Armando Manzanero, the Mexican master of romantic music known for “I’m going to turn off the light,” “We’re boyfriends,” “I don’t know about you” and other classics performed by luminaries from Lucho Gatica and Luis Miguel to Frank Sinatra, passed away Monday morning, his manager reported. He was 85.
The laureate composer died in a hospital in Mexico City from kidney complications, the manager, Laura Blum, told The Associated Press.
He was hospitalized for COVID-19, but Blum made sure he had already overcome the virus, although he had kidney problems that were not resolved.
He added that the musician’s remains will be cremated and that his family plans to take them to Merida, his hometown.
In addition to author, performer and producer, Manzanero collaborated with renowned artists such as José José, Angélica María, Alejandro Sanz and Miguel Bosé, who considered him a teacher among teachers.
Recognized for his career by the Recording Academy, as well as by Billboard and ASCAP, he composed about 400 songs including “Adoro” and “Contigo Aprendí”. Raphael, Tony Bennett, Diego “El Cigala” and Elis Regina were other artists who performed their creations, songs that have stood the test of time.
“The most proud thing I am is that even when I go out to work, I have to sing ‘Adoro’, I have to sing ‘We are boyfriends’, I have to sing ‘Below the Table’,” Manzanero said in an interview with The Associated Press in 2020 about his Billboard Chart Achievement Award for Latin Music. “And it turns out that when a new boy comes out… when I see that young people record me and that a gentleman like Sebastian Yatra wants to work with me, I feel very satisfied. The song I did 50 or 60 years ago is still alive. Even flowers last less.”
Among all perhaps the most famous, in the Anglo market, was the English version of her famous 1968 “We Are Boyfriends”. Translated in 1970 as “It’s Impossible” by Sid Wayne, it was first recorded by Perry Como, for whom it became one of his most sought-after tracks, and later by Elvis Presley, Shirley Bassey and Andrea Bocelli. The album “It’s Impossible” earned it a Grammy Nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, and the song was also nominated for Song of the Year. Manzanero’s original recording was in the Latin Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001.
But it is also a song that he had to go through a legal process to check his authorship, because while in Spanish he says “we are boyfriends”, four syllables, in English “It’s Impossible” make five and that additional syllable made it more like a French song.
“My father taught me that when one is right one has to fight to the death. I get that nasty process,” Manzanero said in the ap interview in 2020. “But under no circumstances did I want to steal a song, nor did I want my song to look like anyone but a French song. That taught me that in this life all great successes and great fortunes, when talking about money, always have problems. I fought him until the last day and the one who charges ‘It’s Impossible’ is me.”
In 2014 Manzanero was the first Mexican to receive a special award for the career of the American Recording Academy, which awards the Grammy Awards.
“I am a Mexican of Mayan origin, I am a Mayan Indian, and I am very proud to be here this afternoon, in front of all of you,” the teacher said, receiving the award to an audience that included Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison.
In 2001 he won the Latin Grammy for best duo or vocal pop group album for “Duetos”, an album featuring guests such as Sanz, Malú, Presuntos Implicados, Miguel Bosé, Café Quijano, Francisco Céspedes, Ricardo Montaner, Juan Pablo Manzanero and Lucero. And in 2010 he received the Music Excellence Award from the Latin Recording Academy.
“I carry the flag of the best music in the world, the most beautiful music in the world, and it is not me who composed it. It was composed by a gentleman like Juventino Rosas with his waltz ‘On the Waves’, as Lorenzo Barcelata with his song ‘María Elena’, as Mrs. Consuelo Velázquez (with) the most sung song in the world, “Kiss me a lot”. I put up all that great music that Mexicans have,” Manzanero told AP.
His date of birth was recorded as December 7, 1935, but according to Manzanero himself in a 2019 interview, the correct date was December 7, 1934. He was born in Merida, Yucatan, and that’s why he used to look proud guayaberas and traditional hats from that state of Mexico. He was sandy-voiced and short in stature; barely measured 1.55 meters and remembered with humour that from a young time this was mocked.
From his childhood he was surrounded by music: he was the son of one of the founders of the Typical Yucalpetén orchestra and a folk dancer. As a child he studied at the School of Fine Arts of Merida and continued his musical training with various teachers in Mexico City, where he was accompanied by performers such as Lucho Gatica, Pedro Vargas and José José.
At the age of 15 he composed his first song, “Never in the World”, of which versions have been made in 21 languages. In 1959, he recorded his first authorship-themed album, “My First Recording”, followed by more than thirty throughout his long career. One of his first international successes came thanks to the performance of “No” by Carlos Lico, who popularized his ballad throughout Latin America.
As producer he highlights his work with La Sonora Santanera and Sonia López, Angelica María, Presuntos Implicados, María Conchita Alonso, Luis Miguel and Carlos Cuevas.
In the 1990s he introduced the bolero to a whole new generation through his work as producer and director of Luis Miguel’s hugely popular record trilogy “Romance” (1991), “Second Romance” (1994) and “Romances” (1997), which also included songs from his authorship such as “Below the Table”, “I Miss You”, “I’m Going to Turn off the light” and “I Don’t Know You”.
“With Luis Miguel it’s going to be said that I close that part of the producer. The ‘Romances’ he did is one of the best-tasting jobs left me, that better benefit,” Manzanero told the AP in 2020.
Also in the 1990s, she composed songs for the soap operas “Nothing Personal” and “Woman’s Look”, and produced the version of “I Don’t Know You” that is heard in the 1994 film “Speechless” with Michael Keaton and Geena Davis. His music appeared in films and series such as “Sharp Objects”, “The Age of Violence”, “Forgive Me My Life” and “Mission: Impossible III”, among many more.
Manzanero also had a side as a media man. At the Instituto Mexicano de la Radio, he conducted for years the program “Manzanero presents” broadcast by XEB, La “B” Grande de México, as well as “Manzanero through his music”, in which he once had as a guest the Mexican intellectual Carlos Monsiváis singing duet with him. Manzanero emphasized that Monsiváis described him as “author of declarations of love as declarations of mood goods”.
On television he had the program “El estudio de Manzanero” of Canal 22, which invited colleagues such as Marco Antonio Muñiz and Alberto Cortés while promoting new artists and composers. As president of the Society of Authors and Composers of Mexico, it was common to see him in events and celebrations of the organization.
In her personal life she tried to stay away from scandals, but this did not prevent her from getting married on several occasions. His first marriage was to María Elena Arjona Torres, his school girlfriend and the mother of his first four children. After divorcing her, she married Maria Teresa Papiol Mirassou, and then Olga Aradillas and Gloria Caballero. His last wife was Laura Elena Villa. In total he had seven children and 16 grandchildren.
“I have the great pride that, belonging to different editions, I saw for them (my children), I did the best I could for each of them and took them all, I love each of them as if they had been in the same mother under the same roof. I would have liked to have had only one marriage,” Manzanero said in 2020. “If I couldn’t make it, I’m sorry with all my soul. It’s one of the perhaps not very illustrious points I can have in history.”