part.
Song #23: ‘Til Death Do Us Part’ – Fall 1991
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