When I was still young enough to believe everything my elders told me, I asked my mother who the best singer in the world was. She didn’t miss a beat.
“Julio Iglesias,” she said, definitively. “Wouldn’t you say?” she asked my grandmother who was painting her long, curly talons an icy shade of pink. Nanna nodded once, “Yes, I’d agree with that.”
My family had a weakness for cavernous 80s production and adult contemporary radio. These were the days of bow ties, long stemmed roses and baby’s breath. An inventory of Mum’s record collection yielded The Wall, Sticky Fingers, Santana and the Beatles. The rest was a kitsch pastiche of world music, Shaddap Your Face, Streisand and the Bee Gees guy doing duets, and copious amounts of Julio Iglesias.
Being the only child of a solo mother could’ve been isolating, especially in light of the fact that my Italian father walked out on us when I was a baby, but my mother was not like most people. She hosted parties and knew how to get everybody onto the dance floor, tearing it up to – who else? – Julio Iglesias.
1100 Bel Air Place, released in 1984, when I was five years old, was designed to catapult Julio into the American market, and catapult him it did. He is pictured grinning like an orange satyr, dressed to thrill in a bow tie, crisp white shirt and dinner jacket. The album of love songs performed with friends like Diana Ross, The Beach Boys, and of course, Willie Nelson, whose American Cowboy crooned condescendingly alongside Julio’s Latin Playboy about all the girls they’d fucked – I mean loved- before, heralded Julio as the mightiest lothario of the decade.
His father, Julio Snr, trained in gynecology, becoming the youngest vagina doctor in Spain. Julio Jnr was something of a love doctor too, proclaiming that he had lost count of the women he had conquered but gamely hazarded a guess at a thousand.
There are some real artifacts on the album, (Me Va is the Spanish equivalent of All Night Long) but my favorite was the über-romantic Moonlight Lady. Perfectly executed according to the conventions of 80s pop-rock, it opens with synthy intrigue, greasing the pan for that voice, that caramel sauce voice, to tell it’s tale.
There were beggars and kings in a magical sky
There were wings in the air and I learned how to fly
There was me, there was you in a world made for two
Then you were gone!
My mother adored men with an accent and too much swathe, and I imagined that my father might have resembled Julio, sending ladies from here to the moon with promises of nights on the town, and no rain in California. Moonlight Lady was my first quintessentially LA song.
As we grow ever older, the things our mothers told us become startling truths, as sure as words etched in stone. I think my mother was right.
Julio Iglesias is the best singer in the world.