The Story of... 'La Isla Bonita' by Madonna

15 August 2018, 14:35 | Updated: 16 August 2018, 10:46

Madonna - La Isla Bonita
Picture: Warner Bros/YouTube

By Tom Eames

It's one of the Queen of Pop's most catchy songs, and it always makes us want to take a trip to sunny Spain and meet our own San Pedro.

But what is the story behind Madonna's classic song? What or where is San Pedro? Here's all the fascinating facts behind 'La Isla Bonita'.

QUIZ: How well do you know Madonna's lyrics?

  1. What does 'La Isla Bonita' mean?

    In case you were wondering, it's Spanish for 'The Beautiful Island'.

    Now you know!

  2. Who wrote 'La Isla Bonita'?

    Madonna - La Isla Bonita
    Picture: Warner Bros

    Madonna co-wrote the song with her regular collaborator Patrick Leonard, with additional lyrics from Bruce Gaitsch.

    The song was written for Madonna's third album True Blue in 1986.

  3. Where is San Pedro and what inspired the song?

    The town of San Pedro in the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize is thought to be the main inspiration behind the song.

    However, Madonna later told Rolling Stone: "I don't know where San Pedro is. At that point, I wasn't a person who went on holidays to beautiful islands.

    "I may have been on the way to the studio and seen an exit ramp for San Pedro."

    She also described the song as her tribute to the "beauty and mystery of Latin American people".

  4. Michael Jackson turned the song down

    via GIPHY

    That's right, Patrick Leonard originally wrote this for Michael Jackson for his Bad album, but Michael didn't like the title and turned it down.

    Leonard then offered it to Madonna, who rewrote some of the lyrics.

    However, Michael was only offered a demo version with just an instrumental rather than the lyrics. We'd love to have heard his take on it!

  5. Where was the music video filmed?

    The video was set in Los Angeles, and was directed by Mary Lambert, who also directed other Madonna videos including 'Borderline', 'Like a Virgin' and 'Like a Prayer'.

    Actor Benicio del Toro appears in the video as a background character, playing a teenager sitting on a car hood.

    Madonna plays two different characters in the video: a short-haired Catholic woman and a flamboyant Flamenco dancer.

  6. How did it perform in the charts?

    'La Isla Bonita' peaked at number four in the US, making it her 11th consecutive top-five hit, a feat surpassed only by the Beatles and Elvis Presley.

    In the UK, it was Madonna's fourth number one single, and sold over 450,000 copies.

    It was also a number one in Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Iceland, Poland and Switzerland.

  7. Who has covered it?

    Surprisingly, Madonna wasn't actually the first person to release it as a single! Dutch singer Micaela had already put out a cover version of the song in 1986, peaking at number 25 in the Netherlands.

    Other covers include:

    - Ricky Martin (in Glee) - watch it above!
    - Britney Spears (sampled in 'Love 2 Love U')
    - Alizée
    - Jonathan Wilson

  8. What are the lyrics?

    Como puede ser verdad
    Last night I dreamt of San Pedro
    Just like I'd never gone, I knew the song
    A young girl with eyes like the desert
    It all seems like yesterday, not far away

    Tropical the island breeze
    All of nature wild and free
    This is where I long to be
    La isla bonita
    And when the samba played
    The sun would set so high
    Ring through my ears and sting my eyes
    Your Spanish lullaby

    I fell in love with San Pedro
    Warm wind carried on the sea, he called to me
    Te dijo te amo
    I prayed that the days would last
    They went so fast

    Tropical the island breeze
    All of nature wild and free
    This is where I long to be
    La isla bonita
    And when the samba played
    The sun would set so high
    Ring through my ears and sting my eyes
    Your Spanish lullaby

    I want to be where the sun warms the sky
    When it's time for siesta you can watch them go by
    Beautiful faces, no cares in this world
    Where a girl loves a boy, and a boy loves a girl

    Last night I dreamt of San Pedro
    It all seems like yesterday, not far away

    Tropical the island breeze
    All of nature wild and free
    This is where I long to be
    La isla bonita
    And when the samba played
    The sun would set so high
    Ring through my ears and sting my eyes
    Your Spanish lullaby

    Tropical the island breeze
    All of nature wild and free
    This is where I long to be
    La isla bonita
    And when the samba played
    The sun would set so high
    Ring through my ears and sting my eyes
    Your Spanish lullaby