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Madonna‘s live performances take a lot of inspiration from the theatrical rock of the 1970s, so it makes sense that her “provocative performances” started with one song by The Who. In middle school, she performed one of The Who’s most famous songs in school and was shunned by her peers. Eventually, that sort of controversy would work out in her favor. However, this doesn’t mean Madonna ever looked at herself as cool or a trendsetter. 

Madonna said her brothers introduced her to songs by The Who and The Rolling Stones

During a 2009 interview with Rolling Stone, the Queen of Pop revealed that she has a rockin’ side. “Everyone thinks I was born in a disco,” she said. “My older brothers were in the basement listening to The Who and The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, [Led] Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love,’ The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley.'”

Madonna revealed that she performed “Baba O’Riley” once. “I had my girlfriends paint my body with fluorescent hearts and flowers,” she said. “I wore a pair of shorts and a midriff top, and I just went mad. I had a strobe light and black light. I’m sure everyone thought I was insane.”

The future Queen of Pop’s performance of the song upset her classmates

Long before Madonna released provocative songs like “Erotica” or “Like a Prayer,” she received backlash for her take on “Baba O’Riley.” “It was my first time onstage,” she said. “That was the beginning of my provocative performances, I guess. I just went for it. No girls would talk to me after that, and the boys looked at me weird.”

While Madonna’s controversial antics eventually made her the coolest person on earth, she felt like a “nerd.” “I say stuff like ‘oopsie-daisy,'” she explained. “Growing up, I didn’t feel cool, I didn’t fit into any crowd. ‘Geek’ is not a word anyone uses to describe me, though, except perhaps [Confessions on a Dance Floor producer] Stuart Price, who once said, ‘You know, you’re a nerd at heart, nobody knows it.'” Madonna took the comment in stride, describing herself as nerdy, geeky, and uncool.


The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’ Is Named After 2 People

What The Who’s Pete Townshend said about Madonna

Madonna seems to be a fan of The Who (or, at least, their most famous single) — and The Who’s Pete Townshend is definitely a fan of Madonna. During a 1993 interview with Rolling Stone, Townshend recalled attending a Madonna concert. He was electrified by the performance, praising the dancing and the music. He compared it to Pink Floyd’s The Wall, one of the highlights of theatrical 1970s rock. In addition, the rocker compared Madonna’s show to a Broadway revue. Considering Townshend has a long history of working in musical theater, that’s quite the compliment. 

Madonna has covered songs by many artists from many different genres of music, including Eartha Kitt, Andrew Lloyd Webber, David Bowie, Lady Gaga, and John Lennon. Since she has a history with The Who’s music, it would be awesome to see her put her own spin on “Baba O’Riley.” Turning that song and turning into a dancefloor filler would be the sort of rare feat that would impress old-school rockers and club kids.

Madonna wouldn’t be the same without rock — and the rock world could use a little more Madonna.