“Oh Father” was released as the fourth single from Madonna’s 1989 album Like a Prayer. The single was released on October 24, 1989, and it peaked at #20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. From what’s been said over the years, the song was inspired by the relationship Madonna had with her father after the death of mother. In an interview, she gave in 2013, Madonna herself says that the “Father” of the song could refer to her own father, God, or “all the authorities in her life.”
“Oh Father” is a very beautiful, yet haunting song. Even though I was 14 at the time this song came out, it still grabbed me. It probably helped that by that point in my life, I was into Madonna’s music; knowing it was by Madonna would have helped me to like it. Now, as an adult, I still believe that “Oh Father” is one of the most powerful songs that Madonna has ever recorded and released.
The music video for “Oh Father” also left a strong impression. It’s a black and white video that was directed by David Fincher (who has gone on to direct such films as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network). Fincher also directed Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got a Gun,” which came out right around the same time as Madonna’s “Oh Father.” For both videos, Fincher gave them more of a “cinematic” feel in comparison to many music videos that came out before these two, as well to many that came out after. Both videos were also very story-based.
“Oh Father” tells the story of a girl whose mother dies at a young age, dealing with the abuse her faher gives her as she’s growing up, seeing the girl grow up and be in an abusive relationship, and finally ending with Madonna’s character reconciling with her father as an adult. It’s always amazed me just how much Fincher was able to convey in a nearly five-minute long video. It’s a compelling video that is also visually stunning.
I have to admit that at the time this video was out, the scene showing the dead mother’s sewn lips kind of disgusted me. But now that I’m older and have become better able to handle those kinds of images, that particular shot really doesn’t bother me anymore.