08 January 2014


Spanish pop singer Massiel (1947) won the Eurovision Song Contest 1968 with the song La, la, la, beating Cliff Richard's Congratulations. She also appeared in a dozen of films and TV-series.

Spanish postcard by Postal Oscar Color S.A., Barcelona, no. 781. Photo: H. Segui.

Bribing Judges

Massiel was born as María de los Ángeles Felisa Santamaría Espinosa in Madrid, Spain in 1947. Her father, Emilio Santamaria, was an artists manager.

At a young age she decided to become a singer, actress and a songwriter. Her first recordings were released in 1966: Di que no (Say it is not) and Rufo el pescador (Rufus the Fisherman).

That year, she acted in the musical film Vestida de novia/Wedding Dress (Ana Mariscal, 1966).

The song Rosas en el mar (Roses in the sea), written by her friend Luis Eduardo Aute in 1967, established her as a singer in Spain and Latin America.

In 1968, Massiel was asked to replace singer-songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat as Spain's representative at the Eurovision Song Contest. Her song, entitled La, la, la, was written by Ramón Arcusa and Manuel de la Calva.

Serrat, the original representative, had refused to perform unless he could sing in Catalan instead of Spanish. Nine days before the contest Massiel was on tour in Mexico. She returned to Spain, learned the song and recorded it in five languages.

On 6 April 1968 in the Royal Albert Hall in London she surprisingly beat the favourite, Cliff Richard with Congratulations, by a point and won the contest.

Montse Fernandez Vila, the director of a documentary called 1968: I lived the Spanish May, has accused Spain's television company TVE of bribing judges on the orders of General Franco, who was determined to claim Eurovision glory for his own country.

According to Vila, Franco sent corrupt TV executives across Europe to buy goodwill in the run-up to the contest. Vila, told the Spanish media news website "It's in the public domain that Televisión Española executives travelled around Europe buying series that would never be broadcast and signing concert contracts with odd, unknown groups and singers. These contracts were translated into votes."

Spanish postcard by Postal Oscar Color S.A., Barcelona, no. 782. Photo: H. Segui.

Major Comeback

Massiel regularly appeared in such light entertainment films as Días de viejo color/Days of Old Colours (Pedro Olea, 1968) and Cantando a la Vida/Singing for Life (Angelino Fons, 1969). The latter profiled a winner of a European Song festival who suddenly disappeared. Massiel sang the entire soundtrack to the film, which raked an impressive 9,020,397 pesetas at the box office.

Some years later Massiel performed dramatic roles in theatrical productions like A los hombres futuros, yo Bertolt Brecht (1972), Corridos de la revolución: Mexico 1910 (1976) and Antonio & Cleopatra in the early 1980s.

Her later films include Viva/muera Don Juan Tenorio (Tomas Aznar, 1977) with Angela Molina, and La vida alegre/The gay Life (Fernando Colomo, 1987), starring Verónica Forqué.

Massiel married her long-time boyfriend Vinny Cremonty, an Italian film actor. They lived in Italy for four years before moving to Spain.

After retiring to raise her first son, Aitor Carlos Sayas, Massiel returned in 1981 with a brand new sound and a new record label, Hispavox. Her label début, Tiempos Dificiles (Tough Times), was a major comeback in Spain where songs like El Amor (Love) and Hello America were very popular.

Massiel would finish her pop comeback in 1983 with her career-defining record, Corazon De Hierro (Iron Heart). Not only was this album successful in her native country, but it was also her reconciliation with Latin America.

The song Brindaremos Por El (We will provide for the) was a massive hit worldwide and topped the charts in many countries. In many ways, Massiel came back to the continent that loved her so throughout the 1960s.

Spanish postcard by Postal Oscar Color S.A., Barcelona, no. 783. Photo: H. Segui.

Hip-Hop Beat

From 1966 to 1998, Massiel recorded songs of different genres for five record companies: Zafiro, Polygram, Hispavox, Bat Discos and Emasstor. Her discography includes around 50 records released as EP's, singles, LP's, CD's and compilations.

In 1997 she released an album covering the music of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, in Spanish, called Baladas Y Canciones De Bertolt Brecht.

Massiel re-recorded her Eurovision winner La, la, la in 1997, with a 'hip-hop' beat, background singers, whistling and Spanish percussion.

In 2001 Massiel fell out of the window of her second-floor flat while "trying to close the shutters" (although many speculate she fell while drunk) and was hospitalized for a short period afterwards.

In 2005 she appeared on the 50th Anniversary special of the Eurovision Song Contest and sang the song that made her internationally famous.

In 2007 she became a member of the Mission Eurovision jury, a show to select the Spanish song for the Eurovision Song Contest 2007. She made a short comeback to music on this show, singing Busco un hombre (I am looking for a man), a song competing to be Spain's entry but to be sung by another singer. It had been 11 years since Massiel had been on stage.

In 2012, Massiel  starred in the Spanish production of Follies by Stephen Sondheim, under the direction of Mario Gas. She played Carlotta Campion, the yesteryear film star who sings the iconic tune I'm still here.

Massiel has been married three times. Her husbands were Luis Recatero (1969-1970), Carlos Zayas (1974-1981) and Pablo Lizcano (1985-1988).

Massiel sings Rosas en el mar in the film Codo con codo/Side by Side (Victor Aus, 1967). Source: ayoeurofan (YouTube).

Massiel sings La, la, la at the Eurovision Song Contest 1968. Source: ayoeurofan (YouTube).

Sources: Sam Jones and Paul Lewis (The Guardian), Wikipedia and IMDb.

1 comment:

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