Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” Lyrics Meaning

“Papa Don’t Preach” is a song in which the narrator (Madonna) finds herself in an unenviable predicament. She is apparently underage, pregnant and unmarried. The man who she has conceived this baby with appears to be committed. But her friends are advising her to abort the pregnancy, citing that, given her age, at this point in life she should be more concerned with ‘living it up’. So she is going to her dad for more mature advice and, more importantly, support.

That being said, her decision “keep (the) baby” seems to have already been made. Thus she is not necessarily asking her father to advise her in that regard. Rather it seems what she actually desires, in breaking the news to him, is for him not to “preach” (as in judge) and instead to embrace her. In other words, without stating it outright, the singer acknowledges that her dad is not going to be pleased by discovering she is pregnant. But considering the “awful mess” that she and her boyfriend find themselves in, she still needs his love despite knowing that her pregnancy will disappoint him.

Is “Papa Don’t Preach” about teenage pregnancy?

In summation, Madonna herself does not consider “Papa Don’t Preach” as a song about teenage pregnancy, which is what most people view as its central theme. Rather, according to her, it is “a celebration of life”. She refers to it as a love song which transcends romantic sentiment. And in actually studying the lyrics, such becomes more-obvious. We can easily see that the singer is committed to her unborn child and is looking forward to herself and the baby’s daddy having a happy life together. But the attitude that is a bit more-veiled, despite it being what the song is really based on, is her desire, indeed plea, to maintain a loving relationship with her dad.

Lyrics of "Papa Don't Preach"

Music Video of “Papa Don’t Preach”

Veteran movie actor Danny Aiello played the role of Madonna’s dad in the video. Keeping in character, he went on to record his own follow-up to “Papa Don’t Preach”. That song is entitled “Papa Wants the Best for You”.

Meanwhile lesser-known actor Alex MacArthur portrayed the role of Madonna’s boyfriend.

The song’s video, which was directed by James Foley, received three nominations at the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards. It ended up taking the trophy for Best Female Video

Accolades and Awards

“Papa Don’t Preach” has been very-successful commercially and helped cement Madonna’s status as one of the premiere female vocalists of the 1980s. For instance, it topped the charts in several countries the world over. Some of these countries include Australia, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, and most importantly, the UK Singles Chart and the Billboard Hot 100. It also broke the top 10 in all of the other countries where it charted.

Moreover this song earned Madonna a nomination at the 29th Annual Grammy Awards in 1987. The nomination was for the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.


Madonna raised a few eyebrows when she sarcastically dedicated this track to none other than Pope John Paul II. FYI, the Pope had actually called on Italians to protest the Material Girl’s concerts.

Indeed the controversial stance Madonna takes in “Papa Don’t Preach” drew the ire of a number of critics, including executives from the National Organization for Women (NOW) and Planned Parenthood. However, many pro-life advocates logically embraced the song.

Meanwhile the gist of Madonna’s personal disposition concerning the controversy which surrounded this track track were relayed by her publicist. According to her publicist, Madonna “is signing a song, not taking a stand.”

Who wrote “Papa Don’t Preach”?

Madonna co-wrote “Papa Don’t Breach” with Brian Elliot, who is acknowledged of having written most of the song. Elliot said the aim was to present the singer as a “sympathetic character”. He further stated that he wanted to create an environment where she would feel free to talk about her problems to her dad.

Madonna also co-produced “Papa Don’t Preach” along with Stephen Bray.

When did “Papa Don’t Preach” come out?

It was released by Sire Records and Warner Bros. Records on 11 June 1986 as the second single from Madonna’s third album, True Blue. It has since been featured on a couple of her compilation albums, including 2009’s Celebration.

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