Madonna celebrated the 30th anniversary release of her classic hit “Like a Prayer” on Monday, March 4.
“Like a Prayer” remains one of Madonna’s most iconic and liked songs. Instinct Magazine readers voted it as their number two most favorite track of hers in November of last year in between “Frozen” at number three and “Vogue” at number one.
The song reached the top of the Billboard charts on April 22, 1989, for three weeks before being dethroned by Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There for You.” It also reached number one in several other countries and has gone on to sell millions of physical and digital copies in the years since.
“Like a Prayer” came equipped with a music video that was extremely controversial for its time, so much so that it infuriated religious groups all around the world. It’s something that Madonna touched upon in an Instagram post that she shared with the video accompanying it.
“30 years ago today I released Like a Prayer and made a video that caused so much controversy because I kissed a black saint and danced in front of burning crosses!” she wrote. “I also made a commercial with PEPSI that was banned because my video was seen as inappropriate.”
“Happy Birthday to Me and Controversy! #likeaprayer meant to post this yesterday but was blocked! what a shocker!”
The video, shot by legendary director Mary Lambert, was slammed by religious groups who said that it contained blasphemous usage of Christian imagery. Pepsi, who initially signed Madonna to a $5 million-dollar deal before the music video came out and created a separate commercial featuring the “Material Girl”, canceled their campaign with her due to the religious backlash.
It became ironic for Madonna, 60, when she won the Viewer’s Choice Award at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards for “Like a Prayer”, which was sponsored by Pepsi that year. “I would really like to thank Pepsi for causing so much controversy,” she said in her acceptance speech.
She also received a ton of other accolades for the song and video, including it appearing on several year-end lists and even scoring a top 10 spot on Blender’s “The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born”.