Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Book Review: Julio

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Julio
Author: Elizabeth García
Date: 1985
Publisher: Ballantine
ISBN: 0-345-32349-1
Length: 125 pages including detailed discography; black-and-white photo spreads on plain paper not included in page count
Quote: “In the summer of 1984, Wayne Robins, in New York’s Newsday, wrote, ‘When Michael Jackson grows up, maybe he’ll be as popular as Julio Iglesias.’”
It wasn’t that Julio Iglesias had been as well known as Michael Jackson in the United States—or, probably, ever would be. It was that he’d been a superstar in much of the rest of the world for years before his first well-known album was released in the U.S.
He was born in 1943, after Franco’s side had won the Spanish Civil War. García tells us that he had, by U.S. standards, a normal childhood, as most little boys in Madrid did not. “He went to school...as many as 50% of Madrid’s children never went to school. He had a healthy childhood...nearly three quarters of Madrid’s children were tubercular.” He played soccer. He was temporarily paralyzed by an accident, was taught to play the guitar as physical therapy, and soon became a singer. By 1970 he was winning competitions, not only as a performer but as a composer,and selling records all over Europe.
Part of his secret, García says, was his determination to “feel comfortable” about singing in many languages. “It’s not the language you sing in, it’s the way you present it. Something the French get excited over—a special inflection in your voice—may leave the Japanese completely cold or make them laugh hysteri­cally. He’s not satisfied with correct pronunciation...the feeling has to be there.”
García found that “the language barrier was still very real...for the Swedish group Abba in the 1970s, a group with worldwide record sales comparable to the Beatles, but without the natural ease in English to overcome public resistance.” Say what? I never even noticed Abba having accents, I thought it was just that disco was dead, and nobody was really comparable to the Beatles. However, Iglesias began to “manage the patter that goes with a live show” in English. He would, however, ask how many of “mi gente” (my people) were here tonight. To Spanish-speaking people this meant “How many fellow Latinos?”, but to friendly U.S. audiences it could as easily have meant “my fans.” “The audience response to this question was never less than resounding.”
The rest was history. Iglesias released a “single” with a photo of Diana Ross literally swarming over him, sang lead with the Beach Boys, went onstage with Latoya Jackson, Willie Nelson, Charles Aznavour. He was a pop singer in the original twentieth-century tradition, no rebellious rock or good-ole-boy country image; he looked mature and dignified, acted like a gentleman, sang songs with tunes. He sang in English, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese as well as in Spanish. Not everyone flipped over this specimen of what had become a novelty act, but many did. Iglesias had always wanted to have bestselling records released in the U.S., and he did.
This book is recommended to all Iglesias fans and all people who liked, and missed, what used to be the standard but became a novelty in pop music: the dignified adult singing songs with clever lyrics and melodies.

Google shows no contact information for the Elizabeth Garcia who wrote Julio, though a novelist using the name "Elizabeth A. Garcia" is active in cyberspace. So I'll appeal to Iglesias himself (or the staff who probably help him maintain a web site in seven languages). At least we know he's still living. If you buy Julio from this web site, by sending $5 for the book + $5 for shipping to salolianigodagewi @ yahoo.com, we'll send $1 to Julio Iglesias or a charity of his choice in the expectation that, if his biographer is still alive, he'll do the right thing by her.