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Inspiration for great music can come from the unlikeliest of places. Madonna’s “Open Your Heart” was inspired by a vegetarian restaurant and a server who worked there. One of the song’s co-writers said the track’s prominence was literally a dream come true.

Madonna’s ‘Open Your Heart’ was originally named after a restaurant

“Open Your Heart” was co-written by Madonna, Peter Rafelson, and Gardner Cole. During a 2005 interview with Madonna Tribe, Cole discussed the origin of the song. “The song was started with my good friend Peter Rafelson, we worked on the song for over a year,” he said. “The original title was ‘Follow Your Heart,’ which is the name of a vegetarian restaurant in Los Angeles. I was in love with a waitress there named Lisa, and she was the original inspiration for the lyrics.”

Cole recalled the Queen of Pop’s contribution to the song. “Madonna changed some of the verse and B-section lyrics,” he said. “Patrick Leonard changed the groove and made it more uptempo, I think his production is superb!” Leonard co-wrote several Madonna hits, such as “Cherish,” “Frozen,” and “Like a Prayer.” While he’s not a household name, Leonard has been instrumental in Madonna’s success.

How Madonna’s music video for the song changed the game for pop stars

Cole recalled that “Open Your Heart” became a phenomenon. “I had a dream that I was driving in my car and Casey Kasem (the host of the weekly top 40 countdown show) was announcing the song as the No. 1 song in America, on my birthday a year later, I was driving to Malibu beach and Casey Kasem announced on the radio that ‘Open Your Heart’ was No. 1!” he said. “It was an incredibly joyous moment.”

Cole went on to record his own rendition of “Open Your Heart.” He revealed his cover is slower than Madonna’s version. In the music video for “Open Your Heart,” Madonna plays an exotic dancer who leaves her job. Cole was a big fan of the music video from the first time he saw it. The “Open Your Heart” clip paved the way for other music videos where pop stars played exotic dancers, such as Britney Spears’ “Gimme More,” Rihanna’s “Pour It Up,” Beyoncé’s “Partition,” and the “Gods & Monsters” segment from Lana Del Rey’s short film Tropico.


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How ‘Open Your Heart’ performed on the charts in the United States

“Open Your Heart” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for a week. It stayed on the chart for 18 weeks. The tune appeared on the record True Blue. That record reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for five weeks, lasting on the chart for 82 weeks altogether.

True Blue became a chart juggernaut. Two other singles from the album — “Live to Tell” and “Papa Don’t Preach” — topped the Billboard Hot 100. The other two singles from the record, the title track and “La Isla Bonita,” reached the top 5 as well.

“Open Your Heart” was popular and it helped make True Blue one of the most important albums in Madonna’s catalog.