Op-ed: Are You There, Madonna? It’s Me, Ari

Singer Ari Gold grew up with Madonna, and his admiration for the pop icon shines through his work.



I came out to my orthodox Jewish family in my first year of college in an 18-page letter I read aloud to them. When my mother couldn’t blame herself for my being gay, she tried blaming Madonna, and tore down my shrine which included LPs hanging on the walls, European sized movie posters, home made collages and a mammoth in-store cardboard cutout display of “Who’s That Girl.”

Fifteen years of therapy later, I realize that much of my adult career has been about being noticed by my mother and my father — a recurring theme in Madonna’s own life and career. I had enjoyed a successful career as a child vocalist singing on more than 400 jingles including backgrounds for Diana Ross and playing a character on my favorite cartoon, Jem and the Holograms. But after my voice changed and I wasn’t working anymore, I felt like a has-been—at age 14. As if puberty isn’t tough enough, my father decided he was going to start a talent management company for other children. It was the ultimate show business rejection.

Singing and songwriting were in my blood at that point and I was determined to have my own career, with or without my parents support. I was going to do it on my own terms — as an openly gay man. But despite hard times between my parents and me, they did come around to supporting my career. In 1999, my mother paid for the manufacturing of my first album with her credit card (when she didn’t have much to spare) so I could release my first self-titled pop album. The album included male pronouns in its love songs and ended up winning an Outmusic Award.

In 2009, I approached Madonna’s own brother to direct my music video for “I Can Forgive You.” Christopher Ciccone, Madonna’s gay brother, directed two of her most influential tours and possibly the most influential pop concerts in history. “I Can Forgive You” was a song I thought I wrote about an ex but realized later was really all about my parents. I even secretly hoped that if Christopher directed the video it might bring some peace between the estranged Ciccone siblings. With forgiveness and a song, I could keep both my family and the Ciccone family together.

“Music makes the people come together” and so when my best friend from kindergarten, Nikki, transferred to NYU, we reunited. We remain best friends to this day and she's one of my most ardent fans. I kept people together cause that’s what Madonna told me to do. I owe it to her for opening up my mind to Sex — both the book and the act — for not being afraid of people with AIDS; teaching me about safe sex in her concerts; for asking “why’s it so hard to love one another?”; for being “a freedom fighter.” “Don’t forget that your family is gold,” and again, Madonna was singing to my Gold family and me. It’s 2013 and I have just released my career-spanning PLAY MY F**KN REMIX: Remixed Retrospective — my sixth album to date. Both my parents recently cheered me on in the front row of my record release concert in New York.

Every artist has the artists that came before them that make the work they do possible. Would there be Chris Brown and Usher without Michael Jackson? Michael Jackson without James Brown? Madonna without Deborah Harry and Marilyn Monroe? It’s pretty amazing how an artist’s work can change people’s lives without ever knowing them personally. Despite being in the same room a few times, including surreally praying in Hebrew across from her at the Kabbalah Center, I have never met Madonna. I dream about her often, and last night I dreamt that I was performing at Radio City Music Hall and my own father yanked me off stage. “But Daddy, I’m having a good time!” I told him.

This July marks the 10th anniversary of the release of Gold's first music video, "Wave of You." Here is a refreshed 2013 remix from Gold's latest album:

SIR ARI GOLD is a recording artist. For more, visit AriGold.com

Tags: Commentary