Aha Moment: Madonna’s “Live to Tell”

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'Live to Tell' by Madonna

 Holly Welker was already doubting her Mormon faith when she went on her mission to Taiwan, memorizing stock phrases to start a conversation about God. “As soon as I said goodbye to my parents, I realized I made a mistake,” she remembers. She found herself in a strange city with few friends, suffering from a crisis of faith as well as symptoms of depression. Not many Chinese people “wanted to talk to a weeping white woman about Christianity.”

She found an unlikely source of solace during a visit to a night market. One of the stalls had a small television which played the music video for Madonna’s “Live to Tell.” 

I have a tale to tell
Sometimes it gets so hard to hide it well
I was not ready for the fall
Too blind to see the writing on the wall

A man can tell a thousand lies
I've learned my lesson well
Hope I live to tell
The secret I have learned, 'till then
It will burn inside of me

“I felt the spirit. I felt a religious confirmation,” Holly says. The song confirmed that “I had a story worth telling and I had an obligation to try tell it.” She felt empowered to tough out the rest of her mission “as gracefully as possible, but if that wasn’t very graceful, so be it.”

Twenty years later, Holly lives in Salt Lake City, Utah and often writes about faith, including her own. “I don’t go to church, but I’m still interested in the context that produced me.”

Is there a song, movie, book, or another work of art that has changed your life? Tell us in a comment below, or by e-mail.


Video: Madonna, "Live To Tell" (with scenes from the movie At Close Range)

Music Playlist

  1. Live to Tell

    Artist: Madonna
    Album: True Blue (Reissue)
    Label: Warner Bros.
  2. Live to Tell

    Artist: Vitamin String Quartet
    Album: The String Quartet Tribute To Madonna
    Label: Vitamin Records