Category Archives: Music

Spanish Pop Culture Icon: Miguel Bosé

Music gives everything, to express yourself with your language, to paint landscapes, so that others enter the private prism of your world, but above all to touch the deepest fibers…Miguel Bosé

Miguel Bosé is Spanish Pop Culture Royalty and I am a devoted fan. Through following his career over the years, I have learned much about Spanish media (which he has been relentlessly hounded by) and Bosé was, in fact, my introduction to Spanish pop culture and music history. When the film Billy Elliot was released, the gossip in Spain circulated that it was based on the early life of Bosé. While there is no evidence to prove this, certainly Bosé’s own story has a few points in common with the fictional Billy Elliot — except instead of being the son of a coal miner, he was raised as the privileged only son of a renowned Spanish bullfighter, Miguel Dominguín. His mother is Italian actress Lucia Bosè. Born in 1956, Miguel Bosé decided to pursue a dance career in the early 1970s, taking classes in London with Lindsay Kemp, in Paris with Martha Graham and with Alvin Ailey in New York.

Trivia: In Dario Argento’s Italian horror masterpiece Susperia, Bosé has a small part as one of the ballet students.

His music career began in the late 70’s with catchy if not very memorable pop songs. By the early 1980’s, the Movida Madrileña — the counterculture creative movement begun in the first years after the death of Franco — had rapidly changed the landscape of Spanish Pop Culture. Movida Madrileña helped prompt Bosé to create a more experimental, mature sound which has allowed his music to keep evolving and, at its best, is filled with imagination, profound romanticism, social reflection and even playfulness.

Trivia:  Movida Madrileña icon, director Pedro Almodóvar, featured Bosé in one of his most eccentric films, Tacones Lejanos (1991), translated as High Heels. The male lead was difficult to cast, as the actor had to be believable as both a drag queen and as an investigating court judge. The casting of Bosé gave the film a boost in publicity long before its release.

While he still tours widely — with quite a global large fan base — Bosé is not one of the Nostalgia Acts.  I have selected eight songs (in order of release, though some videos are later versions) that are very well-known including a few that are an essential part of the Spanish pop music history.

Linda (Beautiful) 1977

Linda is a song from Bosé’s early pop music career that has had long-lasting (just over 40 years!) success —and this version, recorded as a duet in 2012 with Spanish singer Malú, demonstrates the creative way Bosé can successfully revive an old hit without even a hint of nostalgia.

Amante Bandido (Bandit Lover) 1980

The first Bosé song I ever heard, Amante Bandido is a wildly popular, enduring pop hit that elevated him to super-stardom in Spain, and beyond.

The music video, filmed in Italy, is a classic itself.

Como un Lobo (Like a Wolf) 1980

Another well-known pop song  that gained even more popularity when it was revived in 2007 as a playful, upbeat version featuring a duet with Bosé’s niece, Bimba. When Bimba Bosé died of cancer in 2017, this duet version was once again heard on the airwaves here as a tribute.

Sevilla (Seville)1984

Sevilla is one of Bosè’s best-known songs, with an enduring popularity due to its subject: the city of Sevilla (Seville). It is brimming with romantic imagery associated with the Andalusian city. Interestingly, the typical music of Sevilla, flamenco, is not incorporated into the production — this is a personal, unique love song to a city. My favorite version of the song is from Bosé’s 2005 concert in Mexico City, with orchestra and chorus.

Aire Soy (I am Air)1986

A great example of Bosé elevating a simple love song into a hauntingly memorable pop masterpiece. The glimpses of Madrid and his dance mirroring the moves of a bullfighter make the video memorable.

Gulliver (2001)

A powerful song, despairing of an indifferent, dystopian world — with this, Bosé expands his musical horizon once more.

Verde Canalla (Young Scoundrel) 2005

Verde Canalla is from my favorite Bosé album to date, Velvetina, which he has called his most personal work. A mixture of pop, electronica and chill-out, it was critically acclaimed and even controversial for its social/sexual openness.

Encanto (Enchantment) 2014

I spent Christmas 2014 in Cordoba and Encanto was all over the airwaves there — no, it is not a holiday song, but it seemed to blend well with the historic city. A beautiful production.

 

For more information about Miguel Bosé, visit his website.

The photo of Miguel Bosé is from his Facebook page.

