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Featured Song

“Perfidia” has stood as one of the most cherished and enduring songs in the Latin American songbook. Composed more than 80 years ago by Mexico’s Alberto Dominguez, it is enshrined as one of those timeless standards that continues to inspire artists and resonate with music lovers, young and old.

            Recently, I heard the song’s memorable melody which watching a new movie on Netflix, the Spanish film Vivir Dos Veces (2019), by Barcelona-born director Maria Ripoll. The movie is about an aging math professor named Emilio, a lonely widower who finds himself sinking into the terrifying early stages of dementia. It explores how he and his small family, a take-charge daughter and precocious granddaughter, handle the crisis.

During the funeral services of Mexico’s beloved pop singer José José this month, a tune was played that surely touched the hearts of most Mexicans, especially those watching from afar. The song is titled “La Golondrina” (The Swallow), a veritable hymn that for more than a century has added a note of nostalgia to moments of loss, departure, and exile.

Among acculturated Mexican Americans, only a handful of Mexican songs have managed to gain wide popularity and a special cultural significance on this side of the border. A few become iconic songs, with lyrics and melodies memorized by the children and grandchildren of immigrants.

       

Almost every country has a set of songs that make up its musical DNA. Songs that children learn almost from the time they can speak, such as “Home On the Range,” “Oh, Susana,” and “This Land Is Your Land” in the United States. 

​In Mexico, one such iconic tune is the ranchera classic “Allá en el Rancho Grande.” Like other songs emblematic of a national culture, “Rancho Grande” has a melody that is instantly recognizable and a lyric that seems to spring from the country’s collective memory, though we may not understand exactly what the words mean.

Recently, an observant music fan noticed an error on this site and wrote to tell us about it.  His concern is related to one of the most famous and recognizable compositions in the Latin American songbook, entitled “Malagueña” or “La Malagueña.” 
 
Roberto García Cepeda, a Cuban-American music blogger, told us that an RCA Victor recording of the classic song was credited on the site to the wrong composer.  He said “Malagueña,” released by RCA in Mexico on an EP with four other tracks (EP-MKE-93-A-1), was written by famed Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona. The song, he continued, “has nothing to do with Elpidio Ramírez,” the Mexican songwriter the site lists instead.
Judging from the title alone, you’d think “Betty Ford” by Mariachi Continental De Miguel Diaz was about a former First Lady. The song is an instrumental, so there are no lyrics telling us a story. The genre, however, gives us a clue to its subject. It’s listed in the Frontera Collection as a pasodoble, the theatrical but graceful style of song typically played at bullfights, especially during the entrance of the matadors. 
 
Luckily, the scratchy old recording, produced in the 1950s, starts with an announcer telling us exactly for whom the song was written. Speaking in English with a heavy Spanish accent and with a trumpet fanfare in the background, the speaker dramatically declares, “Your attention, please. This pasodoble is dedicated to the great American bullfighter girl, Bette Ford.” 

The corrido is perhaps the quintessential genre in Mexican roots music. But as a narrative ballad, it has a close cousin in traditional country and western music. Remember the tale of heartbreak and murder called “El Paso” by country singer Marty Robbins? That song, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard pop and country charts in 1960, has many classic elements of a corrido, including an opening that sets the scene and a protagonist who tragically follows destiny to his death. 

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