Almost five decades after stepping on stage for the first time, Jose Luis Perales says goodbye as part of his tour “Baladas para una farewell -Tour Final”, the 77-year-old Spanish singer-songwriter will offer his last local concert on March 23 at the Plaza Arena of the Jockey Club of Peru.
He will return to his beginnings, when he only dedicated himself to composing and had more free time for his family, because he no longer wants to miss any time with his grandchildren. “I’m leaving happy and grateful,” he tells us.
“When I started I did a lot of concerts, I was away from home a lot, I missed a lot of things about my children, who were little at the time. One day when I arrived from a tour at the Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport, they told me: ‘Don’t spend so much time outside because your children are going to forget you’. So, I thought: ‘I don’t want to leave being too old or having a bad voice. I want to leave at a good time so I can hug my children and grandchildren’”, says one of the most prolific and successful authors on the Spanish scene.
—“Ballads for a Farewell” is the result of long hours of meditation, of reflection?
There wasn’t much reflection because it’s not a sad departure, I’m leaving happy because oddly enough I want to sit down alone and write for other people and for myself. It is a very nice return home because I leave many friends, applause, affection and I have the opportunity to return again to where I started 50 years ago.
Actually when I started singing, I didn’t want to sing, I wanted to continue being the author of songs for other people. They practically pushed me to sing.
—How can someone who made Marc Anthony kneel at his feet and convinced Isabel Pantoja with his compositions to sing again, think about leaving the stage?
The Marc Anthony thing was crazy, it was in Viña del Mar. Suddenly he stares at me and says. “This song (‘And how is he) has changed my life”. I understood that he wanted me to go on stage. It was crazy, I went upstairs and once upstairs I didn’t know what key the song was in.
I remember telling him I was a little high, but we tried. However, what seemed tremendous to me and made me feel very bad was that he kneeled. I asked him to please get up. I told him: ‘You are more important to me.’ What happened that time and that of Isabel Pantoja are some of the most beautiful things that this career has given me.
—A few years ago, the Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez said that what he told in ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, Perales did in a three-minute song and he confessed to being an admirer of his. How did you receive that comment? Did they get to know each other?
When they told me what he said about me, I called him. I was so happy, I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. I did not know him personally, but was very fond of his books. He invited me to his house to chat, he asked me which novel of his I preferred. I told. “The colonel has no one to write to him.” At that moment he took out of a drawer that book dedicated to Manuela (his wife) and me. It was an impressive thing. We’ve seen each other enough times since then that I’m proud to say I’m your friend.
—Is it true that you wanted to make a video in Machu Picchu of the song “Let the children sing”?
That is very true, because it is a place that I find exciting, I love archaeology, it is magical. However, it could not be done because a piano could not be uploaded.
—Great composers who have written about heartbreak have experienced strong love disappointments. Has it been your case?
Not too many, just enough to be able to write about that subject, but you will see that I have many more love songs.
—About the song “And how is he”, who did you write to? What is the true story?
I have decided that “And how is he” is for whoever it is, be it a daughter or a couple. I wrote it for Julio Iglesias because they asked me for a song for him, but the people in my company after listening to it told me not to give it to them, that I should sing it myself. I felt very unfaithful by not giving him the song, that’s why I don’t feel it is mine, however it is one of the most successful.
– Is it true that at a party in Colombia in which Pablo Escobar was the host, he had to perform “And how is he” about fifteen times?
I’m glad you asked me that because it was the worst nonsense ever written about me. It’s a lie, a Spanish author wrote it in a book of his, and it makes me very sad that they use that kind of thing to sell. I never met Mr. Escobar, I never even sang a song to him
—After “Pensando en ti”, Isabel Pantoja, who had decided not to return to the stage, asked him to write an entire album for her and “Marinero de Luces” was born. How did you assume this great responsibility?
It was quite a challenge for me because she had decided not to sing, she was going through a serious moment, her husband had died. She was the widow par excellence, from Spain, the most mourned, the most hidden. When I showed him ‘Pensando en ti’, he told me it was just what he needed, then he asked me for an album. Creating ‘Marinero de Luces’ was a feat. When I showed it to her, she cried and said: “Now I’m going out to sing.”
—How long did it take you to compose Thinking of you? Is it true that it was several months?
It was fast. I estimate it would be a week or a little less.
—“Por qué te vas” is the best-selling song of all time and in all languages. Is it the best song for you?
It is a song that for some reason is very magical and reaches people very quickly, but it is not the best song for me. I wrote it in a day or two, without the slightest idea that Jeanette was going to record it, and I did it without being asked. His producer recommended me to sing it, but he was very shy, it made me nervous to go on stage. Then the director Carlos Saura makes the movie “Cría Cuervos” and “Por qué te vas” becomes number one. Almost fifty years have passed since then and they still ask me for permission to record that song. And it is true that it is recorded in many languages, by many people and has sold more records than any other.
—Is it true that as a teenager you started making music to get the attention of girls, but ended up getting the attention of someone who had a recording studio?
Actually we had a music group and a friend invited us to a party where a lot of people were going to go and a character who had a recording studio. It was the 60s. I remember I was embarrassed because I didn’t know anyone and there were very pretty girls. They gave me a guitar to play and sing. And whoever had to take the bait, took the bait. He called me to ask me about my songs and invited me to his recording studio. I recorded with him about ten songs. A short time later a producer from a record company called me, told me that he was interested as an author, but not as a singer. That’s how I started as an author for other artists. It is a facet that I love and to which I intend to dedicate my whole life.
—What will be your farewell message for your Peruvian fans this March 23?
My word is going to be music. I will say that I am happy for that great and unforgettable night that they have given me. And I will go quietly, as I came.