Spanish Sound: the late 70s and 80s

Spanish popular music, not to be confused with Latino music, has yet to find an American audience — unless you count the success of Julio Iglesias. Or Charo. Discovering the music of Spain, with all its diversity, is a great pleasure. The death General Franco in 1975 was the turning point in the history of modern Spanish popular music. During the years of the dictatorship state censorship kept music safe and conformist. A tremendous amount of creative energy emerged from the music scene of late 70s and 80s that still inspires and pushes boundaries in Spain today.

Here are my 5 favorite songs and performers of the era:

Mecano

Hijo de la Luna (“Child of the Moon”)

Mecano was a Spanish pop band formed in 1981 and active until 1992, with lead singer Ana Torroja and brothers Nacho and José María Cano. It is the most successful band Spain has produced to date, selling over 25 million albums worldwide.

Hijo de la Luna, a hauntingly beautiful song, appeared on their 1986 album, Entre el cielo y el suelo and was an enormous hit in the Spanish-speaking world. The lyrics tell a gypsy legend:  a Roma woman falls in love with a man of the Calé tribe, who prays to the Moon to marry them because a marriage between their tribes was forbidden. The Moon asks for the woman’s first-born as payment.  When the child is born, his parents are shocked to see that his skin is pale white and his eyes are grey — they both have dark eyes and dark skin. He is a child of the Moon. But the husband believes that the boy is not his and kills his wife, then takes the child and abandons him to die. But the baby is said to live happily ever after with the Moon as his mother — when the child cries, the Moon wanes to cradle and comfort him.

La Unión

Hombre Lobo en Paris (“A Wolf Man in Paris”)

La Unión formed as a band in 1982 with Rafa Sánchez  as vocalist, Mario Martínez playing guitar and Luis Bolín on bass. First released in 1984,  Hombre Lobo en Paris is one of the most popular Spanish songs of the 1980s and still popular today— in fact, it is playing on the radio as I write this! It was at the top of the Spanish charts for 9 consecutive weeks. La Unión were on the first wave of Spain’s indie music scene, which continues to grow today, and the band still tours in Spain.

The song is inspired by the story El lobo-hombre (original title in French: Le loup garou), written in 1947 by Boris Vian, an author known for his subtle wordplay and surrealistic plots. The full moon in Paris shines light upon the Wolf Man on the prowl in decadent and dangerous corners.

Martirio

He Visto Color (“I see in Color”)

María Isabel Quiñones Gutiérrez, known under her stage name as Martirio (“Martyrdom”), born in Huelva, is a “New Flamenco” singer, emerging in the early 80s. Mixing traditional Flamenco as well as jazz and Latin rhythms with lyrics that reflect, often with humor, contemporary Spanish life, Martirio is an iconic figure. Her flamboyant peinetas (large decorative hair combs), costumes and sunglasses are her trademarks. Martirio still actively tours Spain, and I was fortunate to see her perform in Barcelona a few years ago — unforgettable.

He Visto Color is a celebration of liberating oneself from conformity — she does not care what people say or how they stare, she sees life in color, she is just going to be herself —sung to the music of a traditional sevillana folk dance.

Fangoria

El cementerio de mis sueños (“The Cemetery of my Dreams”)

Fangoria, a favorite on the summer concert circuit here, is an eclectic, eccentric, entertaining band. Lead singer Alaska (real name María Olvido Gara Jova) was one of the founding members of  La Movida Madrileña,  a cultural and artistic movement that emerged in Madrid following the end of the Franco dictatorship in the late 70s. She is a one-of-a-kind entertainment legend here.

El cementerio de Mis Sueños is one of my favorite Fangoria songs. It can be described as a Goth love song, as the longing expressed is to be eternally joined together in death, sharing the same coffin.

Miguel Bosé

Salamandra (“Salamander”)

The son of a famous bullfighter and an Italian movie star, Miguel Bosé has been on the Spanish musical vanguard for over 30 years — and still going strong.  Salamandra is one of the best (and most popular) songs of the 80s — and a superb example of his talent.  I have seen Miguel Bosé in concert many times — incomparable.

Bosé  was inspired to write the song Salamandra after reading Memoiren einer Sängerin (“Memoirs of a Songstress”), the most famous erotic novel in the German language, written by Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient ( 1804 –1860), a celebrated opera singer.

Quien la encantara?/Who will charm her?

Quien cederá?/Who will give in?

Entre la bella y la bestia/Between Beauty and the Beast

No hay superioridad/There is no superiority