For someone as internationally beloved as Madonna, it’s strange to think there are musical nuggets from her golden years that most people might not be aware of.
We’re not talking about unreleased demos, either — these are commercially released recordings, several of which hit various Billboard charts. The reason no one associates them with her? She’s the backup singer. And in many cases, her vocals were entirely uncredited.
Madonna’s 40 Biggest Billboard Hits
Below, check out five songs you didn’t know Madonna sang backup on. And if you already knew about all five of these songs, well, you are an A+ die-hard.
Naked Eyes: “Promises, Promises” (Jellybean 12″ Mix) (1983)
No, Madonna’s voice isn’t buried in the background of this No. 11-peaking Hot 100 hit from 1983. But she did contribute very lovely backup vocals to a 12″ mix of the song done by John “Jellybean” Benitez, a New York DJ/producer she dated early in her career.
Jellybean: “Sidewalk Talk” (1984)
Speaking of Jellybean, not long before Madonna’s Like a Virgin album dropped, she sang backup on the 1984 hit “Sidewalk Talk” from her former flame. The fun, lighthearted tune features forgotten singer Catherine Buchanan on lead vocals, but the sound of Madonna’s joyous voice (think “Holiday”) is the song’s selling point.
Why Madonna didn’t take lead on a song she wrote is beyond me. Regardless, “Sidewalk Talk” topped the Dance Club Songs chart — a testament to her under-appreciated songwriting talent.
Nick Kamen: “Each Time You Break My Heart” (1986)
British heartthrob Nick Kamen never made it huge, but he had an auspicious start: His first single featured Madonna as a backing vocalist. Written by Madonna and frequent collaborator Stephen Bray, “Each Time You Break My Heart” sounds exactly like a forgotten Madonna track. That’s because it is — Madge considered it for True Blue before passing it on to Kamen. She also sings backup on his 1988 track “Tell Me,” although she didn’t write that one.
Jose & Luis: “Queen’s English” (1993)
Madonna contributed her only credited backing vocals on a record to Jose & Luis’ dance single “Queen’s English.” It’s safe to say she owed them a favor: Jose Gutierez (who appeared in the NYC ballroom underground doc Paris Is Burning) and Luis Camacho helped choreograph her iconic “Vogue” video. Both House of Xtravaganza dancers accompanied Madonna on the Blonde Ambition World Tour; she released “Queen’s English” on her nascent Maverick label.
Donna de Lory: “Just a Dream” (1993)
From 1987-2007, Donna de Lory was one of Madonna’s best and most recognizable backup singers. So when she made her eponymous debut album, Madonna offered Donna “Just a Dream,” a song she’d co-written with Patrick Leonard for Like a Prayer. Madge’s backup vocals can be heard on the top-notch final version — and longtime Madonna fans will easily recognize de Lory’s voice, even if they’ve never listened to her solo stuff.